IFC’s portlandia: “put a bird on it!”

by Grace Bonney

I’ve never been so amused by and embarrassed about an aspect of the design industry as I was while watching this video. If you haven’t watched Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s hilarious new sketch comedy/TV show on IFC called Portlandia, please check it out here, here or here. The show primarily mocks the stereotypes found in Portland, Oregon, and in this clip, it takes on a trend that we’ve all seen a lot of: BIRDS. I can’t tell you how many times the phrase “Another bird?” has been used in our comment section and home offices of the D*S team, so to see an entire video mocking the trend had me laughing for what felt like an hour. AC thought I was crazy, but I immediately said, “Dude, everyone in our community will totally get this and laugh.” And well, I hope you do. If this doesn’t sum up the worst part of a trend/fad, I don’t know what does. It’s perfect. If you don’t think so, well, maybe adding a tiny bird decal to your screen will do the trick. xo, grace

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  • Hysterical! I opened a store in upstate NY last year and spent a long time considering whether to name it Mockingbird (it was the 50th year of the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird) or Bluebird (the NY State bird). I wanted to be like the cool stores in Brooklyn and San Francisco. Ultimately I went with something very different, but just a few days ago was wondering if I made a mistake and could I change the name. (Yes my store is full of birds). It’s a trend, but an interesting one. Do birds symbolize an antidote to the world of electronics? Hope for a dying planet? Or are they just pretty?

  • The end is too funny when the actual bird comes it – it’s so true! People love cute little birds on things but then when real birds come into play, they are disgusting haha.

  • When my husband sent me a link to the show earlier this week I wasn’t sure if I would like it or not, but after watching it and the linked episodes here I am such a fan. I laughed so hard I cried…hysterical! It’s good to maintain a balanced sense of humor :)

  • Hilarious hilarious hilarious. I am so guilty of loving the birds on most things, but I completely agree that it is definitely a design cop-out.

  • well..The bird thing can get carried away, but I don’t think it’s wrong to continue using them as embellishments if a design calls for it. But, everyone’s entitled to their own opinion.

  • I just visited Portland last week, my sister lives there. I just howled at the clip “Is it local?”

  • Hehe, my boyfriend and I watched all the clips last week, and this one is by far our favorite. Everytime we see something with a bird on it now, we turn to each other and say “Put..A..Bird..On It!”

    I was in Portland this summer for the Summit of Awesome, and from what I saw, this show has it down. I can’t wait for new episodes!

  • That was so awesome! I love it!. I’m such a huge birdie fan and I know it can get out of hand — and still I really want one of those IKEA Barbar bird trays! ;)

  • Us Portlanders are loving this show!! It is SO absurdly true. I love that it’s Carrie Brownstein (a Portlander) and Fred Armisen because if it were anyone else it wouldn’t be as funny, but they play it PERFECTLY. Every time I see a shot from the show I get all giggly inside because I freaking love Portland and I love absurdity. (And I love birds, too, of course!)

  • Love.It.
    Also, when I saw the the title is it funny that I thought the video would be a musical parody to the tune of Beyonce’s “Put A Ring On It”?

  • Ha! I was listening to Slate’s Cultural Gabfest podcast yesterday and they specifically mentioned ‘readers of design*sponge’ as people who the show was trying to skewer – at least you got a shout-out right? :) Don’t have IFC unfortunately so hopefully this is available on hulu or netflix at some point!

  • This is hilarious! I love the ending. It’s also motivation for me to finally design some new stationery. Im still using the bird graphic I created out of my initials almost 5 years ago. Crap.

  • Love it! I went to the huge “crafty wonderland” show here in PDX before the holidays, and there was a guy selling postcards that said “if you put a bird on it, people will s*** themselves”, and also the same card for bikes, mustaches and squirrels. So funny, and so true. Everyone at the show really WAS selling things with birds, bikes, mustaches and squirrels screenprinted on them. Portlandia is pretty on-target. (That said, it was a great sale– I was really impressed with the quality of the work!)

  • That’s great! I have been so bored looking at birds painted on everything lately. Come on now, designers. Design!

  • Oh yes, I’m a Portlander and now that the show is out we walk around seeing SO many great skit/character opportunities (especially in SE Portland) for Portlandia! It’s awesome!
    I love how when the bird gets in the store they’re all grossed out!

