The World Wildlife Fund people figured it out a while ago, with their logo of the panda bear. We've been seeing a lot of polar bear baby pictures recently, as their environment melts. And then there is the ubiquitous, ultra-cute green frog from the tropics. Animals that have good public relations campaigns survive. The cuter they are, the better they do.
I've thought about this in relation to my own babies. Certainly if they weren't as adorable as they were, we would have kicked them to the curb long ago. For a while, when they were first born, they were downright rude. But those big eyes, those Charlie Brown noses. And so here they are, still here, and getting cuter by the day. I find myself at Costco loading up the cart with formula and diapers every week, despite the cost, and despite the fact that Costco doesn't take credit cards. It's all because of those eyes. Cheeks. Chubby knee-rolls.
I read a study once that correlated cuteness and survival. It measured the relationship of eye size to head size, head size to body size, and determined that lots of baby animals can be scientifically called "cute." Remember Puss 'n' Boots from the Shrek movies? He's the swashbuckling kitten with Antonio Banderas's voice, whose most disarming battle strategy is to put on his puppydog eyes. The bigger the head, the bigger the eyes, the harder we all fall.
It also works with product marketing. My Dad was constantly annoyed with my friend Carin and me in sixth grade, when we had one word to summarize what we liked: "cute" things. Dad thought it was the worst selection criterion in the world. Turns out it was the best. We bought a lot of Hello Kitty pencils because of the power of cute.
So as a new baby product consumer, I have noticed a new cutie on the scene.
The ladybug is a special bug. She's clean-looking and approachable. In Mexico, ladybugs are called catarinas (that's Katherines, for those of you who didn't get it) and are considered good luck. The graphic quality of their spot(s) makes them attractive to people who otherwise don't go for bugs. So fabric designers all over the world have gone to town with their image recently. I've never seen as many ladybug designs in my whole life as I have in the last few weeks.
When a friend of mine commissioned a baby quilt for an as-yet-unknown-gendered baby, we went straight for a ladybug theme. Lady for girls. Bug for boys. Something for everyone; universal appeal.
Because the child was going to be born to an American mother living in Ireland, we also snuck in an orange/white/green (Irish) and red/white/blue (American) color scheme. This is the result.
My hope is that the American-Irish baby will become an etymologist. First stop ladybugs. Then bees. Then spiders.
Fabric designers and artists save the world. It was only a matter of time.