Despair, Inc.

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Despair, Inc.
Founded 1998[1]
Headquarters Austin, Texas, USA
Area served
Key people
E.L. Kersten, Ph.D. (co-founder)
Products "Demotivators": Posters, calendars, misc.

Despair, Inc is a company based in Austin, Texas, that produces posters and souvenirs that satirize the motivational indoctrination common in corporate environments.[2][3][4][5]

They are known for their cynical and ironic "Demotivator" items, which parody the grandiose imagery and solemn language of Successories, a range of motivational products. Examples:

  • MEETINGS: None of us is as dumb as all of us.
  • BLAME: The secret to success is knowing who to blame for your failures.
  • DREAMS: Dreams are like rainbows. Only idiots chase them.

On the company website, each "Demotivator" is followed by a list of individuals who the company feels would be a perfect candidate for the item (this does not apply to all their offerings). A running gag is that the category "Disaffected College Students" (or a variant thereof) is included as the last candidate in most listings.

Other works[edit]

Despair, Inc. merchandise
Photo of merchandise inside Despair, Inc.'s Austin warehouse.

In 2000, Despair, Inc. obtained a registered trademark in the USA for the familiar frowny emoticon :-( when used on "greeting cards, posters and art prints". In 2001, they issued a satirical press release, announcing that they would sue "anyone and everyone who uses the so-called 'frowny' emoticon, or our trademarked logo, in their written email correspondence. Ever."[6]

In 2005, Despair, Inc. published The Art of Demotivation by E.L. Kersten, Ph.D., a former professor of organizational communication, co-founder and currently frontman of Despair, Inc. It is a spoof of the management guru book genre and features 18 stylized renderings of Demotivators to illustrate the points. The book comes in three editions including a $1,195.00 Chairman edition. In 2004, the Harvard Business Review published a serious essay on the nature of work and self-fulfillment by Kersten: "Let Me Take You Down".[7]

See also[edit]

  •, a Polish entertainment website devoted to satire, including a comprehensive collection of demotivational posters
  • Life is good, a lifestyle brand best known for its optimistic T-shirts and merchandise


  1. ^
  2. ^ "At the Whiteboard: Signs of a demotivated workforce" ZDnet ZDNet
  3. ^ ""Low Flying Fish" NPR". Retrieved 2013-12-04. 
  4. ^ ""Despair, Inc. – The Brand for Cynics" CNN Jan. 17, 2004". Retrieved 2013-12-04. 
  5. ^ thatotherpaper Article About Despair, Inc. and sister company Amplifier
  6. ^ [1] Archived March 31, 2005, at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ "Harvard Business Review Magazine, Let Me Take You Down". Harvard Business Review. March 2004. Retrieved 2016-03-08. 

External links[edit]