The 'Jazz Cup' Design By Gina Ekiss Has An Unexpectedly Rich History, So Here Are 8 Things You Didn't Know About It

Even if the phrase "jazz cup" isn't familiar to you, the design likely is. You may just have to go back in time to remember it. You might've seen the purple and teal squiggles that now serve as an emblem of the '90s on cups serving juice to accompany cookies at Girl Scout meetings, on plates at your fourth-grade classmate's pizza party, or under the water dispenser on Field Day. But until now, nobody knew who invented it. Redditor mcglaven was determined to change that, so in an effort to find out who designed the Sweetheart jazz cup, mcglaven put out a call for an AMA, or "Ask Me Anything," with the hitherto unknown person. The thread amassed over 800 responses before News-Leader reporter Thomas Gounley embarked on an investigation that will go down in Internet history. Gounley found several Reddit responses partially explaining the history of the design: One cited an email from Solo Cup Company, which acquired Sweetheart, explaining that "Gina's Jazz Design" won an internal contest in 1991. Another cited a 2009 email from a different Solo representative, also stating that the cups originated from a designer named Gina, but this time dating them back to 1988. After extensive research and interviews on the jazz cup's history, Gounley was starting to lose hope — but he tried one last idea. By searching keywords related to the cup on Twitter, he found a tweet from someone who claimed to be the designer's daughter and searched a public database for a Gina with the tweeter's last name. In no time, he was at Gina Ekiss's door in Aurora, Missouri. He rang twice, and she invited him in. Here's what she said — and some other facts Gounley picked up over the course of his investigation.

1. Gina won a contest at Sweetheart that began in 1989 and ended in 1990 or 1991.

Hence the conflicting accounts provided by Solo's representatives. Ekiss said the design couldn't be too fine-grained because the products were produced in such large quantities; the design ensured that mistakes wouldn't be visible.

2. The name has no hidden significance.


"They came back and said that was the one they wanted to go with, and what did I call it," Ekiss told Gounley. "I had no idea. So I had to come up with a name for it, so we just called it jazz."

3. Teal and purple are Ekiss's favorite colors.


Clearly, she was on to something.

4. Ekiss keeps jazz products around the house.

Why wouldn't she? She also mentioned that she recently saw her creations at Dairy Queen.

5. The design has a cult following, which Ekiss finds "insane."

There's a Facebook page, a Tumblr, and all kinds of items including shirts and shoes paying homage to the jazz cup.

6. Stephanie Miller claims the design was ripped off hers.

After Imperial Bondware rejected the design, "someone from Sweetheart picked it up, liked it, set it on Gina's desk, and asked to tweak it just a little to avoid copyright issues," Miller claimed on Reddit. It's a case of he-said, she-said, though, so there's no proof either way.

7. The cup has changed hands many times.

Sweetheart, the site of the cup's birth, was purchased by Solo Cup Company in 2004, which in turn was purchased by Dart Container Corporation in 2012. Maybe that's why everyone was so confused about its origin.

8. The purple and teal paper products are still around.

And they'll probably experience an uptick in sales after this internet-wide celebration of their iconic design.

Watch Ekiss talk about her creation in the video below:

Images: Betty Mills; Grainger; Giphy (2); Dan Zak, Sam Cooper, Atomicdust, Katie Kowalsky/Twitter; @lilshawnmac/Instagram