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Why HR Hates Clip Art

December 30, 2010
tags: ,

Clip art is evil. 

Those seductive images and beautifully rendered graphics are so enticing aren’t they?  They lure you in with their sophisticated ways and flashy demeanor.  They ensnare you in their web of treachery, debauchery and decadence.

An ill-placed, inappropriately utilized art-of-clip will surely cause mayhem and havoc in the workplace.  A misplaced logo will lead to rebellion, misconduct and flagrant employee disobedience.

Or so I’ve been told.


A friend of mine who works in the techie field, we’ll call her Liz, had an interesting clip art encounter yesterday.  It’s quite the ‘norm’ in her company for employees to utilize clip art in various in-house communications.  They often use the standard Microsoft clip art (**) that adorns many a powerpoint presentation and company memo.

So Liz, being in the festive pre-New Year’s mood, searched the Microsoft clipart gallery for New Year’s images, and, as one would expect, the first image that popped up was of a champagne glass.    This makes perfect sense to me.  In that part of my brain where clichés reside, tucked neatly away in the New Year’s corner are two distinct images:

  1.  A baby wearing nothing but a diaper, a Top Hat and a “Happy New Year” sash
  2.  Champagne, in either a bottle or a flute, with little bubbles floating above the rim and escaping into the air


So Liz, who apparently thinks very much as I do, figured that the glass of bubbly perfectly captured the essence of the holiday.  “I’ll use that as my holiday clip-art, per the company tradition,” she thought.

But it was not to be.  For shortly after utilizing this well-rendered graphic in an in-house communication, Liz was chastised by The Boss and asked to remove the spirited clip art.   The reason being, per The Boss:

“Cocktail pop art is not good from an HR standpoint”



Did The Boss attend some employment law seminar for managers and executives where the attorneys scared the crap out of the attendees and told them if they allowed pictures of alcohol-related items it would be offensive?  Maybe.

Did the HR Director inform The Boss that it’s best if he minimizes his exposure to claims of harassment by removing all references to sex, drugs and rock-n-roll from the workplace? (cuz those things lead to sex, which leads to harassment, which leads to lawsuits… which, well, you know).  Probably.

In an effort to make sure no one could be offended by anything at all, has The Boss now chipped away a little further at the withering soul of an American worker?  Perhaps.

But I really can’t blame The Boss here.  For all I know he thought that picture of a fizzy, bubbly glass of champagne was the greatest thing ever.  But as a leader in the company and a titan of commerce, he knew what he had to do – he had to speak “from an HR standpoint.”

And obviously, HR hates clip art.

(**) hat-tip to for the clip art !

7 Comments leave one →
  1. December 30, 2010 9:53 am

    This is the kind of stuff that drives me bonkers. We (and by we I mean business in general) go after “inappropriate” clip art, because its right in front of us, easy to fix, and doesn’t require a lot of thought.

    Changing some of the basic assumptions about the work we do, the value we bring, what our customers (meaning employees) need, and what we can best do to help them succeed? That’s hard. So we gloss over it.

    Some orgs are better than others, of course. But no one that I’ve seen is as good as they should be.

  2. December 30, 2010 9:57 am

    i was with you all the way until you said you “really can’t blame the boss.” yes, the boss sometimes needs to speak from “an HR standpoint.” but in my book, this is not nor should it be HR’s standpoint. i couldn’t even make an argument that cocktail clip art presents any additional risk whatsoever to an organization if i wanted to. and show me an attorney or HR person that does make this argument and i will beat them down.

  3. December 30, 2010 10:28 am

    Holy crap. If I worked for that boss, I would need a drink right now. In fact, I think I dod anyway. It is 5 pm in Europe. That’s good enough for me!

    Personnaly, I think that Clip Art owes the world an explanation about why it always encourages smoking. You know that shot everyone uses of the 50’s guy puffing on his does Clip Art get awat with that anyway?

    Maybe a stern warning label is in order here:


  4. December 30, 2010 6:09 pm

    Tell me something: do their memos about upcoming team building events have close up images of the links of a chain? Because that’s the one the boss should be crying foul about.

    Champagne at least acknowledges our humanity. It’s the compasses, maps, dartboards, mountains, rapids, the stock photography of business people passing batons/jumping over hurdles, and—yes—chains—that the boss should be railing against.

    We are people. We are not anthropomorphic metaphors.

  5. Robin Schooling permalink*
    December 31, 2010 8:54 am

    Ah clip art – so innocent yet so deadly.

    @Dwane – easy is as easy does.

    @Charlie – I can’t blame The Boss for speaking what, no doubt, his HR Dept ‘told him” needed to be done. Could he/should he push back against such a foolish edict? Absolutely. Then again, maybe he finds it easier to just say “this is the rule, cuz HR told me/the Auditors told me/Accountng told me…etc.”

    @Mike – I know the man-with-pipe one of which you speak. I can practically smell my great-grandfather’s pipe tobacco when I meremly look at it.

    @Jason – I like that one with the compass. It’s a classic.

  6. December 31, 2010 1:40 pm

    “A misplaced logo will lead to rebellion, misconduct and flagrant employee disobedience”. Best line ever. Being in HR communications, you encounter all kinds of challenges with logos, colors, fonts etc. Some time back as part of an agency review, I was presenting to HR and the marketing department of a large healthcare organization. I’m trying to present our services and what we can bring to the bottom line, they’re all arguing over an ad campaign that hadn’t even been created yet. Sometimes you just have to laugh.

    On a personal note: I won two contests years ago using the tackiest clip art ever. Front row seats and a limo ride to a concert, and VIP passes to the opening night at the Hard Rock in Miami which included a 3 day cruise. Not bad eh? You will NOT see me knock clip art!

    Happy New Year Robin!

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