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Corporate Memphis - Aesthetic Highlight #20

Fig

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In "celebration" of reaching the 20th installment of my Aesthetic Highlight series, let's take an introspective look at the 2020's most defining one thus far. The infamous:

Corporate Memphis (Late 2010s-present day)

Memphis.jpg


Corporate Memphis is an aesthetic birthed by big tech companies during the late 2010s, specifically Facebook's Alegria illustration's in 2017. The aesthetic is characterized by its bright colors, symmetrical designs, and its notably unproportioned characters of zero specific racial and often gender origin.

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1*skt6Km9F4Z3Wz05zlPrp0w.jpeg

1*en9RCX22WhqH0fXUWzK2xA.png

Ew3Nc0zUcAA8FtU.jpg:large

vector-creator.png


I'm curious to hear what you all have to say about this art style. Yes, it represents the monopolization of big tech on the surface web. Yes, the art is seen everywhere. And, yes, it's long overstayed its welcome and has been the subject of parody and criticism. But what's worth noting is that this, along with most of the aesthetics we've discussed, grow from corporate interest and propaganda. Do we love Global Village Coffeehouse or Y2K for what it means or represents, or do we love it because it's nostalgic? While I can't say I particularly adore the current Corporate Memphis style, I know that one day, when it's a blip from the past and long out of style, it will remind me of this particular point in time, as have every other aesthetic I and others have through. Some people, like Linus Boman, ask if we hate the artstyle or if we hate what it represents.

This thread, since I predict this aesthetic will be dragged through the mud here, may one day be an example of Corporate Memphis's initial critical reception. Six years after Algeria, and with no end in sight, what do we think of the current aesthetic plastered everywhere in our everyday lives?


I fucking hate the art style itself, and the ideas behind it are equally atrocious. I really like this aesthetic highlight though!! Do continue :)
 
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SpeedSleek

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imacop

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Global Village Coffeehouse
I had to look up what this meant and now my brain is covered in nostalgia-jizz

I've been a professional web designer throughout the 2010s and I saw this "Corporate Memphis" style come into vogue. Something to keep in mind is that the stuff we were seeing just prior was also awful by the standards of the day. Companies had soulless stock photography just filling space because "something needed to go there." Seeing companies actually bother with illustrations in their advertising was a breath of fresh air. Yeah they were goofy and weirdly proportioned, but at the time they came out they had charm and were a 70s throwback. Dropbox was the first I remember having this sort of callback to illustration.

Anything that you see enough of, which isn't your choice, you'll start to hate. Now that Facebook and every other big company is trying to appear "more humanistic," the Memphis aesthetic has created the opposite of its intended effect, through little fault of its own. I say "little" because the "fail fast" philosophy of silicon valley promotes quick iterations, and this Memphis style is much quicker to render than coffeehouse illustrations or 3D models. You could do them without an artist—all you needed was a graphic designer.* I was baffled in design school when I found out that most of the class were not hobby artists, and many only took the drawing classes that were required.

Style is work and work costs money. For two decades my web design clients have been asking for "clean" and "professional" and they balk at seeing actual art anywhere near their site. Granted, many of these clients want their projects to shine, and art has a way of drawing attention to itself. It can be done, but we should also be cognizant of the bad art of the 2000s where you'd see just random shapes and shit drawing your attention from the content you came to read.

Part of me pines for a return to artistry, and part of me quails because despite my appreciation and attempts, I'm not that great at it.

*I should add that I don't think art > graphic design. Graphic design is art in service of business so it's always going to get a bad rap from auteurs. However, you can look back at classical graphic design from the 1930s and 1940s to see effective clean design—Russian constructivism, Swiss/bauhaus, all done with interesting typographic layouts and subtle intent. It's also easy to ape—badly—putting us in today's situation. And a lot of people don't know good design when they see it, but I'll be darned if they don't end up buying from the good-looking places. Apple, for all its corporate bullshit, is a multi-trillion dollar company for a reason, and a not-insignificant part of that was dedication to aesthetics.
 
