I was hired to illustrate a cartoon design for a tee shirt. It was supposed to be 2 large “ants” having a picnic, with tiny cartoon people running around the picnic basket and blanket.
Simple enough. Two colors, red and black on a grey tee. I did most of the cartoon lines in black, and used red as a fill color on the checkerboard blanket and the two ants who were having the picnic.
When I showed the client, they didn’t like it.
Client: It looks racist to me. Those ants are stereotypes of African Americans.
I wasn’t sure why or how. They were red cartoon ants after all.
Me: Oh, I’m sorry. I don’t really see it but I can change them if you don’t’ like them.
The changes she wanted me to add? Large cartoon lips and a big hair bow to the girl ant, and a gold chain and baseball hat to the boy ant in solid black ink.
For added WTF, the client was an African American woman. I’m still scratching my head on this one.