What Designers Can Learn From “Gangnam Style”

What Designers Can Learn From "Gangnam Style"

Gangnam Style” is an extremely popular music video produced by South Korean singer and rapper Psy. The video has rapidly gone viral, and is being posted on all sorts of social media. In just two months, the original video has received over 290 million YouTube views and over 2 million likes.

It has been a trending topic on Twitter, and is posted on Facebook many thousands of times daily. When any video, image or trend goes viral, no matter how ridiculous, it benefits anyone who wants to learn the basic principles of marketing to observe why exactly a video like this might become so popular.

What Designers Can Learn From "Gangnam Style"

The same principles that drive trends to go viral also draw people to products and encourage them to make purchases.

What Designers Can Learn From “Gangnam Style”

The “Gangnam Style” video features Psy singing and rapping in a variety of scenes. He travels from the beach to the parking garage, the elevator, the sauna and, weirdly enough, the stable. The accompanying music has slick beats and a repetitive chorus including the chant “Hey, sexy lady,” aimed at female extras cast in the video.

Gangnum Style Video

Absurd occurrences, bright colors and attractive ladies are interspersed throughout the video. The tone maintained throughout the entire piece is one of silliness and frivolity, which connects with the concept of Gangnam style as the artist sees it.

The song and video are largely satirical of a sub-sect of Korean females who scrimp on basic needs like food in favor of more expensive luxury items like expensive coffees, makeup, handbags and similar items.

Humor of “Gangnam Style”

There are a number of ways in which the “Gangnam Style” video catches the eye of those who see it and makes them want to share it with other people, a key aspect of viral marketing. One of the main aspects is the humor of the video. The costumes worn by Psy and the absurd scenes in which he appears, like a disco tour bus and a toilet, are humorous and strange.


The viewer does not need to have a specific intellectual connection with this video. The fact that it makes them laugh is enough to make them want to pass it on and share it with their friends. This is one reason that Gangnam Style has gained so much popularity on humor websites and blogs.

Getting Sexy With “Gangnam Style”

Sexuality is another obvious way that the “Gangnam Style” video markets itself to people. The chorus of “Hey, sexy lady,” referring to the women in the video, is well placed. The video is full of lovely and curvaceous women demonstrating their assets in yoga poses and dances. Sexuality is one of the most key aspects of marketing to a younger demographic.

Getting Sexy

Young people are taken in not only by sexuality itself but by sexual humor, and having attractive women dancing and demonstrating their bodies is hardly a new form of marketing.

The video manages to allow the women in it to exude sexuality without being objectified, which makes their presence palatable to a wider range of viewers. A number of people will and have passed this video on to their friends simply based on the attractive women present in it.

Aesthetic Principles In “Gangnam Style”

Bright colors and sleek, shiny sets are a visually appealing aspect of the “Gangnam Style” video that people may not consciously realize they are attracted to. Each set is very clean and features bright, high contrast shades of cheerful color and sleek chrome, glass, metal and plastic exteriors.

Aesthetic Principles

People are naturally more attracted to color and design schemes which appear to be clean and are not excessively complex. They are pleasing to the human eye.

The use of monochromatic and dichromatic or simple complimentary color schemes is present throughout the video, with the shades of color used working in constant compliment to one another. This presents an attractive image to the viewer, though they may not realize it in their immediate perception.

Learning From Viral Videos

Those who wish to design and market a website, product or video can take away a lot of valuable information from “Gangnam Style”, a fact they would probably be hesitant to admit. As a viral video, “Gangnam Style” has been one of the most successful in recent history, beating out some of the most popular top 40 tunes in views on YouTube.

The fact that the video is that popular indicates that despite its silliness, people truly do love “Gangnam Style”. It is currently an unforgettable part of pop culture. In another month, the world will probably have forgotten about it entirely, but in the meantime there truly is some design wisdom that can be gleaned from certain aspects of the viral video.

Application Of Humor In Design

The absurd humor in the “Gangnam Style” video serves as an overall indication that we live in a world that likes to laugh. Not being afraid to take risks and be silly and humorous at times can take you far in the world of design and in the world in general. Be sure to understand the nature of your client and take business seriously.

Kendra Schaefer

Do not be silly when it is inappropriate, but it is okay to crack a joke with the right people at the right time or include humorous aspects in your designs. People like to be amused, and gaining a reputation as a funny, personable individual who knows how to make people laugh can be very beneficial for you as a businessperson.

