Saturday, 22 April 2017

Spicy Memes

If you are in the age group of people that have no chance to buy property in central London, you'll likely have seen a spicy meme or two. It's pronounce meem by the way, not me-me or mem-ey.

For those of you unaware, a meme is little more than an internet joke; usually pictorial. They have no specific owner, no specific creator and mostly an unknown origin, but if you were to try and follow the meme stream it'd like go like this—4chan, Imgur, Reddit, Twitter & Facebook, World Domination.

Due to their lack of direct ownership, there is a clear lack of copyright in any particular meme; which is a very exploitable concoction. The copyright free Emojis of their time. This has been both exploited for commercial effect, societal degradation and heavy, heavy racism. At this point we reference the strange case of our lord and savior Pepe, that slightly sad looking frog that has now reached the realms of 'normies', twisted into a racist emblem and a rare reaction along the way.

Pepe was originally a character in Matt Furie's comic Boys Club; made famous by a panel in which Pepe pisses in the toilet with his pants full removed and testifies that it "Feels good man", quickly picked up by 4chan and other image forums as a response image. Though as it's frequency grew, people began to create their own and hide them away, making 'rare pepes' and adapting them to every situation, sadness, anger, happiness and blind xenophobia—a crudely drawn frog became the unified face of the outer reaches of anti-social web interaction.

Because of the popularity of a Pepe reaction, it was being adopted by almost every user of the outlandish, free-speak forums of 4chan; which unfortunately lead to a simple comic character being drowned in imagery of compromising viewpoints; being that a large section of 4chan's user group toe-the-line between socially unacceptable and bear-faced hate. Like a sad green frog being trapped in a snowball at the top of Mont Blanc, it quickly rolled down the mountain of popular culture to develop into a horrendously large boulder, to which its original existence could no longer be observed and this is when it was proudly adopted as a searing JPEG based flag for the far-right.

soz pep
Where as things created innocently can adopt meme status and spiral out of control worse than 2007 Britney Spears, some brands are recognising the social grip that memes have on popular culture and embracing them with all their copyright free goodness. Step into the ring, Gucci—a very high fashion brand, gripping and repulsing the youth market with their memes and expensive handbags.

Though I think it's a bloody brilliant design stratergy to develop what is otherwise seen a snobbishly posh designer brand into relatable internet jokes, it's a bloody cheeky move if ever I've seen one—riding the wave of pre-created internet in-jokes without paying a penny of royalties. Though they didn't use Pepe, they still wouldn't have to have paid Mr. Furie a penny either as the standard internet 'pepe le frog' is different enough to be out of his copyright; the poor bugger.

See above the 'starter pack' meme where people collect a range of stereotypes for various trends, groups and genres as a poke at their community. Often created by people who are passionate about said topic, laughing at the people who are new to said topic and are likely failing to expected stereotypes. Those arrogant, funny bastards.

There is no obvious name for this one, but it's adapted from a meme where people display their frustration with a screen cap from children's TV show Arthur; in an episode that tackles anger and violence and shows him clenching his fist from a profile stance. Of all of them, this is the one that is least changed, but the one I like the most, as it feels very high fashion with a little hint to internet humour, rather than a blatant reference—it's cleverly different enough from the original Arthur scene to be out of copyright too; those sneaky high fashion harlots.

As far as I can read on the internet, people of the internet are cringing very hard at this campaign; but as I'm not very attached to any particular meme, I think it was a bold step for a brand that arguably trades exclusively on it's image and reputation to embraces what are otherwise spews of collected internet humour.

All in all, as an avid user of the internet and the generation to grew up with it, seeing it turn from Geosites to Wordpress and MetaCafe to Youtube. I wouldn't have ever expected internet humour to have such a poignant space in society, never mind and recognised style and set name. It seems the Meme culture is certainly a digital representation of the youth, displaying it's problems with xenophobia, a thirst for freedom of speech and the sharing of a continual in-joke.

