Strangest Google Swag Ever: Chinese Postcards That Look Like This

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Returning to the office after Thanksgiving, I found a small package from Google China waiting for me at my desk. I opened it up to discover that it was a booklet from Google China's Corporate Social Responsibility team, and a stack of postcards. The items describe the 2010 Google China Social Innovation Cup, in which Google doled out renminbi to university students who had "grassroots, innovative solutions" to pressing social issues.

Now, I'm not knocking the idea of giving 28 teams of college kids money to do good. That's obviously a fine and worthy thing of Google to do.

But I couldn't help noticing that something about the postcards got lost in translation. Or maybe the design is just really terrible. For years, I thought that "desktop publishing" look had gone out with Regis Philbin shiny ties. Now I come to find out the whole aesthetic was just lurking in China! To my eyes, these postcards are like a throwback to Microsoft Publisher 1.0, or maybe that Apple IIe layout program PrintShop. I'm not even sure the Booster's club for my hometown Ridgefield High School Spudders could create postcards quite this... ugly odd.

And don't tell me the Chinese don't have good design sense. Just check out this flickr set of gorgeous Chinese graphic posters.

In any case, here I present ten of my favorites from the Google postcard collection with the English text included on the back. If you ask me, this design sensibility deserves to be a meme.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, where he also oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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