Goal for the project:
For this project I was required to undertake a design research project on a topic of my choice and I created a visual artefact in response to it, which was a video summarising the research. Next I was tasked to design, build and document a progressively developing prototype in response to a research project. First it was envisioned as a ‘Meme Kit’ for someone to learn how to create a meme, however in the end I resulted in a game called ‘Make A Meme’.
Throughout the experience of this project, I discovered that I completely made something different from the initial ideas and concepts that concluded in improvements and changes to the project. It was a fulfilled project that had extensive research and experimentation to create the project. From the start of the project I would have not known I would have completed the project in this angle. I chose this approach to the project from my interest and then later developed through peers and feedback.
I am content with the final outcome of this project, it exceeded my initial expectations of what I had in mind and I normally do not approach projects in a physical style. Therefore, this has been a learning experience and also a challenge. With the project having a physical format and a digital website to play the game, I am satisfied with the result.
“Undertake a design research project on a topic of your choosing. Create a visual or physical artefact in response to your research with a defined user in mind – you are representing your research for the user. The designed artefact must draw attention to the insights gained from your research.”
The topic I chose for this design research was Memes.
What are memes?
A meme is an idea, behaviour, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture or a subculture. Often with the aim of conveying a particular phenomenon, theme, or meaning represented by the meme.
(Oxford Dictionaries, Cambridge Dictionary, Oxford Learner’s Dictionary, 2019)
A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices, that can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena with a mimicked theme. Which creates a visual language, that can be communicated to others. Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate, and respond to selective pressures. Therefore, memes have lifespans which they are referred to be trending or dead.
(Merriam-Webster, 2019 and Graham, 2002)
Origin Of The Word
The term meme was coined in Richard Dawkins’ 1976 book The Selfish Gene, but Dawkins later distanced himself from the resulting field of study. Analogous to a gene, the meme was conceived as a “unit of culture” (an idea, belief, pattern of behaviour, etc.) which is “hosted” in the minds of one or more individuals, and which can reproduce itself in the sense of jumping from the mind of one person to the mind of another.
Thus what would otherwise be regarded as one individual influencing another to adopt a belief is seen as an idea-replicator reproducing itself in a new host. As with genetics, particularly under a Dawkinsian interpretation, a meme’s success may be due to its contribution to the effectiveness of its host. (Burman, J. T, 2012)
What was the first internet meme?
Godwin’s law (or Godwin’s rule of Hitler analogies) is an Internet adage asserting that “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler approaches that is, if an online discussion (regardless of topic or scope) goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone or something to Adolf Hitler or his deeds, the point at which effectively the discussion or thread often ends. American attorney and author Mike Godwin in 1990 (Wikipedia, 2019).
“I developed Godwin’s Law of Nazi Analogies: As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one. I seeded Godwin’s Law in any newsgroup or topic where I saw a gratuitous Nazi reference. Soon, to my surprise, other people were citing it – the counter-meme was reproducing on its own!” (Wired, 2019a).
The Memes before the internet
Before memes were spread across the internet and renowned as what they are. There have been memes that existed at the earliest date of 79 AD. These were visuals conducted through physical objects, the most known at the earliest is the ‘Sator Square’. The phrase “SATOR AREPO TENET OPERA ROTAS” roughly translates to “The sower is at the plow”.
However, this is a mistranslation as no one understands what the definition of ‘Arepo’ is. In particular, this is a square 2D palindrome, which is when a square text admits four symmetries: identity, two diagonal reflections, and 180 degree rotation. The Sator Square is the earliest dateable 2D palindrome. It was found in the ruins of Pompeii, at Herculaneum, a city buried in the ash of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD (Wikipedia, 2019b)
Investigating Popular Memes on an Instagram acccount
Looking at the platform of Instagram would allow me to investigate internet memes, which are widely spread and posted by the users of the network.
In order to explore them, I needed to question about the topic:
- What makes a meme popular and trending?
- Investigating a meme’s insight and data that created its popularity
- Using a set of popular memes to analyse what features make it unique
- Look at the insights, to create a user profile understanding the meme
- Impressions – The total number of time that all of your posts have been seen
- Reach – The number of unique accounts that have seen any of your posts
- Engagement – The number of time your post was liked, saved and commented
- Saved – The number of unique accounts that saved you post
- Profile Visits – The number of time that your profile was viewed
- Followers – The number of accounts that started to follow you
This was the initial investigation on the topic of Memes and the existents of them on the internet.
I learned about the content and conditions that were required to make a meme go ‘viral’, which concluded from the Instagram insights that was available to business profiles. This was achieved by creating the content suitable for the age range, posted at the most popular time when most users are active at the most popular location.