A lot of meme hang heavily on current events or nostalgia, enforcing an – if slightly twisted – view on the modern world and the things happening around it, whether hilarious or tragic, they can all fall into a dark hole and become a meme. In my mind, they aren't as poisonous as we may think, which thousands of people dealing with serious situations by applying a sense of humor; or even using them as a gateway to freedom of speech, even if that is hate speech, it's still the freedom for them to say and express that. Long live the meme.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

I don't get it

If you've ever been to a gallery, you've turned to the person next to you, or they turned to you and exclaimed the ever prevalent words "I don't get it" your figures over-shadowing a large red, mounted square.

The phrase itself is synonymous within any form of exhibition, design to performance; but it more often raises it's head when prompted by a lobster based telephone or a shark hovering in a solid embalmment. I've said it myself, and I've heard it many times also—the problem is that it's almost completely redundant. It's not wrong to be confused, but often we're looking for something that needn't be looked for, expecting something that doesn't exist.

We should be attending galleries not looking to understand everything, not looking to please just our eyes but instead something to please our soul, put fire in our bellies and sour our tongue. Often the fact an artwork isn't simply understood is part of it's existance, we shouldn't scan modern art the same way we have learned to deconstruct European Oil Paintings—with a term as broad as art we should understand that each piece is individual and can be understood in a totally different way.

We may often say that we don't understand as we aren't really trying to, we're looking at a crude constructed sculpture and trying to read it everything we currently know, looking for emotion in the finesse rather than just absorbing it's aesthetic wonder. Often we've been instructed to not understand the piece before us, in the case of minimalism or Dadaism, it doesn't need to be understood–l'art pour l'art.

To not understand is a human condition, and where art stands high and mighty in the spotless prestige of the gallery we exclaim our confusion in which to rebel against the pieces before us. "I don't get it" is a rebellion against the higher society we find ourselves standing against, to almost dismiss that it shouldn't be given such prestige if it cannot be understood by ourselves. Often it needs to be fought against but just accepted for what it stands to be—but as I also said, we're often looking to sour our tongue with pieces we search for disgust in, like a jewel encrusted skull or 120 bricks upon the floor.

I don't get it is a prominent and poignant term when assessing art but when applied to design, it's no longer a fair term of the common man (or woman) but instead terribly problematic. To not understand art can be part of it's aura but to not understand design is to heat up the branding iron and sizzle it into the upper thigh of it's creator, owner and distributor.

Like art, design is created in an aesthetic space but unlike anything hung on a gallery wall, it needs to be understood to be effective—it needs to be clear for it purpose; as without said purpose, it stops being design, or at least not design in it's purest sense. I believe it should be a strong and divisive metering of your work to see whether what has been designed can be understood by the people who would consume it's imagery, it's message and it's existance.

For an example, the most publically obvious aspect of design is a logo. Good or bad, every company has one and should you poll every citizen of Milton Keynes I'm sure you'll find that the average human would relate design to exactly that. The Nike logo is the most recognisable logo I can think of, so we'll work with that one.

It's origin isn't directly obvious but the radical nature of it's 'swoosh' suggests something exciting; though you may have never seen it before, it's very clearly it's not the logo for your local washing machine repair shop is it? 

Now the logo may feel sporty to us because it's so ingrained into our lives as the ultimate symbol for sport, health and fashion but a hard as you try, it's hard not to understand that it's a shape driving a fast, slick motion from one point to another. Ask yourself, have you ever picked up a Nike product, looked at the embezzled Swoosh and turned to the shop attendant to say "I don't get it".

The difference here is that design cannot carry the ambiguity that art does, it has to be read for the message it's owners need rather than the message to viewer of any given artwork could attach to a Rothko. Though clearly, design can be made to be misunderstood or enigmatic and this works well for the radical brands that adopt them, but even now these confusing logos still reflect the message they are selling—Supreme, Palace, Soylent etc.