Sex Sells In The Design World

An obvious selling point of design as discussed in terms of the “Gangnam Style” video is sexuality. Sexuality is such a basic part of human existence that most people are drawn to it whether they openly acknowledge it or not. So-called “sexy” products often have nothing to do with intercourse, but still manage to market themselves in a sensual way.

Armani Exchange

This is a huge draw for a number of different audiences who feel that a design or product is attractive and will increase their sexual confidence, or that by using the design, others will find their product, website or other item sexy. Although it may seem ridiculous to consider a brand of soda or a shampoo to be sexually driven in any way, the fact is, sex sells, and it sells hard.

Aesthetic Principles To Apply From “Gangnam Style”

The sleek designs and color schemes seen in the “Gangnam Style” video are conceptually similar to what every designer should focus on in terms of the primary basis of their designs. Color schemes that are either monochromatic and include variations on one basic color are visually appealing in that they create a pleasant visual accompaniment.


Along the same lines, a group of complimentary colors produces that same effect. Sleek, uncomplicated design is key to creating a website or product that is intuitive to the user and will be appealing to all demographics.

Cross Cultural Aspects of “Gangnam Style”

For centuries, designers of all kinds have relied on inspiration from other cultures for artistic inspiration. Asian style has made its way into mainstream media thanks to the popularity of gamer and otaku culture around the world.

Much of Asian humor is known for being abstract and a bit absurd with a flair for the dramatic, and “Gangnam Style” capitalizes on the potential for this humor to go viral, as people who do not regularly see it may be shocked and very amused by the silliness.

n.design studio

Absurd visual humor has always been a popular thing; slapstick comedy is one key example of visual humor that appeals to the masses. It is very possible for foreign media that is not readily understood internationally to go viral, because people are interested in seeing something that is not a part of their every day culture.

It deviates from what they are used to. Using foreign design concepts for international markets can be very lucrative because the introduction of different styles into a market draws eyes away from the same old designs.

Inspiration From Evolving Trends While Relying On Classic Design

Although it may not seem so at first glance, there are certainly a lot of design theories that a designer can take away from the “Gangnam Style” video. Anything that becomes so popular that it attains viral status can and should be dissected in order to determine what it is that made it so popular.

Kitchen Sink Studios

Attracting the attention of consumers is not an exact science and trends change all the time, but some of the design principles that can be related to the “Gangnam Style” video are ageless and extremely useful to many different types of designers, whether they are making websites or new products.

What’s Your Style?

It is very important that designers lead rather than follow, using creativity as a driving force rather than relying on overdone styles and designs. The uniqueness of “Gangnam Style” is part of why it is so popular both in Korea and in international markets.

If you haven’t yet seen the video and would like to see for yourself how your web design can be inspired, here is the video.

Aidan Huang is a web enthusiast and ingenious blogger who loves all things design, interesting and technology. He is the editor-in-chief at Onextrapixel and have founded several other interesting blogs. Do keep in touch with him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.


    • Joe,
    • September 28, 2012
    / Reply

    We have always known that content is king, but design is also next to it. A website design catches the attention of potential clients. However, the design also has be to unique and creative. Add humor, lively (but readable) colors, catchy phrases, unique images, and other creative ideas to make them marketable, just like the viral video, “Gangnam Style.”

    • Joel,
    • September 29, 2012
    / Reply

    While I do like Gangnam Style and KPOP in general, I think Gangnam Style is popular for the wrong reasons and that its popularity will soon fade away. It reminds me of Susan Boyle, or better yet, Macarena. Temporary success and then its going to get old, fast. I do agree with some of your points, design wise.

      • Bill,
      • February 7, 2013
      / Reply

      The wrong reasons? What are those?

      Of course it’s temporary. Everything is just a fad, fleeting emotion or fresh idea.

    • Ferdinand,
    • October 4, 2012
    / Reply

    I wonder if the people behind video are fully aware of marketing techniques that our good author has carefully pointed out or it was just pure luck?

      • onion,
      • October 17, 2012
      / Reply

      YES They are.

    • Alina,
    • October 11, 2012
    / Reply

    Sorry, but the whole “sexuality” sells, is very sexist against women. How can you ignore that?

  1. / Reply

    I think whats so much more inspiring about Gangnam Style is the uniqueness that has been so lovely to hear with the innocent styles of it and you can see this in a new song OnePound Fish, great article to show the designers about the attractive design of any website!

  2. Gangnam Style is popular for the wrong. th media help him a lot! gangnam fail!

    • POPOZ,
    • February 20, 2013
    / Reply

    I think all aspects aply. In light of that the color schemes and other factors ard what attract!

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