  • Haha! This would work equally as well for any number of tired trends! (Although I did enjoy the bird invasion.) And Portlandia may be my newest vice…so thanks for sharing! ;)

  • Baha! Hilarious. I was at floral design event about 8 months ago, and this older gentleman was giving marketing tips. One of the things he said was: “If you if you’ve been having trouble selling something in your shop and want to sell it, put a bird on it, and it will be gone in 3 days!” It’s TRUE! Thanks for posting this – fun to watch on a snowy day.

  • Confession: I have the bird covered Ikea tray which features in the background so prominently. Even though I don’t really like the colors, or need it, I bought it because of the cute birds. Sometimes I look at it and wonder “what was I thinking.” Thanks for sharing the video. Made me laugh.

  • Ahhh, Portlandia. Never has Portland been so well represented and made fun of at the same time. I LOVE my home town and this show does it justice. Thank you for including this little clip.

  • omg that is HILARIOUS and spot-on!
    i love this ! I am so embarrassed to say i’ve just recently “put a bird on” my (pantry) blackboard wall !
    they’re easy to draw, what can i say ?!! bird also talks (via a speech bubble) & declares that it has been “hating winter since the 70’s” ! therefore it is a badass bird. :)

  • Hysterical. I lived in Portland for 4 years and can definitely say it’s true that “the dream of the 90’s is alive in Portland”! I watch Portlandia with a little tear in my eye because it miss it and all of its weirdness everyday!

  • WAY funny, WAY WAY funny!!! Thank you for sharing…I checked out the site and their videos are really funny…like Portland and the ninties…stuff and thangs….Lol! Thanks

  • As an artist who lives in PDX & puts birds on things (I know, I KNOW!) I totally love this.

    It is hilarious and has more than a little truthiness in it. ;0

    Thanks for spreading the PDX love!

  • This sums up my design philosophy. I was thrilled when I started seeing birds on stuff. I got a bird tattooed on my foot 7 years ago. So, I put a bird on myself. :)

  • I’m afraid they just started the new trend. I can see t-shirts, prints, ceramics a.s.o all saying “put a bird on it” with of course the bird being a real bird. I loved it!

  • Being from Portland this show makes me laugh and roll my eyes at the same time, because it is incredibly absurd how onpoint it is with this area. I’m tired of birds, bikes, moustaches, octopi, and keep calm and carry on. I’m over it, and ready for people to be innovative and come up with something new. Not to mention deers, I’m over them too!

  • LOL LOL this is the funniest thing ever. Isn’t that guy from SNL?

    I have to say that in my new and first home that I’m decorating I am loving birds, but it came from me having a wonderful and talkative pet parakeet that I love and wanted to honor in the decor! You know in case you don’t notice him. Later I realized the fad, but I’ll go with it! It’s true though, people love him until he flies around to my shoulder and the duck, bob, weave and scream like nothing you’ve seen before!

    “In Portland you can put a bird on something and call it art!”
    I love this show. It’s totally just making fun of hipsters in general, there just happens to be a large concentration of them in Portland.

  • Hilarious!

    But I must confess…I love birds on things…and I love real birds too. I’ve got a 10 year old parakeet of my own. She’s got tiny pink legs. :)

  • I really love the song “The Dream of the 90s Is Alive in Portland.” My husband and I keep playing it over and over.

  • Aww… and now I feel totally silly for buying a tablecloth from Dwell Studio on clearance at Target with a bird motif! Funny video!

  • too funny. i love the retching involved with the real bird. could perhaps be adapted to “put a deer on it”, or “put a rainbow on it”, as the case may be.

  • SO hilarious! There’s another Portlandia sketch that had me hanging my head in shame as well–the one of the friends in the coffee shop starting every sentence with, “Did you read that article in the (blank) yesterday?” I can think of so many conversations between our friends that start this way! I have been rolling on the floor laughing at Portlandia!

  • Love that video – so funny and true! Rings particularly true today as I stare at Rue Mag’s new cover with the owl on it.

  • Goodness… so I definitely “put birds on things” for my wedding (invitations, cake topper, etc) but didn’t go overboard or anything. After the wedding, my mom kept buying me things with birds on them, because she thought I would love anything bird-related. Funny.

