Graphic designer Ellen Lampl’s website currently touts her work on Sam Raimi’s Oz The Great And Powerful. That film opened in 2013 on 3,912 screens, made $493 million worldwide, and has since been largely forgotten. However, Lampl also worked on Mike Judge’s dystopian sci-fi comedy Idiocracy, which opened in 2006 on 130 screens, made $495,000, and has since become not only a much-quoted cult hit but a film whose title comes up when highfalutin pundits discuss the dumbing down of society and what that means for the future. (Further proof of the movie’s cultural currency: When Marc Maron recently had actor Dax Shepard on his WTF podcast, Idiocracy was one of the films the actor seemed most eager to discuss.)
One of the most distinctive features of Judge’s film is the proliferation of gaudy, ubiquitous advertising logos for products and services both real (Starbucks, Carl’s Jr.) and imaginary (Nas-Tea, Bawamba). Trivia Happy’s Phil Edwards recently had the bright idea of interviewing Ellen Lampl about the origin of these logos and the nature of her collaborations with director Mike Judge and production designer Darren Gilford. The artist describes her inspirations as “NASCAR, candy packaging, Mexico hand-painted signs, and Japanese pop culture” while explaining the catharsis she felt as someone with an advertising background being allowed to do tacky, over-the-top brand parodies. Not everything made it into the final cut, Lampl reveals, reflecting wistfully about the discarded “Museum Of Fart” sequence. Luckily, the color-coded hospital pictographs, which Lampl says were inspired by a car wash, did survive in the finished product.