The Internet is Freaking Out Over Finding the Designer of '90s ‘Jazz’ Cup

Gina Ekiss, of Aurora, Missouri, designed the original artwork with charcoal.

June 24, 2015, 5:49 PM
PHOTO: Solo paper cup with the "jazz" design.
Solo paper cup with the "jazz" design.

— -- Remember those jazzy wax paper cups with their awesome teal and purple squiggle design?

They were so commonplace — whether at the movie theater, dentist’s office, ice cream shop or roller rink — that they are likely part of everyone's subconscious.

But 23 years after the cups were introduced, we can appreciate this gnarly nostalgic design for what it is: pure throwback perfection.

The retro design, appropriately called “Jazz,” has been immortalized on tons of fun merchandise from T-shirts to sneakers, bicycle helmets and nail art, to name just a few. The creative genius behind the snazzy neon-colored logo, however, remained a mystery for the most part — until now.

Meet Gina Ekiss, the original artist of the masterful design who now lives a quiet life with her family in Aurora, Missouri.

“I’m just still pretty stunned about the whole deal,” Ekiss, 50, told ABC News of her shocking new celebrity status online. “I’m thrilled that it’s still popular.”

It took the serious sleuthing of one local Missouri reporter, Thomas Gounley of the Springfield News-Leader, to track Ekiss down after stumbling across a Reddit page hoping to locate the “graphic designer who made the ‘jazzy 90s’ image that appeared on millions of paper cups.”

“My family and everybody just kind of grew up with the fact that I did it,” she explained of her masterful design. “I did a lot of designs but this one particular seems to have some staying power and now it’s got its own life online.”

Ekiss worked at the Sweetheart Cup Company in Springfield, Missouri, from 1987 to 2002, before the company was bought by Solo and moved their art department to Baltimore. In the first few years she was with the Sweetheart Cup Company, they held a contest to come up with a new design for the mass-produced cups.

“They hired several other outside firms to come up with the designs but didn’t like any of the outside stuff they were receiving,” she recalled. “We had approximately 30 artists here in Springfield and we said, ‘Why can’t we submit some designs?’”

She created three or four designs for the contest and “Jazz” is the one the corporate headquarters ended up choosing.

The original artwork was actually drawn with charcoal, Ekiss explained.

“I’ve still got the original at home,” she said. “I think I probably just had some on hand at my desk and was just messing around and I liked what came out.”

One of the parameters for the contest was that the design could only be one or two colors because they were going to be run at a fast speed on the presses.

“I just did turquoise, or teal, because that’s one of my favorite colors,” said Ekiss. “I wanted another overlapping color that would work well together. I just liked the purple with it and everybody seemed pleased with that.”

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