How do you meme?

How do you meme? / Origins / Meme theory

by Kshiti S.V.

Meme, a term that has become so ubiquitously used is not only enjoyed and casually shared but also widely understood and accepted in various types of social circles. This nature of memes makes them a significant unit of cultural transmission. It is a tool used to explain and perpetuate not just any given concept or idea, but whole narratives as well. 

Memes have become a potent agency, of sorts that can be used to suit anybody’s needs. They have become devices that use humour to form critiques, rhetorics to convey ideas. At the same time, they have sadly become platforms that could further bigotry, given their malleable nature. However, memes as a device do not offer absolute answers. They simply become parts of the discourses that they are used for, by turning into tools used to communicate an idea. However given the semblance of memes to a sort of language on its own, it becomes important to examine, question and critique the idea it attempts to convey. Will emojis become the next hieroglyphs? Who knows! But memes are already on the train of transformation, relieving academics from pasting that unaesthetic chunk of text on a powerpoint slide by instead helping them break down theories with an esoteric chuckle. Don’t fret about this takeover, we’ve got you covered! Read on to learn how to make your own meme.

#1 Templates:

An image can be any object that requires or warrants visual perception. In that sense, an image is crucial in the making of a meme template. An image can hold multiple meanings and connotations, which make any given meme even more adaptive in nature. This adaptability further gives it a wider scope to recur in culture. Read on to find the ways in which an image is easily made into a meme.

Image macros are pretty important as a source for how memes originated and expanded. They are basically any image that has a set background and text is superimposed. The LOLCat memes are a classic along with animal advice memes which have the faces of animals with superimposed text. If you look closely, the dialogue or monologue meant for the animal, often has text with intentionally incorrect grammar. This is just one characteristic of such templates.

Whether image macros are the same as memes has become a debatable topic. While some believe it could be a form of meme, some others argue that they are starkly different. The basic premise of this argument is that cultural transmission is unique to memes, whereas image macros lack that characteristic. With its saving grace of the big white ‘Impact’ font, it has little reach in conveying an idea. 

A lot of the meme templates are pretty seasonal, because of the reach they have during any given period of time. All of us can relate to the COVID-19 memes making the round. In particular, the Sarabhai meme template has revived itself and gained newfound fame dictating what Monisha beta must say and what’s “middle class”. Likewise, when the ‘Avengers: Endgame’ was due for release several templates based in the MCU were used. The ‘Dr. Strange’ memes and ‘Scott being happy memes’ had their stage for a good amount before the final movie was released. We think real talent lies in using any template and adapting it to whatever idea is on the go. Some templates make this really easy, take a look. These classics (and several others) never quit.

#2 Fonts:

The most noticeable thing about a meme right after the image used, is the font. You see, fonts are essential for impact. And in fact, the most used font is ‘Impact’. The fonts used for making memes are pretty straightforward, they aren’t made to look exceptionally artsy or flowery. Having said that, some memes like the ‘Fancy Pooh’ template or the ‘Galaxy brain’ template, can be enhanced with some decorative fonts like ‘Satisfy’ or ‘Dancing Script’ so as to add nuance and bring the ultimate message to climax with the help of that font. A simpler way to go about it, is to pick an ‘Arial’ or a ‘Montserrat’ and italicize it. 

The next two fonts that are widely used are ‘Comic Sans MS’ and some word art to add some sort of epithet in the text.

#3 Political satire and commentary in memes:

If you’ve been noticing, memes and image macros were a very creative tool along with good old sloganeering during the anti-CAA and NRC protests. Of course this is not the first time memes were used to make a statement, a comment of any sort. Point being, they have a voice and the power to further amplify voices. You can pick any template and tweak it to suit your message. Photoshop helps all the more in tweaking the template itself. What’s important to remember is the connotations that your template might invite and to make that aspect foolproof. 

Several memes are used and tweaked to address political issues and concerns regarding governance. We’ve compiled some socio-political movements that used memes for amplifying their voices, right from the time Brazil launched its first meme world war against Portugal in 2016, to the memes used in the Climate Strike of 2019; there you go. 

(From top to bottom: ‘Confused Lady meme’ – one that Brazil used to accuse Portugal of appropriation, the Romanians in Europe being called ‘Remainians post BREXIT meme’, meme that celebrates the fall of the radical Buddhists monk group in Myanmar, Drake meme which advocates for meaningful engagement to stop climate change)


#4 Participation in memetic communities

A lot of online communities in favour of a particular fandom, or issue are formed on multiple social network sites and are made accessible by free subscriptions and minimum gatekeeping. Another aspect is keeping content relevant and audience-friendly. If you’re even remotely into memes, you might know about ‘9GAG’, an online community based in Hong Kong. This community provides a platform for publishing user-generated content and circulating it further through their various handles and pages. ‘4chan’ is another forum that allows discussions and is known mainly for its anonymity. Several other communities like the handle @badassbahujanmemes or @bollymeme are not very generic but produce statement-making content. Participation in such communities has its benefits- of finding agency to express oneself, of following content that is relatable, of finding a space where one’s thoughts are welcomed. At the same time, there are quite a few cons to this whole issue, the umbrella term for it being “trolling”- hate speech, furthering of slurs, stereotypes and all of the negatives that we’ve already established. The stakes for participation are nowhere close to being high, but the mental costs that one might have to pay are as always, intangible and subjective.

Memes hold a significant voice, in every tone, pitch and scale. Their nature is such that they are super adaptive and can be used as devices that can recur in culture. Meme-making has never been easier, photo-morphing, superimposing text, fonts, templates are easily available and through various platforms. We’ve compiled a list of sources that we found to be most accessible and useful. Take a look and meme away!


All template images:

31 ‘Avengers 4’ trailer memes that will kill you and bring you back to life:

Meme fonts: Which ones to use and how to use them:

Indian Meme Templates:

Distracted Boyfriend meme template:

If you want to understand Brazil, you should check out its memes:

9 GAG CEO Ray Chan: “Building a healthy community is a never-ending battle”:

Disclaimer: The memes linked, embedded or mentioned in this blog do not belong to The Meme Project and are not the views of the Meme Project Team. They have been used here to refer to their content or make a statement about their use.


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