The World Outside of Corporate Memphis

Molly Howe

Corporate Memphis, the phrase may not mean too much to you, but I can almost guarantee that you will have seen it dozens, if not hundreds, of times in the past 5 or so years. With roots in illustration, the animated form can almost feel suffocating at times. Working in corporate video marketing, there are times where I think and dream in Corporate Memphis. 

With the release of Facebook’s Alegria re-style in 2017, the look gained traction. According to its designers, through Alegria they had created ‘a scalable system rooted in flat, minimal, geometric shapes. The figures are abstracted with oversized limbs and non-representational skin colours’. This bold restyling would kickstart the Corporate Memphis craze and see it spread throughout the big tech industry and far beyond.

Despite its effectiveness, it has built a bit of a bad reputation for itself over the years, in this article I will explain why. We can also explore some alternatives to Corporate Memphis for you to use in your own video content.

What is Corporate Memphis?

Corporate Memphis is a very simple illustration and animation style. It was inspired by the ‘Memphis Milano’ post-modern design style of the 1980s and the early works of Mary Blair, who drew the concept art for Disney films such as ‘Alice in Wonderland’.

It encapsulates an uncomplicated, stress-free view of the world and seeks to be understood by everyone. This is presented through several notifying features that include:

  • Vector graphics (flat design) 
  • Exaggerated limbs 
  • Neutral or no expression
  • Unrealistic skintones 
  • Liquid, energetic movements
  • Isometric projection
  • Neutral, soft pastels are often mixed with brighter primary colours

Why is it so popular?

There is no denying the popularity of Corporate Memphis. The style has well and truly taken over in the animated video marketing world. 

With its roots in Disney animation and children’s cartoons, its joyous style is able to make any company look approachable, friendly, and safe. This is especially important for big tech companies who struggle to humanise their businesses, hence why so many use the animation style. 

Mary Blair
Mary Blair
memphis milano
memphis milano

 

Going even further, Corporate Memphis is effective at representing inclusivity. Corporate Memphis characters are often brightly coloured with yellow, blue, or even bright pink skin. Just like The Simpsons, this means that anyone from any background can be represented in a sort of ‘colour-blind’ way.  This is great for promoting a company’s CSR or even for use in medical videos seeking to represent all races. But it is worth remembering, sometimes these attempts at ‘radical’ inclusivity, instead of relating to everyone, can actually lead to no one feeling represented, encouraging the disengagement of all audiences. 

More than anything else, Corporate Memphis is easy for illustrators and animators to create. It is easily movable, scalable, and changeable. This makes it cheap! It is possible to create a sleek, branded look on a minimal budget. Startups love the style for this reason: it helps them develop a brand image without having to fork out millions on a completely new design. 

The homogenisation of animation

Whilst there is no denying that Corporate Memphis is effective and incredibly successful, – as the saying goes, you can very easily have too much of a good thing. 

Even outside of the Corporate Memphis trend, minimalism is on the rise. Just take a look at your phone, and see how the app icons are simpler than ever before. No longer does the Instagram logo resemble a real Polaroid camera, but a circle in a square, abstractly representing a camera, but also looking a bit like a washing machine. It has been argued that this shift away from skeuomorphism, of which Corporate Memphis is a part of, has contributed to the depletion of the internet’s rich visual culture. 

Corporate Memphis feels aggressively friendly and blindingly corporate. When combined, this feels almost utopian. It has been accused of killing creativity and individualism in the animation world, many have even labelled it as a ‘lazy space filler’. Honestly, it can be hard to disagree when so many advertisements for so many unique brands look identical. It makes it hard for consumers to tell them apart, and brand retention and engagement therefore suffers. Its harshest critics describe the animation style as ‘humanist blandcore’.

Notably, because of the distinct lack of facial features and expression, Corporate Memphis struggles to convey emotion – a key factor in video advertising. Is it possible to create inspired Corporate Memphis? 

Yes it is! By introducing a combination of varied colouring, movement, patterns, textures, and sound, it is certainly possible to develop worthwhile Corporate Memphis content for your brand. Take a look at this beautiful Memphis-style animation made for Airbnb. 

Examples of Corporate Memphis style animation

Spotify

Lyft

Tokky

Mcdonalds

What are the other options?

3D animation

Also known as GGI (Computer Generated Imagery), this has replaced traditional hand-drawn animation as the most common format for animated movies. It’s similar to 2D vector animation but instead of a flat image, you are using 3D objects – characters, props and locations.

Once these have been digitally created, animations can be quickly created with software interpolating the movements between each frame. The most common style it’s associated with is that of Pixar movies such as Toy Story and The Incredibles.

But as techniques and technology advances, 3D animation is now able to handle virtually any kind of look or style. It’s particularly effective with any kind of informational or illustrative videos that show off products or designs.

3D animation can be expensive, but if you have the budget, it’s one of the best ways to impress your audience, increase engagement and garner emotional responses

Stop Motion animation

This is a technique that can turn any real-world object into an animation. It’s the way that classic children’s TV shows such as The Clangers and Magic Roundabout were made with puppets repeatedly moved and photographed using stop-motion.

While digital processes have created faster ways to animate objects, stop motion has survived. This is partly because of the special ‘feel’ that’s captured by the process. It has a tactile and homespun quality that’s hard to recreate digitally.

