Memes are fun, right? Well, only those that make it to the top.
Have you ever seen memes that are not funny? Just go over to Reddit and sort by “New”.
Or keep reading marketing blogs laced with an overused Boromir picture:
So why does one meme go viral and others don’t?
That’s a tough question because there’s so much going on. Some people compare memes with living organisms. They live, they mutate, they die.
Others compare memes with jokes. They’re funny, they’re relatable, and they have a cultural context.
The thing is, memes are both. It’s like a living internet joke.
If memes do not have enough cultural context, they die. If memes are not funny enough, they die.
Memes have to constantly evolve in order to stay alive. That’s why standard Boromir memes are not that popular these days. They haven’t evolved. Yet.
In order to create a perfect meme, let’s nail down some basics with this article.
Text in Memes
Ever try to find a meme with no text in it?
Well, they usually come with some. Text is such an integral part of any meme that most online meme generators are just that: an image and a text field to write something down.
So the most basic way to create meme is to find a relevant image and put some text on it.
If you go that route, use images that people can relate to. And don’t use overused images, unless you’re trying to resurrect them. Again, Boromir is dead. That’s not a movie spoiler.
If you have problems finding a relevant image, try surfing Reddit or 4chan.
If you want to come up with funny text, well… We already covered that with How To Create Catchy Title Image.
In short, your text should be connected to the context of an image. Or enrich it. Or subvert.
Take a look at these BG memes:
Unfortunately, this meme died in 2017.
In short, the more people can relate to this situation, the more people will “Get it”. And if that’s funny? Well, that’s 2/2 for you.
Keep your text fresh, though. The originality of what you talk about is as important as how relevant the meme image is.
At the time of this article, the meme world is obsessed with baby Yoda memes & the Tesla CyberTruck. In a few months that’ll probably change.
Remember this one?
Ok, this meme is as dead as Justice League in 2016, but it’s great for illustrating the point.
You can go with the standard text route, and play with the situation.
But you also can be a bit more unconventional and start adding some elements. Sometimes it’s not about a text at all.
You can add elements to your memes using both Lunacy and Photo Creator.
This is how you do it.
1. Upload an image with a cultural context for your meme into a Photo Creator:
2. Insert an element:
3. Add a text caption if your message is not that clear:
4. You can add emoji, avocados, and pretty much anything else if it works for your meme. The idea here is that you’re not always restricted to text.
You’ve probably seen Drake memes:
Or brain memes:
Essentially, these are collages. We’ve covered some advanced techniques for making photo collages before.
But here’s the thing about memes. It’s not about the templates. It’s about the format.
For example, you can use any other pictures, given how the format is set up.
For this example, I’ve used Lunacy, a free graphic design tool, because I was able to create a custom layout (ok, it’s just 2×2, but you get my point) using align and grid tools. I could go for 3×4, or anything else.
Most importantly, I used custom illustrations that come with Lunacy out of the box. Then there are like 100,000 photo models and icons if illustrations are not doing it for you.
Now, back to the cultural context.
What’s a cultural context?
I took it from Quora:
Cultural context can be a custom or norms of a society, the characters live in and how their culture can affect their behavior and their opportunities, it also looks about where and when each text is set. Think about the values and attitudes that matter to these customs and how they formed.
In the previous section, there was my attempt to create a meme about designers on Behance. Honestly, it looks more like a joke that only designers who have a Behance profile get. Well, some of them.
Anyway, this is a very niche joke, so there’s not as much culture as there is niche humor.
But I can expand the context.
In its essence, the joke is about people and their portfolio, or how hard they try to make it look better than, well, their baseline skills actually are.
So we try to look better on our portfolio, resumes, interviews. That’s not bad, that’s just part of us, and it has been that way since… Well, forever.
So there’s a common culture we share, ok. How can we make it relevant? Well, we need to show how it works in the age of the internet, I guess.
Below are some examples:
Finally, just make your point and use relevant meme templates. If you’re at a loss, for picture ideas:
Trends are a major part of memes because they create and affect cultural context. That’s why memes about TV characters, musicians, and politicians are so enduring.
However, trends do more than that. They change the way we create memes itself. There are video memes and animation memes.
Memes are not just a photo anymore. We’re going towards video-izing.
On the other hand, every technological trend, or fashion trend, can change the way we create memes as well.
Take, for example, face-swapping:
Or mobile phones:
Of course, major breaks in tech quickly become a cultural context for memes. Just don’t forget that they can become a means of creating memes as well.
With all that said, you have enough information to create the next viral meme. Don’t forget to utilize the techniques described in this article and you’ll have a better chance of making something out of it.
About the author: Andrew started at Icons8 as a usability specialist, conducting interviews and usability surveys. He desperately wanted to share his findings with our professional community and started writing insightful and funny (sometimes both) stories for our blog.
Title image from Icons8 Stock Photos
Learn how to make a photo collage, how to create a catchy title image, and review the basics of visual storytelling.