Economists aren’t especially known for their sense of humor (unless you count this “Hey Girl”). But this set of buttons made in honor of University of Chicago’s recently opened Saieh Hall for Economics would suggest that academics like a good joke as much as the rest of us. We spoke with Renee Foster, Communications and Events Director for U of C’s Division of Social Sciences about the inspiration behind the clever wordplay, and the popularity of “standard deviants.”
What was the inspiration for your button designs?
I tend to grab clever/thought-provoking/controversial little buttons when I see them and pin them to my satchel. It seems kind of universal across demographics, really. A fun little button has legs, you know? So last year, when I was taking a marketing course and our assignment was to come up with a brand bible, the idea for these buttons was born. The University of Chicago is known for our idiosyncratic, irreverent sense of humor and I thought a series of buttons that pokes some self-deprecating fun would work well here.
Why did you want to make buttons in the first place?
We wanted to draw attention to the new Saieh Hall for Economics that opened on campus this year—the building is an absolutely stunning adaptive reuse of the Chicago Theological Seminary by Ann Beha Architects. The challenge was how to make this fun—despite how incredible this building is, the idea of an “economics party” didn’t scream barn burner. We underestimated the power of “free food, prizes, giveaways” (and enthusiastic future economists, of course) because we had nearly 500 people show up for the open house celebration.
How were the buttons used at the event?
We used the buttons as a scavenger hunt of sorts—we had six sayings on six different color buttons and made each available at a different strategically significant location in the Saieh Hall for Economics during the open house. It turned into a bit of a frenzy! We suspect that visitors may have been more excited about collecting all six buttons than actually taking in the gorgeous architecture of the spaces. (The Hoosier Mama Pie Company treats may have also played a role in moving the crowd through the building!) That’s ok—we wanted to let the campus community know that the building is a destination for everyone—not just accomplished and aspiring economists. I think we achieved that.
What were people’s reactions to the buttons?
The buttons were definitely a big hit. We had to place a re-order after the open house because they went so fast. The big favorite seemed to be the orange button that said, “standard deviant.” It was particularly cool to see one of our big donors ambling around campus with it pinned to the lapel of his very nice suit.
Thanks, Renee, for sharing your insights into buttons that will appeal to economists, students and donors alike!