2022’s photography is packed with breathtaking moments and memes. Here’s a look at how the latter can inspire your design direction.
Where oh where would be without memes? When the world feels like it’s in disarray, when climate change is on the horizon, when Elon Musk is systematically destroying Twitter, we can still laugh at memes. They’re our go-to online language. They give us the opportunity to find humor in real issues or trends. To that end, here’s a round-up of some of 2022’s most popular memes and how you can use them to inspire your next project.
Move over coastal grandmother. It’s Barbiecore time. This pink aesthetic isn’t necessarily new—the Valentino Pink PP Collection debuted in March. The rapper and singer Nicki Minaj has been synonymous with the plastic doll for years. Greta Gerwig’s upcoming Barbie movie accelerated the popularity of bubblegum pinks and violent fuschia.
In June, the paparazzi released photos of Barbie co-stars Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling in acid-hued visors and skate pads. The look, reminiscent of Barbie outfits from the ‘90s, is unapologetically playful. That sass and confidence is what makes Barbiecore, Barbiecore. Think pink, sleek, and shiny. Now go look at this photo of Ryan Gosling as a shirtless Ken doll.
Little Miss & Mr. Men
The Little Miss and Mr. Men characters embody different personality traits (e.g. Little Miss Bossy, Mr. Funny). They come from a series of children’s books that debuted in 1971. But the iconic characters took on a new form when an Instagram user shared Little Miss Weed Psychosis.
People started combining the kid-friendly characters with complex moods to comedic effect: Little Miss Compulsive Target Run, Little Miss Dehydrated, Little Miss Clinically Depressed But Still Writes “No Worries” On All Of Her Work Emails. The meme is easily recognizable, thanks to the characters’ thick black outlines. The fonts are consistent, too. The books used Helvetica, the world’s most popular font, for years. Vibe on that.
NASA’s Smiling Sun
NASA released some fantastic images this year, including groundbreaking, infrared images of distant galaxies. They also shared a photo of the black hole at the center of the Milky Way (moderately terrifying) and audio of what a black hole sounds like (extremely terrifying).
In late October, NASA shared a “Smiling Sun” photo, after which there was a big bang of memes. What all of NASA’s images have in common, though, is a sense of awe. If that’s the mood you’re aiming for, look for images that feel celestial, ethereal, and literally otherworldly.
Upside Down 50 Cent
Remember when rapper 50 Cent literally dropped into the 2022 Super Bowl halftime show? To many, this looked odd. Fiddy’s appearance actually referenced his 2003 music video for “In Da Club,” in which he performs upside down crunches. (Show-off.)
Despite the lack of wardrobe malfunctions, his performance spawned some great memes. It also encouraged people to consider their surroundings and how they can get a different perspective. Think back to when you were a kid, for example. Did you ever lie on the floor, look up, and wonder what it would be like to live on the ceiling? Look for that same type of topsy-turvy imagery, as well as unconventional angles.
In the dark drama series Euphoria, teenagers face challenges far more adult than you might expect. While the series has gained notoriety for its content—the narrator is a 17-year-old struggling with addiction—its aesthetic has garnered attention, too.
Like Barbiecore, Euphoria fashion is rooted in nostalgia. Think early-2000s rave culture and 1990s lazy sexiness. It challenges gender norms, embraces crystals and neon eyeliner, and showcases Gen Z’s unabashed confidence. If you’re on the hunt for something edgy, consider the moody blues, greens, and purples of Euphoria. Don’t shy away from mystery or dystopia. And remember that, for Gen Z, fashion isn’t about what’s trendy. It’s about expressing oneself.
Technology is fascinating because you can:
- Ask AI-fueled chatbots to compose poetry . . .
- And accidentally summon a demon when trying to format a table in Microsoft Word.
Truly, though, AI does some really cool things. Recently, Lensa’s “Magic Avatars” have swamped our feeds with iridescent anime warriors and Rococo Medusas. Truthfully, their colors and aesthetic are similar to Euphoria—beautiful, ethereal, romanticized. They make you want to slow down and listen to mid-2010s chillwave while you search for images that feel magical, lustrous, and a little bit impossible. Keep in mind, though, that the avatars are not without controversy. You have to give credit where credit is due and ethics should be at the forefront of any AI system.
What’s your starting word? “Steam?” “Beans?” “Smart?” “Farts?” Wordle, a web-based word game, gives players six attempts to guess a five-letter word.
After Wordle was released to the public in late 2021, it exploded in popularity. The colored squares that comprise the game found their way into “not a Wordle” memes, onto coffee mugs, and onto clothing. The palette, which includes black, gray, green, and an unpleasant yellow, is basically a brand package for Slytherin House. Use it as inspiration for eerie imagery and checkerboard patterns. Or, you know, pictures of snakes.
The Green M&M
Speaking of green . . . when Mars Wrigley swapped out the green M&M’s go-go boots for a pair of basic sneakers, people had thoughts. Jezebel, Rolling Stone, and Tucker Carlson had thoughts, specifically. Carlson actually lamented that M&Ms are now “unappealing and totally androgynous.”
In the memes that followed, it was clear the masses thought the green M&M deserved her “virulent, untrammeled female sexuality.” While the reactions were hyperbolic (as is the way with memes), they had a common theme: We should support confident women. Women radiate strength and wear whatever makes them feel beautiful.
Nicole Kidman’s AMC Commercial
AMC released its commercial starring Nicole Kidman more than a year ago, but the viral video didn’t peak until this year. In the bizarre ad, Nicole Kidman waxes rhapsodically about the magic of movie theaters. She even drops the line, “Somehow, heartbreak feels good in a place like this.” The commercial took on a cult following.
So, what’s the takeaway? Don’t take yourself too seriously. In the end, we’re just watching someone watch a movie. Capture that outsider-looking-in perspective with images within images.
We Need An American Girl Doll Who …
In the ‘90s and ‘00s, American Girl gained popularity for its historical dolls. These doll personalities included a pre-Revolutionary tomboy and an uber-rich Edwarian orphan. The characters popped up on social media last year, when the company celebrated its 35th anniversary.
During this peak in their popularity though, Valeriya Safronova suggested the dolls star in memes about “other historical dramas, many of them veering into the absurd.” Imagine an American Girl doll who was on the Mayflower, but fell off. Dream up American Girl doll who survived the killer clown sightings of 2016. What if we had an American Girl doll whose gay awakening was seeing Lady Godiva ride naked through the streets of Coventry during the 11th century?
The point is: Women—and girls—have always been present. So, if you’re trying to build a story around a historical event, consider the context. Who was there? What would they have been wearing? What would they have looked like? Don’t settle for stereotypes.
License this cover image via LightField Studios.