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Sketch Relics

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Since my first post in this thread, I've been trying to put to word exactly why this style is so awful and after 3 failed starts, I think I can adequately explain it now.
It has to do with the combination of massively warped proportions, flat shading, lack of detail, and how these elements interact with each other. It makes it very difficult to convey motion in any way, prevents distinguishing subsets of design within the style, and tend to cause background objects/environments to clash with the characters that inhabit it.

Music-Events_Dancing-QP_v4.png


Using this as an example, due to the characters already warped proportions you can't further warp them to help convey how they are moving as the tenants of the design combined with the lack of detail would cause further warping to just look like a part of the character design rather than an attempt at motion. The flat plane and shading further restricts this, forcing the artist to exaggerate the poses quite a bit to convey dancing which is ultimately what breaks it because it just doesn't look like dancing at that point. Leaving the unsettling feeling of knowing what is meant to be conveyed, even if it doesn't seems to represent it properly.

Do also note.... the heavily contrasting note, which has no warping on its proportions and rounded shading, where as the humans only have flat shading to convey parts of themselves being in front or behind

original_b4050f403a2fcf711473bbf752fe4af1.jpg


In contrast, this pic I stole from the neo-liberal corporate surrealism thread shows a mighty step forward, using warping and perspective to help emphasize the step, with the buildings and clouds seemingly in sync with it.

Further expanding on the contrasting backgrounds, take a look at this
CM4.png

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Note that the backgrounds and objects that inhabit them are never warped like the humans are, once you notice this it makes the humans feel like they don't actually belong in the picture.


memphis_SC6-1024x576.jpg


I found this while looking for images, it seems such an unintentional perfect description for the people who see humanism in this sort of art.
 
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Alixie

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memphis_SC6-1024x576.jpg


I found this while looking for images, it seems such an unintentional perfect description for the people who see humanism in this sort of art.
That's from Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics, I love his books
Apple swinging out with some extremely 90s-box-art evocative stuff recently, it's even got the grain.

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That's a better approach, if they make the faces and forms less round and minimalistic it would actually be a bit nice
 
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idk i like oc memphis,but not the "thicc rubberhose" allegria (how it is named)
cant tell why, maybe coz oversimplification?
neoliberal corpo and GVC slaps
also, 80/90s airbrush/3d cgi arts too, computers and geometry, checkered floors - similar kinda to neoliberal corpo overlap
 
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GENOSAD

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Apple swinging out with some extremely 90s-box-art evocative stuff recently, it's even got the grain.
I won't lie, this looks less like a step in the right direction and more like something made by an artist who has only ever done the Corporate Memphis style. They're trying, sure, but they sure as Hell aren't getting there.
 
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I won't lie, this looks less like a step in the right direction and more like something made by an artist who has only ever done the Corporate Memphis style. They're trying, sure, but they sure as Hell aren't getting there.
yeah, but they better NOT mix it with whhacky colors 2019 discord font neubrutalism!
 
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nsequeira119

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I think it's unfair to associate this aesthetic with the 2020s, the 2010s are responsible for this abomination
 
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I think it's unfair to associate this aesthetic with the 2020s, the 2010s are responsible for this abomination
yes and no
started like this
still tolerable, but it started back then
 
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nsequeira119

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yes and no
started like this
still tolerable, but it started back then
That iteration is very different, I actually like it. More shading, more surrealism, more bleak color palette. You wouldn't see any tech firm today push graphics like that. I mean, Memphis itself has its origins in the '80s, and arguably further back, but each iteration of Memphis is kinda different, and this 2010s one is the absolute worst yet
 
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GENOSAD

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yes and no
started like this
still tolerable, but it started back then
I think what makes these images so interesting is that they genuinely feel like the product of an office worker who draws in his spare time. Like the doodles in a schoolkid's notebook, but amped up to some degree of artistic competence. Some images feel like a silent cry for help, while others feel like a strange sort of self-motivation. I know the term "vent art" gets a lot of flak, and I'm really not a fan of the term myself, but that's how a lot of these come off as; like a glimpse into someone else's mind obfuscated by illusions of how success looks to them.
 
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