You know, it's hard. It's really, really hard to do, well, just about anything in our outrage-inflicted world without catching the wrath of incensed people with Twitter and Facebook at their fingertips. Philadelphia-based ad agency Cliff Ross is under fire for one of ten fonts it developed, each of which were said to have been inspired by an individual Philadelphia neighborhood.
The font in question, North Philly, consists of what appears to be rickety boards nailed together. The font was described by the agency as being inspired by "the rough and blighted neighborhoods located there." Woops. Nothing like slapping a negative label on something to fuel outrage, even if it might be even a little bit true.
Everyone loved the other nine fonts but the depiction of North Philly was not taken to kindly.
One PhillyVoice reader sent an email to the paper which read, "...the North Philly font is disturbing. If all he can see there (in a neighborhood that is predominantly African-American) is blight and a rough environment that is his loss and a poor reflection of an unfortunately underserved area of our fine city."
Tweets described the font as "offensive," bad," "gross" and one Facebook commenter wrote, "Rough and blighted is what characterizes North Philly--this is offensive on so many levels! Guess we know the ethos of the Cliff Ross agency... And really, how is that nobody in the entire agency stopped to even consider the implications of this; or worse yet, did somebody stop to consider the implications and then decide to go ahead with this anyway? This is not well thought-out or professional 'branding'; this is just seems like an ignorant agency trying to grab attention and hock some t-shirts--at the expense of people and communities!!!"
Responding to the critics, Cliff Ross, himself, said, “It’s not meant to characterize any neighborhood as a whole, but an aspect of it. You can’t get the whole neighborhood in an alphabet.”
So focus on the negative part of the neighborhood? Hey, we all know there are shitty neighborhoods in every city. We also know that pointing out that fact is never met with enthusiasm. This is when a little forethought and the adherence to the old adage, "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all" might have come in handy.
The font in question has since been deleted from the collection.