Next time you want to explain that you don't understand Tracey Emin, or Damien Hirst give it a second and try to not understand and just take it for what it is—eventually you'll realise what stands before is likely shite, but it's art so there isn't much more to understand about it other than that.
But if you want to say the same about design, speak with it's curator and if it still doesn't make sense, buy some beers, a pack of tissues and let them know; they may cry, they may get angry but if they are clever, they'll listen and eventually you'll create better design for the masses. You bloody champ.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Thank god for emojis

It's not particularly cutting edge to refer to Emoji's as the modern youth's Hieroglyphics—but clich├ęs aside, they are rather good fun. Even if I do admit it myself.

(GIF unrelated)
What started as developed smiley faces, has now developed to cryptic sexual consumables and emoticons suitable for threatening life itself with. I used to rather detest sending or receiving a little yellow face, sparkle or spontaneous vehicle but now I've caught the bug – a few years late, might I add – and now I can't help myself; forever attaching them to everything. You only need to check my instagram to see a cornucopia of unrelated sparkles, hand gestures and faces in the caption of nearly every post.

Now as they grow in popularity, they clearly needed to adapt to their wider market; introducing various skin-tones and genders to hundreds of different icons, though as hard as they try, the 'eggplant' icon will never truly represent the vegetable it aesthetically refers to.
Now, third parties jumping on this popularity bandwagon, creating their own replicas of the official set to be hosted upon their own platfroms, which in the case of Twitter has created an open-source library of infinitly scalable icons—just in case you want to express your desire for butts on a letterhead or a billboard. Which isn't all that bad is it?

While the rest of the world makes more icons, to be misused as subtle references to penises and beyond, the brave old soles at Grindr (gay dating app) blew the modesty out of water, with a hardcore library of very, very clear, yet still slightly enigmatic emojis.

Little explanation needed here
Though they are ugly as sin – design wise – they are a great development to a third party emoji library, rather than just mildly copying what already exists, through making them slightly less iconic. They've taken the subtle, ripped it apart and opened their own market for pictorially asking for 'Dick Picks' and defining the Top or Bottom preferences of any and all of it's users.

It's a refreshing dive into the depth of popular culture to see such an iconic modern trend be adapted to suit it users rather than just reinforce the 'hip and trendy' nature of any particular silicon valley company. I'll be sick if I have to see another ugly interpretation of the Turtle icon, but a skin coloured aubergine—hell yeah! 

Thank god for Emojis, how else would we explain we have penis on the mind, pretend to be a monkey releasing a secret or threaten ex-lovers—all encased in a 10x10 icon. If aliens should want to communicate with us, lets hope they've got some kick ass icons themselves; because mathematics just aint going to cut it for me.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Things I Hate: Designing for nobody

In my eyes, design is something initiated by a problem—design itself being a solution. It drives me nuts when I see things created for nobody, no reason, effectively no problem.

There seems to be a big culture of designing for nobody spinning around the outer layers of the industry, the 'pre-made logo' sales being the sore thumb sticking up towards me. As I line up my hammer to bluntly extinguish the existence of this metaphorical meat prosthetic, I can see in it's sweaty reflection how it's cheapening the industry—allowing the general public to believe that design is a space to simply facilitate their identity through convenience rather than the problem solving task it really is.

Come get your 90's .com logos, only $400!

Above displayed is a poisonous leech, misleading people to believe that they could just buy design as an item rather than a creative process, it's design's answer to the worn in the entrance to the Labyrinth. Ironically if you look at the prices of this small snippet of generic icons, you'll see for the most part a student could be happily paid half these prices to produce something much better. 

Though I cannot find the quote I believe a big cheese designer once said something along the lines of "Bad design costs more than good design"; which seems rather poignant here. For these look nice(ish) but they are bad design not because of their aesthetics but instead because of their poor suitability, their irrelevance to the actual brand—they were made for nobody, so work for nobody.

It's not just a small isolated problem of one or two websites selling the utopian ideal of buying the perfect logo—I find social media to be full of these annoying bloody things.
See above; it's a juicy stake of what every lazy corporate business person desires. It looks modern, minimal and it's animated; how could you ever be so lucky! 