However, from this research it raised up further questions and research, therefore I wanted to find out what is a meme, relating back to the when I was looking at what it is as a visual language, rather than how it can become viral on Instagram. In order to question the possibilities for a meme, I started researching on what have people wrote about memes.
What I learned is that memes have become a fundamental part of our generation today; not being up to date with current memes is like being out of date with current news. A lot of the recent internet memes have been created based off of brands, cartoons or icons that are already recognisable images. From this people have benefited through social capital, and have made social change, examples like people have become celebrities, careers revived and even animals. Further more, memes have become snapshots of culture, including becoming political memes, like gang signs. (Wired, 2018 and Medium, 2018).
- Adam Young – Fireflies (2009), Career revived 8 years after.
- Harambe – Social change in Animal Cruelty
- Bhad Bhabi – Fame from talk show Dr Phil
- Damn Daniel – Fame from Social Media
What is a Meme?
This made me question people’s knowledge of memes and what they are to other people. Therefore I carried out a questionnaire to the public, receiving around 102 responses, however, some of the answers received were not reliable.
I came to the assumption that not many people knew about the history of memes, with the research I have discovered, I decided I would create a brief summary of the research in the form of a video.
Looking for inspirations, I came across the website ‘Digital Materiality Of Gifs’, this website is a unorthodox designed website that is not popular in modern date but seemed like a website would have existed a decade ago. Other research came from movies that had unorthodox animations and scenes. This came from the film Nerve (2016) and Enter the Void (2009).
Next I started to plan out the scenes for the video, by using parts of the research and key areas of it, and creating sketches of the key scenes that will take place.
“Design, build and document a progressively developing prototype in response to a research project. Your prototype should either respond to the research from Project 1 or to a new self-initiated design research project.”
The response was memes
Distracted Boyfriend: The girl in red is my dream course and the girl with that guy is my current course, no offence. And the guy is me.
Hide The Pain Harold: When you have a deadline tomorrow and you have nothing to do but you don’t really care about it
Confused Nick Young: Wtf is that.
First World Problems: She’s crying and pain.
One does not simply: When you made a good make up and show to your friend
Confused Black girl: To those bitches: Why are you so dramatic?
Futurama Fry: when your boy told you she is just a friend
Confused Nick Young: whhaaaaattttttt
Success kid: positive and successful
Distracted Boyfriend: girl in red=dog next door, the guy=me, girl in blue=my woof
Cash Me Ousside: 2my look to my bestie every time when the teacher says in groups of two
Safe roll: my British mates: how are you so good at maths
Pain harold: intelligent old man/ well educated maybe
Arthur: me telling myself to hold that anger when you see the biggest bitch
Confused black girl: what are you on about
Most interesting man: staring at the club
Y U NO: when you stepped on a lego/ accidentally bang you little toe
Sponge bob: sarcasm
First world problems: when bae doesn’t reply you in 2 secs
The next step of this research for me was to design a prototype in response to the research I had conducted. In order to do this I decided that I will use this information to inform, guide, educate someone who had little to none knowledge of what a meme is. In order to do this I thought about the idea of a book, guide, magazine however I wanted to make it interactive, therefore a kit became the idea of the prototype.
To create this kit, firstly I decided that I will use a set of images, which have been previously used in existing memes, including some of the original memes to give a direction, which will guide the user to create a meme of their own.
After creating the concept prototype, I went to some of my peers and tested this to learn if the concept has any flaws, to discover what my step is and if the user could suggest improvements. To test this, the user was given an image at random and they were to create a meme of their own. The question they had was ‘Write a statement, question, metaphor or conversation explaining what the image communicates.’
The first test concluded in results that had problems. The user experienced difficulty in creating a meme without any reference. However, some of the memes created were not memes but just descriptions or words of the image and this did not conduct original creativity from the user to create a meme.
What I learned was if the user did not have any indications or references it will be difficult because of their knowledge of memes beforehand, therefore I needed to include some hint for the user to use in order to initiate some idea of how to create a meme.
To improve from the first test, I additionally added some original memes and a document that had a description of each meme. This would allow the user to be able to look at the reference in order to have an idea for their meme.
The user experienced difficulty in creating a meme without any reference, they had to use the references in order to create a meme. However, these memes were too similar to the original memes and this did not conduct original creativity from the user.
What I learned was these indicators were not subtle enough for the users, I needed something less that would not paraphrase the meme and create more originality for their memes.
Crying girl: When you finish showering and you need to take shit
Distracted boyfriend: Left: £50 worth of clothes, middle: me, right: my debit card
Old guy: When everyone else is travelling the world and you just spent 5 hours napping
Confused black girl: when your classmate comes up with a full blown presentation
Idea guy: You can’t get criticism if you don’t show up
Baby: Having small feet, and fitting into cheap kid shoes
Crying girl: When you’re updating your drivers and your PC blue screens
Distracted boyfriend: right: trying to not nut on No Nut November, middle: me, left: Free premium memberships on Pornhub
Old guy: When you see all your friends in relationships doing things without you
Confused black girl: When you see your friend bullshit out an essay and get a higher grade than you.
