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When award show memes take over the Internet

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› When award show memes take over the Internet
  • Published on March 4, 2014

Highly televised award ceremonies appeal to a wide range of audiences, and no matter who's watching, there's bound to be something that will captivate you. Watching your favorite actor receive an Oscar statue for his or her hard work, for instance, can be an exciting experience, especially if you've followed the star's career. With musical interludes, where popular performers take to the stage to provide an entertaining break from the inspirational speeches, and a typically high-comedy host carrying the evening forward, there's a lot in store for everyone who tunes in.

When the show is over, the fun doesn't stop. During the 2014 Oscars, for instance, host Ellen Degeneres used her smartphone to snap a picture of herself, known colloquially as a selfie, with a handful of extremely accomplished actors positioned behind her: Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Channing Tatum, Bradley Cooper, Jared Leto and Lupita Nyong'o were all crowded around her, smiling and waving at the camera.

The creative power of clever cropping
In keeping with one of the running gags in Degeneres' show, which was snapping pictures that were then tweeted from her @theellenshow handle, this star-studded picture was added to the collection of Oscars 2014 memories. Then, just one day later, altered images of the same picture appeared all over the Internet. According to Gizmodo, fans used their Photoshop skills to put slices of pizza in the hands of the stars, crop images of themselves into the mix, replace all of the actors' faces with surprised dog heads, and several other permutations that are all partial references to memes and other loosely related jokes that hearkened back to Degeneres' performance. 

Why does it matter?
There is an overwhelming culture of meme creation on the Web. People use their design skills to enhance, alter or recreate recognizable images to develop or perpetuate a joke. For instance, Degeneres' selfie quickly became a backdrop upon which clever Photoshop users were able to weave old memes together to create new ones. The grumpy cat superimposed over Bradley Cooper's face is one example noted by The Huffington Post, as well as a version where Kevin Spacey's face replaced everyone else's. 

Although these images might seem juvenile, the same skills used to create these self-indulgent pictures can be translated into other projects. By practicing your Photoshop skills in the arena of meme creation, you're contributing to a lush and thriving sub-culture of the entertainment industry and subsequently, honing your cropping, layering and flipping abilities. 

The relevance of Photoshop
According to The Guardian, it didn't take long at all for Hollywood to realize that there is a huge market for meme creation. In fact, the source noted that some of the most recent elements of the Oscars appeared to be engineered for this kind of Web-based artistry. Between giving Degeneres a wide berth to host the show according to her own style and the inspirational one-liners uttered by some of the winning actors, such as Nyong'o's suggestion that all dreams are valid, there was enough material created to provide any number of images with snippets of text. 

Despite the general levity of the meme culture, the usefulness of these skills should not be underrated. If you can teach yourself how to use Photoshop to contribute successfully to such a niche and specific sub-culture, just imagine what you could do with a little formal training. The American Graphics Institute offers Photoshop classes, for instance, that can show you how to take your skills to the next level. 

About the author

 is a user experience designer, Photoshop expert, educator and author based in Boston. She is the author of more than 20 books on design tools and processes, including Adobe Creative Cloud for Dummies, Adobe Creative Cloud Digital Classroom, and Photoshop Digital Classroom. She has been awarded a Microsoft MVP three times for her work with user experience design in creating apps for touch, desktop, and mobile devices.

Jennifer delivers UX training and UX consulting for large Fortune 100 companies, small start-ups, and independent software vendors. She has been hired by Adobe and Microsoft to deliver training workshops to their staff, and has traveled to Asia, Europe, India, the Middle East, and across the U.S. to deliver courses and assist on UX design projects. She has extensive knowledge of modern Windows UX Design, having worked closely with the Windows team to create educational material and deliver UX workshops to key partners globally on behalf of Microsoft. Jennifer works with a wide range of prototyping tools including Fireworks, Photoshop, Illustrator, Blend for Visual Studio, and Balsamiq.