"I get this logo and place it on my website this afternoon, just above my heavily copy-written 'company mantra', that'd be great!"

"Wait a minute, it's for sale. I can just spend money and now I've got the perfect logo. Wow isn't design great—those agencies are such rip-off merchants. I've saved so much money!"

Though it's a rife problem, as always there are exceptions to the rule—let me introduce you to Logo Pizza. A studio poking fun at the pre-made model but all the while making it a profitable experiment.
Logo pizza was a self initiated project from Metafizzy in which 50 pre-made logo were up for sale, though as one sold the price of the next logo would be $20 more expensive; meaning the faster you snapped one up, the cheaper it would be. Now, after a couple months of existence, it's developed a stalemate at a sizable $820 per logo—which isn't too bad for a little side project.

At the end of the day, I'll still rest my head on the pillow with a seething hatred for the 'pre-made' design culture—I imagine it's the same cheapening factor that fans of Slayer feel when they see a hoodie in Topshop, but it doesn't distract from the fact in both cases, they are very profitable for the humans who have consciouses in a different disposition.

Designing for nobody, I hate you; you can do it sort of right but it still doesn't make any sense to me. You are the lazy-man's branding solution and you are the punching bag of trends, clich├ęs and irrelevance alike. I hope you're proud of yourself.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Just the Tip: Social Media

Social media for me is a fine balance between love and hate. I love seeing other people's work and I love people seeing mine but I bloody hate using my time to operate and maintain it.

Whereas in the past employers may check your criminal history, or even your credit score if your soon-to-be employer is a bellend—now they just check your social media.
Within minutes, it's pretty easy for anyone to see if you are a funny bugger or a feckin' biggot.
That said, it can also reap such good rewards. You can get advice from fellow creatives, scouted for work by agencies and even the odd spam comment; you lucky people.

Tip 1: You don't need to be everywhere.
To be successful you don't need to be on ever social media platform ever. It's not realistic to keep up with all of them, and it's likely that you'll be posting and sharing the same content over all of them anyway. Pick one or two (maybe three if you have the spare time) that you actually like, that your perspective clients might use and stick to those.
For creatives, it's an easy choice. Instagram for work, Twitter for thoughts and LinkedIn for business.
Alongside that, these might be useful too: Behance, Pinterest, Facebook, Tumblr, Youtube & Dribble.

Tip 2: Keep active or deactivate.
There is no bigger turn-off than an abandoned social media account. You might be great at keeping up your instagram but if someone stumbled across a pre-historic Dribble account of yours—you'll look a lot less professional by comparison.
psssst... It's easier to run a fewer accounts correctly than many poorly.

Tip 3: Always choose organic.
No, I'm not referring to overpriced vegetables, I'm talking about followers.
On any platform you want to have an organic growth, not fake followers. Though you might not think so, an account with thousands of purchased and 'fake' followers is really easy to spot.
30,000 followers, 6 images and 2 likes on each—yeah it's kind of obvious and you'll be instantly blacklisted from legitimate followers and clients.

Tip 4: Hastags are key
Look which hashtags are popular to the content you are producing and apply them liberally.
But beware, as useful as hashtags are, they are a few simple rules for them.
  1. Only use hashtags related to what you are posting, otherwise you'll look a little silly.
  2. Hashtags will get you 90% fake likes, but the 10% of legit like is worth the battle.
  3. Use a good amount, but don't use too many.
Tip 5: Social Media is your extended portfolio
For the majority, you'll likely be posting work that might not make the cut to your final portfolio but it's a big display of your character and your personality. As I said before, from checking social media people can tell a lot about a person so don't be an idiot and understand that all these platforms are your extended portfolio. They can make or break your creative successes.

How clients will surf all your 2010 juvenile posts
Sorry, couldn't find any 'tip' related GIFs for this post, hope Bee & Puppycat based imagery makes up for that. Stay excellent!