Idea guy: you can’t fail No Nut November if you don’t do it.
Baby: When you get to the end of No Nut November.
Confused black girl: When the staff in the canteen saw you using the knife
Idea guy: use your brain is not decoration, bro.
Baby: Finishing the crit, even it’s shit
Old guy: Your tutor still smile politely when he knows your work is shit
Crying girl: Oh, the bank balance is low. But I want to buy clothes.
Distracted Boyfriend: Left:Any slim girl Middle:me Right: delicious cake
To improve on the test, I decided I will give a set of instructions, remove the brief description of each meme and place a small selection of the original memes in an envelope to use as an optional choice. To create the idea of a kit, I placed the contents in a box and branded it as the meme kit.
I tested this with a group of my peers and they enjoyed the ‘test’ and suggested that it would be enjoyable if it was a game. With their memes, they shared it with each other, which transmitted the idea of a meme from one person to another. They found it enjoyable creating memes for each other and sharing it between the group, which indicated the idea for me to add gamification to this idea instead of creating a kit. With feedback, the instructions were moderate however improvement was needed to indicate more to the user.
For the final outcome of this concept I decided to recreate it and make it a game, to create this into a game I decided to add set categories, which would be based from emotions, feelings and reactions. Also to redesign the style and improve it, to do this the images and categories would be printed on card then laminated over with plastic. Additionally, the instructions would be quite minimal and printed on a card to be part of the deck.
What I learned was the concept of the game was working and feedback for the game had some improvements with further branding. To make this into a full game product, I needed to create a in depth instructions to outline the steps clearer and create a branding for it. From the feedback, I also received the idea to be able to share it to other players online, rather than just locally with the players next to you.
Make A Meme Game
To brand the game, I took inspiration from the game creators ‘Oink Oink Games’, which create board and card games in small packages that fit in a box. Therefore, I created a new set of instructions to brand it. This set of instructions goes through the steps of preparing the game, indicating game objectives and how the scoring would be determined.
There are different difficulties of the game which is optional for the players and the scoring can be determined by players who vote online through the website dedicated to it. So I created a website for the game via the Twitter API and it would include all memes from people who hashtag their meme and post it on twitter.
The overall branding of the product is simple and aesthetic, the font I chose to use were Times New Roman and Arial, I chose these fonts to differentiate the headings and body text in the instructions. Arial was used for the main branding for the logo ‘Make A Meme’, therefore for the categories I chose the font Times New Roman because I wanted to incorporate this font as Arial was already used for a lot of the content. The reason I chose these two fonts is that these are simple and the basic foundation fonts that a lot of the memes exist with from the early stages of the memes. The majority of the memes/images I use in this set are old memes that have existed for many years and are the early internet memes, to relate to that these fonts were chosen.
To create the box, it was laser cut to the size of the cards, then assembled together and layered over with a matte gloss sticker to give it an aesthetic finish, and a logo.
For the final test I went to random people to test the game, these people gave the feedback that they enjoyed the game and understood how the game worked. There was some improvement feedback I received from the selection of people, one of them was the writing cards should be large. However, it would have difficulty fitting the card in the box, alternatively I gave the user additional card to use; I could have provided a smaller pen. They liked the simple design of the game, and said it does not need much design as memes represent a ‘DIY’ feel towards them and a sense of neutrality.
Make A Meme Game:
- Oxford Dictionaries (2019) Meme. Available at: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/meme (Accessed: 2019)
- Cambridge Dictionary (2019) Meme. Available at: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/meme (Accessed: 2019)
- Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries (2019) Meme. Available at: https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/meme?q=meme (Accessed: 2019)
- Medium (2018) Are Memes the Future of Social Change? Available at: https://medium.com/rta902/are-memes-the-future-of-social-change-ceb24792218d (Accessed: 2019)
- Merriam-Webster (2019) Available at: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/meme (Accessed: 2019)
- Graham, G (2002), Genes: a philosophical inquiry, New York: Routledge, p.196.
- Burman, J. T. (2012). The misunderstanding of memes: Biography of an unscientific object, 1976–1999.
- Wikipedia (2019) Godwin’s Law. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin%27s_law (Accessed: 2019)
- Wikipedia (2019b) Sator Square. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sator_Square (Accessed: 2019)
- Wired (1994) Meme, Counter-Meme. Available at: https://www.wired.com/1994/10/godwin-if-2/ (Accessed: 2019)
- Wired (2018) The Wired Guide To Memes. Available at: https://www.wired.com/story/guide-memes/ (Accessed: 2019)