High School Satire Never Gets Old

By Josh Koppel, Scrollmotion Founder and Chief Creative Officer

Citizen Poke Airplane

You know that saying, when one door closes, another one opens? The breakthrough of Ingage came out of a lackluster meeting at Apple a few years ago. But the idea for the app actually came out of a much earlier defeat—a political one, with me running for high-school student-body president. My best friend was the guy that beat me, and he beat me badly. And it really stung. But actually I found my voice creatively in that moment, in the humiliation of that loss.

I used the energy to create a little satirical newspaper that we called Citizen Poke, a combination of the movie Citizen Kane and the idea of poking fun. Also you could rearrange Poke to spell “kope,” and this project was kind of my coping strategy after the election. We’d print it out with our own money and hand it out for free at my high school, Francis W. Parker School in Chicago. Every week, we would think about how we could turn that 8.5 x 11” piece of paper into something exciting, like a fake history test or trading cards or a prom invitation.

Of course we were inspired by MAD Magazine and the way they’d turn pages into fake IRS forms or textbooks. Inside the back cover they had Fold-Ins, where you’d fold a picture onto itself to show a new image. I feel like everything I really know about design I learned from MAD. Parody is all about love, because you have to love something and study it to parody it. If you’re going to make a fake Sharper Image catalogue, you have to read a Sharper Image catalogue and understand how it works. I got really good at imitating different design and writing styles while creating our newspaper.

Citizen Poke was a huge success and it actually got me into college. I sent it along with my college application as an example of the extracurricular stuff that I was doing. Later I got to know the guy from the admissions office, and when he saw it he said, “We want this guy. This is the weird kid that we want at our college.”

This crazy newspaper project was my first taste of what something like Ingage could be. That little sheet of paper was my platform—a vessel where any type of content could live—and we were always testing the limits of what it could become. All these years later, that’s exactly where we’ve arrived with Ingage, pushing the boundaries of the iPad “page.” Do we make it into a catalog, or a movie, or a game, or a guided tour, or a story? Or everything, all at once?

By the way, Citizen Poke is still around. It popped up a few years ago when someone made a fake Harvard rejection letter that was going around the Internet. It was someone from my old school, Francis Parker. And I was like, wow, Citizen Poke lives, how cool. Now that’s a legacy.

Citizen Poke Letter