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

IWD 2017

Today isn't the day for my gimmicks, my puns or my hair,

Today is the day, for women, ladies—all who are fair. 

pop culture reference; I think.
As we smash the ceiling,
Glass fills the floor,
Give a sister a chance,

Friday, 3 March 2017

Books—a fading ideal

This week we had World Book Day, which saw many children going to school dressed as movie characters; or so I assume, it's not that often I attend primary schools.

For a designer, books carry a currency that stands mountains above copper pennies and monarch embezzled paper slips—books, books and more books. If you are a good designer, you'll own all the books you can get your hands on and if you are a better designer, you'll be in those books.

The tactile nature and printing process go hand in hand with everything creatives dream about, leaving use with masses of bound paper that sit and look pretty on the shelf ,waiting for the next day that you have a creative block so they can find themselves sprawled over the floor, like a post-walkies labrador.

I had never really been a book owner until university, where then suddenly I was thrust upon with a list of books I should own, should have read and should buy in which to succeed on the course with—throwing me into the dark scary depths of correctly using a bookcase. Now, three years on, I have a real affinity with the printed page, lusting over my next book and stacking them anywhere that they'll both fit and not send the other half crazy.

Now, as I stand on my high horse I can snigger and jeer at the masses, for being so under-read, like 18th century lord looking out on his pasture, filled with illiterate peasants. But really, if I think back—I was exactly that. I didn't want to read, I own no books and I had no desire to—but why was that?
Because they weren't exciting enough for me.

Like every other boy, I had a games console, access to the internet and sack full of textbooks from school—once my 6 hours of pretending to understand biology, doodling in maths and giving 50% in PE was up, I wanted to go home, eat food and see something a little more exciting. I could always find something to entertain myself, almost instantly. Films, explosions and shooting polygons controlled by angry French men; all of which took very little focus of effort on my behalf, so like hell I was going to pick up Dickens and sit in silence for an hour or two.

Now, as I've grown older, the allure of video games has worn off and the potential for learning that is held within those design books, essays and journals shines a lot brighter; which I hope sticks around, as I'm a hopper. I hop from one thing to the next, spurring all my excitement into the next thing that I've found interest in. Perhaps books are just my current fad, but usually if it stick around for longer than a year, I can class it as more than one of my passing interests.

It's an ideal that we should all read, but it seems like only certain communities and industries have importance engrained into the sniffing of pages and the breaking of spines. Of the people I studied with, I could list a majority who valued reading highly but from my friendship circle of youth, I was almost amazed by the few who read—so much in fact, that my friend who had 20+ fantasy books upon his wardrobe was somewhat of an oddity to me – though quite fairly – he was always a lot smarter than I.

With purchasing these books I always find myself, doing as I was so wisely told not to do; judging a book by it cover and making my purchases almost exclusively based on it's aesthetic value. The theory is, if they've gone to the trouble of hiring a good designer, then the content of said book should mimic that—it works for the most part. But this privilege is mostly reserved for design books and the 'classics' of literature; I personally think my mother's bookshelf looks like a bloody awful mess of fifty colours and a thousand script typefaces, but she doesn't buy by the cover and likely reads me under the table, so what on earth do I know.

In a world where all information is instantly accessible and all entertainment is life-like, drenched in thrill and detail—it's certainly difficult to fight the corner for the humble book. For the younger generations – the children of the internet – the ideal of a silent study of printed paper is just that, an ideal. Let's just hope that we have a resurgence like the 'vinyl revival' even if it's realistically killing the market that's it's resuscitated. 

Perhaps the answer is better design, or a better public interest spurred by the design and suitability for the books. Or, perhaps we've just grown past them. They are no longer the largest resource for information; chipped down from their mighty pedestal of importance by Hyper Text Markup Languages. Books will always be prevalent for certain people and certain industries but that doesn't stop them fading as a whole, especially as we start to lose our elders—the safeguards of the printed word. Like art, as it loses it's respect, it loses it's footing; and now it stands on a blanket of ice reflecting the future generations that needn't own a bookshelf ever again.

Books; don't ever fade away, don't ever fade away.

Copyright © Vincent Walden Sucks