Corporate Memphis appears to be all over the place these days, but where did it come from? And how did the website design and development company make it become so well-known? Let’s explore.

It’s difficult to think of a trend that has become as pervasive and divisive as the illustration style known as “Corporate Memphis.” The rubber-limbed, brightly colored human figures that appear in subway advertisements, Instagram sponsored posts, and major web design and development company websites are instantly recognizable and have sparked much debate.

Their immediate and overwhelming dominance of corporate design spawned names like “Globohomo” (short for “globalized homogenization”), “Big Tech Art Style,” “Late Silicon Valley,” “Humans of Flat,” “Neoliberal Vector Minimalism,” “Bougie Design Aesthetics,” and “Humanist Blandcore.” Despite the criticism, the long-limbed blue people do not appear to be disappearing anytime soon. Today, corporate Memphis has a bad reputation for producing mindless art. However, the first designers to pioneer the style did so with care and intention, and its characteristics are rooted in a rich history of art and design. However, people’s dislike for Corporate Memphis stems from issues that are deeper and more complex than a simple, whimsical illustration design by the web design and development company might imply.

Corporate Memphis’ meteoric rise and equally impressive fall teach us a lot about design—trends, public perceptions, corporate culture, and the future of design itself. Art, design, and illustration trends reflect many of our society’s changes. This journey through the history of art and design demonstrates how these movements interacted with one another and reacted to the times in which they were created. Corporate Memphis arose in the late 2010s as a result of a general nostalgia for the 1980s. It even takes its name from the Memphis design movement, which was influential (and equally criticized).

The name “Corporate Memphis” refers to the style’s resemblance to the Memphis Group’s iconic designs from the 1980s. With the bright blocks of color, childish patterns, and oversized geometric shapes, the style influence is clear. In the San Francisco Chronicle, Bertrand Pellegrin described the Memphis design as “a shotgun wedding between Bauhaus and Fisher-Price.” The style rejected the concept of “good taste,” creating furniture that was purposefully flashy and impractical. Its influence can be seen in the design of Pee-Playhouse Wee’s and the 1989 television show Saved by the Bell. David Bowie was a fan as well. Memphis, like the illustration style that bore its name, was chastised at the time for glorifying conspicuous consumption and being a symbol of tasteless consumerism.