From left to right: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Buckminster Fuller, Dieter Rams

#MeaningfulMemes : Design Mantras

I’m reclaiming the meme….as a metaphor for change and reciprocation dedicated to the design community.

Memes were primarily only known and used by academics, but today memes are mainstream due to the inherent virality of jokes, GIFs, imagery, etc. spreading via the internet 🌎 .

“Meme” was coined by the contentious evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book, The Selfish Gene. This word defies easy definitions but he described it, with his penchant for vulgarity, “The meme having taken hold, they and similar circle-jerking gobfags proceed with a relentless propaganda onslaught on its behalf, which culminates in several hundred fucktarded spinoffs and maybe — if it’s clean — a spot on the news.”

The meme deserves another chance; less stupid, vitriolic crap — more meaning and cultural relevance. Anyone can go to 4chan to find and repackage ‘new memes’. Maybe pull some cute cat pics down and overlay something preposterous, maybe ridicule an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction, or poke fun at a celebrity that’s not worth mentioning. It’s easier to ridicule someone’s livelihood, which can unleash an avalanche of cyber bullying, than to imbue significance or insightful commentary. For the love of LULZ let’s spare our eyeballs from the incessant drone of meaningless garbagio 💩. Some may think that they can get away with their idiocy, talentlessness, and general loathsomeness, by calling it a meme but the truth is they can’t.

You might be thinking that the phrases (Less is More, Doing more with less, Less but better) I chose to memeify are just fancy clichés turned into regurgitated aphorisms. BUT by looking at the man (or woman) behind the meme, it’s a distillation of their ideas into something that everyone can understand and actively be apart of. It can spark a thoughtful discussion because the person’s likeness becomes visually tied too their thoughts that anyone can appreciate and remix. Culture can create and repackage theses ideas into something with meaning. When used well the meme represents a basic concept that can transfer from one person to the next, and transform, subject to variation, and adapt culturally.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe “Less is more”

LESS IS MORE — this phrase is often associated with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, for good reason, as the originality of his work is imbued both visually and functionally with negative space, minimal color, and hard lines. He’s often considered to be the father of modern architecture. What makes Mies’ architecture so recognizable is his mastery over ratios and beautiful proportions such as the Golden ratio. He employed reductionist methods, using geometric forms, modern materials, and plain ornamentation.

Analysis of Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Chair by Kimberly Elam, via Behance: Barcelona

Mies van der Rohe reminds us that modernity fused with futurism is achievable through relatively simple applications of common design theories.

Buckminster Fuller “Doing more with less”

DOING MORE WITH LESS— Buckminster Fuller (or “Bucky”) was dedicated to this ethos, influencing his work as an architect, engineer, theorist, inventor, and futurist.

His most famous contribution to architecture was his reinvention of the Geodesic Dome. Bucky held the patent to this design and popularized the futuristic looking structures, which has been replicated over 300,000 times. This lattice shaped design has been used in civic buildings, environmental protest camps, music festivals, military radar stations, and exhibitions.

Trey Ratcliff — Blood on the Sand (Burning Man “ThunderDome” )

It’s the most extensive example of “doing more with less.” The domes are environmentally friendly and economically affordable. These structures have been said to be “the ideal human home.” This stems from another architectural concept Bucky coined “tensegrity.” He went on to describe this feat of architecture, “properly incorporated in fundamental structures, it may advance the spontaneous good will and understanding of mankind by many centuries.”

Bucky designed creative solutions that continue to be relevant, withstanding future architectural problems because of his forward looking genius.

Dieter Rams “Less but better”

LESS BUT BETTER — Dieter Rams, the most recognized German industrial designer of his time, himself explained his design approach as “Less but better — because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials”.

The influence of Dieter Rams and his “minimalist” aesthetic which he gained his notoriety can still be seen and felt to this day. Rams’ “Braun style” can be likened to the look and functionality of Apple’s tech, both in the design of the interfaces as well as the industrial design of it’s physical products.

Rams didn’t really work for Braun. Rams was Braun. He went on to design more than half of the total products offered by Braun in the span of his industrious career. During his tenure, his team crafted the design language for everything including; stereo equipment, radios 📻, clocks ⏰, razors 🔪, lighters 🔥, juicers 🍵, among many other products he designed.


Rams’ was a firm believer in Functionalism, his rationalist design approach represented in one of my favorite of his 10 design principles “Good design is as little design as possible.”

Ellen Lupton “Think more, design less”

THINK MORE DESIGN LESS — Ellen Lupton, offers this sage advice to conclude her book “Thinking with Type.” She epitomizes this design ethos; strive to create conceptual depth, substance over style, and simpler is smarter 👍.

Ellen Lupton’s “Thinking with Type”

The first book I was assigned in design school was Ellen Lupton’s “Thinking with Type.”Instantly, I gravitated to it’s concise application of typography rules and hierarchies. It completely changed the way I thought about type, from descenders to vertical rhythm, making me aware (sometimes painfully so) of typographic faux pas or conversely, #DroolWorthy uses of simple yet effective typography. Lupton not only inspires people like me to become contentious contributors in the design world, she challenges designers to be intellectuals 📚, as well .

All four individuals are essentially saying the same thing. Minimalism is at the heart of design. It’s the designers duty to make each design be simpler, smarter than we think it can be.

Let’s take it back to purity, back to simplicity, back to less ✌.

My “cover” of the Beatles album cover “Abbey Road”

Here’s a collection of images of my personal favorite designers & artists to memeify at your own discretion (please be meaningful). Also tag your posts with the hashtag #MeaningfulMemes

Download imagery & Sketch template here

P.S. The fonts I’ve been using are “Impact” (the standard go to font for memes) and I’ve paired this with Univers (the larger, hollow/stroked words).

Let’s be friends on social!

Asher G. Blumberg is a UX/XD Designer standing at the intersection of technology and human empathy, bringing the two together via brand and interaction. He dedicates his spare time to making #MeaningfulMemes. Currently, Asher is designing mobile first experiences #StartUpLife

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Leaving my imprint (and mouseprint) on the world one pixel at a time. Designing mobile first experiences, websites, and beyond.

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