  • HI-larious! That pretty much could have been a commercial for my store. Hell, my business card has a bird on it! A bird even flew into the store one day over the summer. Lets just say, though nothing got broken, hilarity ensued.

  • Love this…and as another artist living in the Portland area, I wonder if watchers know that there really is a Mississippi Street with shops much like the one shown here.

  • This is too funny! Birds are pretty cute (yes, even real ones), but the overuse of trends is not all that adorable. This could easily be any trend, like mustaches, for instance. (Put a mustache on it…)Thanks for sharing this with us!

  • i LOVE this show!! Hilarious and soooo true – “put a bird on it” and it’s DESIGN…lmao!!! Go Portlandia Go!!!

  • Though, I like Portlandia because the creators are so likeable, I’m hoping that the continued episodes will show more promise. I think the first two episodes are funny sometimes, but cannot be maintained. The show is a little too pokey at stereotypes and shows no real promise of character building. Basically it is a run of four or so Saturday Night Live skits. All the stereotypes are what you would find in any liberal-leaning community. I recently moved to Portland from Austin and we have them all there too. I think for this show to find any sort of long-term voice it will need to branch out. For a pilot created by two people in very little time it is a nice start. However, if it stays at the level where it is now, it is basically just the same ironic, cheeky, cynical sensibility that it is making fun of and I’m a little tired of seeing in our generation. Right now it feels like they are just “Putting a bird on it.” But I hope to see them develop it more because they are both talents. As for your comment about how you all at DesignSponge had internal memos about “another bird?” I must say it is easy to flip flop and act cool, as if you never were really into the trend to begin with. Let’s not be too smug. Yeah, maybe birds are now passe, along with mustaches, deer, bears, circus sideshow acts, and Keep Calm posters, but next week it will be another trend and that is the way it goes, right along with olive kitchen appliances and macrame. Themes move in and out of the public consciousness. We don’t have to act too cool when we recognize one has passed.

    • Dawn

      No one’s acting “too cool”- we were making fun of ourselves as well as the trend. We wrote about and were sucked into the bird craze just like everyone else.


  • I laughed at the bike riding mayor skit. I was sure it was about our bike riding mayor here in Minneapolis! And the hipster biker skit was great! I’ve always thought those giant earhole things looked dangerous! So it’s not just Portland getting skewered. Our own mini-Portland subculture here gets poked fun at too!

  • Love the show (though I wonder how long they can sustain it). But clearly this skit was written ages ago. They should have replaced ‘bird’ with ‘deer’ or maybe ‘mustache.’

    To be honest, though, I don’t care if the whole urban forest trend sticks around forever. It seems pretty normal to want little bits of nature (terrariums, leaf motifs, pictures of birds) in an urban setting.

  • Another Portlander who loveslovesloves Portlandia, that’s me!
    There are only six episodes of the show, so we’ll have to enjoy them while we can and not get too caught up in character development and sustainability. At least it’s local ;)

  • I immediately looked in my tee-shirt drawer: GUILTY. proud owner of several bird-emblazoned tees, the favorite of which is also a Wilco bird tee. <3 and peed pants laughing.

  • Grace,
    Thank you for posting about this when you did. My bf and I love it.

    Not only do you provide your readership with great design coverage, but you share smart and quirky entertainment anecdotes (Dexter being one of them) as well.

    I can’t wait to see the book.
    -Margaret in DC

  • This is pretty funny stuff…to a point. While I totally agree that the use of bird decals are done to death, I don’t agree that anyone with an Internet connection should be able to ‘Put a bird’ on anyone else’s blog/website – presumably to make fun of that illustrators use of birds. OK, so I’m talking about me. Someone ‘Put a bird’ on my blog entry: http://www.putabirdonit.com/http://andnowiambroke.blogspot.com/2010/11/birds-birds.html

    What makes the person who did this the arbiter/judge of creative talent? Do they have any them selves?
    Maybe I’m taking it too seriously but I don’t think artists should be made to feel like they are simply following trends because their subject matter may be done to death by less creative people. My paintings are hardly clip art decals of birds, wouldn’t you agree?
    I guess what Im trying to say is that although it’s funny to poke fun at the uncreative overuse of motifs, I don’t think it’s positive to make other legitimate artists feel like their work is sub-par and ‘Put a bird on it’ worthy.

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