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What Can Design Learn From Gangnam Style?

02/14/2013 05:32 pm ET | Updated Apr 16, 2013

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Once in a while we all just go nuts and give in to some unconscious urge and begin to dance. Remembering the "Chicken Dance" (1950's), the "Macarena" (1990's) or "Gangnam Style (2010's). These types of phenomenon makes us laugh, while wriggling our bodies in front of a less than forgiving mirror and to behave outside the box of our everyday rationality.

Trends cannot be created, only formulated and communicated. Phenomenon like Gangnam Style aligns with, leverages and reveals the zeitgeist of a population, explains Music Stylist Jesper Gadeberg. Can novel insights into the pulse of a society and uncommon design opportunities be glimpsed from outliers like Gangnam Style?

Conventional design thinking and believing in "Form Follows Function" and "Less is More" is all very well, however, does this type of thinking actually make us happy or just provide us with an illusion of control and is this really how we want to design our world? We posed this question to the creative community:

Psy's Gangnam Style YouTube video has captured the imagination of 1,000,000,000 viewers in less than half-a-year. How come, and what can designers learn from Gangnam Style design?

Here are the insights from over 60 comments (which may make you laugh and yes even wriggle your body):

Meaning drives everything we do, be it courage, love or accomplishment. Psy, with his Gangnam Style, had the courage to take a risk, exposing himself and standing for something in addressing the consumerism of Seoul's upper class. He did it with love, lighthearted fun, self-deprecation and irony. He shows that an "underdog," like Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Groucho Marx before him, can accomplish this, which is another reason we relate to his video. Meaning is also essential to successful products and this is Gangnam Style lesson number one.

Novelty is meaning and sense making combined. Gangnam Style communicates and emphasizes his message of meaningless consumption by exaggerating colors, contrast, using juxtapositions of images, underscored by highly stylized and absurd rapid horse riding dance moves. While things explode and people walk backwards, Psy sings with half-naked men in a sauna while sitting on the WC. He sings and dances on a boat, a bus, a train, and a tennis court, in a horse barn and in a parking garage. Women in cellophane looking outfits, men in tuxedos and children wriggle in time to the music. The video and its message can be identified with, seen and enjoyed by most people. Since providing novelty by applying the right sense making to communicate your meaning is also essential for comprehensive, and authentic products, this is Gangnam Style lesson number two.

Finding and fulfilling a need is something Psy did beyond any previous measure. People like watching others dancing funny dances and Gangnam Style appeared to capitalize on fulfilling a need, providing lesson number three.

From a design speck point of view, the design of "Gangnam Style" may at first seem wrong. Few know what Psy is singing (I only understood "style" and "sexy lady") and the song is impossible to hum. However, because it has meaning, sense-making and fulfills a real need, as of this writing, it has caused many of us click on his video, over 1.250.000.000 times and maybe even to wriggle our bodies and dance a bit.