Another strength is its accessibility and versatility. It can be used to create characters and narratives or to bring real-world products to life. The simplicity encourages creativity and exploring innovative ways to bring static objects to life.

Rotoscope animation 

This technique was developed in the early days of animation. It works by tracing human movements from film images to create naturalistic animations. This is how the flowing movements of the character’s in Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was achieved in 1937.

It was also used to create the distinctive look of the 2006 sci-fi movie, A Scanner Darkly. It’s a technique that still packs a visual punch, capturing the kind of realistic movements that would take weeks to create from scratch.

Digital tools can now automate the ‘tracing’ process with movements from video footage automatically tacked and turned into animations. Using this method, 2D sequences can be created that look as if they are in a 3D world.

Live-action animation

This integrates digital images with real-world footage. This could be adding a floating label to an object or using animated arrows and markers to help explain what’s being seen in real-world footage. It’s a technique made simpler by the motion tracking abilities of modern video editing software.

It means on-screen images can be tagged with graphical elements – as the camera moves, so do the attached graphic elements. By removing the need to painstakingly track the movements, it unlocks a whole range of creative techniques that can be used.

With effective use, digital and real-world elements can work perfectly together. Embedding the information into a real-world setting can bring infographic data to life or help to visually explain how a product works.

Motion Graphics

This is a kind of dynamic graphic design that uses shapes and text to tell a story or convey a message. Some of the earliest examples of this are seen with the work of Saul Bass in the 1960’s – creating the movie intro sequences for films like Psycho and West Side Story.

With digital tools, it has become one of the most popular techniques with a flowing mix of text, charts and graphs combining to engage and entertain. It’s an ideal way to turn dry data into a visually stimulating film that communicates your core message.

The use of dynamic text, fonts and simple shapes makes it a relatively low-cost technique but one that’s able to achieve a lot with little. Smart use of music and narration that are in sync with the visuals can make something that gets noticed.

Traditional animation

Hand drawing is the traditional way that animations were created – before digital tools changed everything. It’s that classic sketched look of the old Disney movies with each animated element being drawn by an artist.

It’s a personal touch that can add a warmth and character to the visuals that’s hard to recreate digitally. The style is especially good at anything character-based and for videos aiming to build empathy and engagement.

The hand-drawn nature of traditional animation has made it a slow and costly option in the past. Technology has helped to reduce this issue with digital tools being used for tasks such as colouring to recreate the same feel with a much faster process.

Claymation 

Claymation animation creates characters and worlds using plasticine clay. The stop-motion method is used to film incremental changes in the positioning of the models to create the movement. It’s the technique used for all of the early Aardman Animations films.

And despite digital animated models now providing a much simpler alternative, claymation is still going strong. This is thanks to the feeling that comes from objects moulded by human hands. It’s the slight imperfections – the occasional wobbliness and fingerprints on the clay models.

It’s a format that can work for a young target audience and for anything that sets out to create a warm and comforting feel. With improvements to digital modelling, the claymation ‘feel’ can now be created digitally.

Whiteboard animation 

Whiteboard animation is most often utilised for explainer videos and involves a hand drawing on a whiteboard, most often digitally. 

Not unlike the Corporate Memphis craze, It’s a style that has been the victim of its own success. Whiteboard animations, also known as doodle videos, became so common that they risked becoming something of a visual cliche. But the popularity is based on the fact that work. If you want a simple and effective way to convey information – they remain a powerful tool.

Typography Animation

A means of getting information across in a manner that is both convenient and quirky, typography animation mixes motion and text when presenting your content. Whether it is summarising your company or introducing a new product, it is an excellent way to use animation as a vessel for information. It is also just as useful without sound, making it good for attracting the attention of those using mobile devices.

360 degree animation

Instead of watching an animation, what if you could be inside it? This is the kind of thing that’s possible with 360 animations that take place in virtual reality worlds. It’s a technology that’s being pioneered by the gaming industry and the experiences designed for devices such as the Oculus Rift.

It unlocks a new form of ‘metaverse’ where anything is possible – animated characters and avatars can exist in recreations of real-life locations with interactive objects floating around. But it’s just as effective for something simple, such as letting people tour a building or facility that’s not yet been built.

It can be used for training and instructional purposes or to create special experiences like virtual reality worlds. 

Let’s wrap up…

Corporate Memphis, developed in 2017, has since dominated the corporate illustration and animation industry. Despite its obvious effectiveness, its overuse can feel suffocating. Is it time for a change? We certainly think so!

Aspiring to create an animation video with edge for your business? Over the past ten years, Kartoffel Films has mastered the unique art of animation production, and we are proud to showcase our selection of work. This year, we have worked with even more highly skilled animators from across the globe to develop masterfully animated content in a variety of styles.

At Kartoffel Films we can produce whatever type of animation best suits your brand:

  • Traditional animation
  • 2D animation
  • 3D animation
  • Stop motion
  • Rotoscope
  • Typography
  • Claymation 
  • Whiteboard animation

Not sure which type to go for? I don’t blame you; they’re all so enticing! We can help you choose which animation style will work best for your project’s goals, style, budget, and timeframe. 

The advantages of animation are endless. Depending on your brief, it can even be more cost-effective than live-action, as well as being more versatile, informative, malleable, accessible, evergreen and professional. We think it’s certainly something worth considering!

Contact us for more information.