Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam…

Scam emails have been blocking up inboxes all over the world since the early 1990s

Promising lucrative financial deals, the chance to aid an ailing royal family/revolutionary, or simply asking for help in shipping currency around the globe, gullible victims have been duped into sending money to what they perceive to be a person in plight. Unlike the vast majority of annoyed recipients of these emails, however, there’s at least one person who’s been avidly collecting them: Henning Wagenbreth. The German illustrator has just published a book of images based on his favourites, Cry For Help: 36 Scam Emails From Africa, which is published by Ginko Press (€16.90).

The images take lines or themes from some of the wilder invitations that Wagenbreth has received in his inbox. “I was looking for the most original stories, but ones that had similar patterns,” he says.

Ironically, Wagenbreth employed the more satisfyingly analogue medium of linocut to illustrate this uniquely digital menace. He had previously been working on a digital comic strip, Plastic Dog, and so was keen to leave the computer alone for the new book.

Compared to Wagenbreth’s collection of written emails, the new wave of “image spam” has seen spammers step up a gear and even enter into design territory. Image spam includes its message within a gif attachment and is therefore less detectable to filters that work on text character recognition. According to the New York Times, this type of spam now represents 25 to 45 per cent of all junk emails. And it works, too. A recent study found that the price of spammed stock rises on average by 5 per cent, allowing the sender to make a quick profit by selling their shares before the price inevitably plummets again.

London design studio Hi-ReS! wittily paid homage to the spam gif, adopting the noisy graphic style for their last Christmas card (10). For maximum visual noise the card was animated, too. And, apparently, that’s  the next big thing in spam.


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