Your Guide To CoreCore, The Latest Core Sensation You've Probably Seen On TikTok
by Chloe Gordon on 03/13/2023 | 6 Minute Read
A Libfix is an affix, or an additional element placed at the end of a word to modify its meaning extracted from an existing word: think vacation's "cation" being reworked into stay-cation.
In a world where TikTok trends bounce from one to the next faster than your thumbs can scroll down, the "core" libfix has overwhelmed the social media platform. From cottagecore (grandma realness) and normcore (George Costanza stans) to Barbiecore (Mattle 90s neon pink love) and regency core (Bridgerton love), it's everywhere, describing every niche subculture.
The latest of the core family, however, is corecore—essentially, it’s the core of all cores. And while it's highly specific to the seemingly unlimited depths of TikTok right now, like all great cores, it will likely wiggle its way into the visual aesthetics of mainstream culture in the wake of the universal cottagecore takeover (because once Jimmy Fallon gets his hands on it, it's already over).
In what feels like an act of rebellion, corecore is an aesthetic-inspired trend on TikTok that derives its name ironically. Its perspective is thoroughly anticapitalist; however, some might argue there's no overarching ethos, and the purpose of the "core" is in the eye of the beholder.
Know Your Meme, founded in 2008, researches and documents internet memes and viral phenomena, and they cited that the trend "plays on the -core suffix by making a 'core' out of the collective consciousness of all 'cores.'" By being about everything and nothing all at once, the libfix undermines how cores have classically existed online. But if we had to clearly spell it out, the corecore aesthetic is a visual amalgamation of random pop culture clips and videos fused with melancholy, emotion-filled music that gives the videos new meaning and intention.
While the term's inception is not traceable, KnowYourMeme has it that the first usage of the descriptor appeared on Tumblr in 2020. The first Tiktok video with the corecore hashtag, however, dates back to July 2022, and now, with its impending rise to popularity, the hashtag has over 1.5 billion views. On TikTok, users suggest the video collage from the user @masonoelle from January 2021 as the first notable video on the platform despite not including a corecore hashtag. That particular video highlights B-roll of the Arctic sea ice melting, influencer Charli D'Amelio, the horror film "American Psycho," and people shopping, all of which come eerily soundtracked by laughter. Other corecore videos share similar footage and everything in-between.
Because the term means everything and nothing simultaneously, the TikTok videos are supposed to be hollow chaos, yet the videos are almost always clipped from recognizable pop culture moments. Videos jump from one to the next, utilizing footage from everything from ASMR videos to other TikTok trends and fast fashion hauls and dating advice, the jumpy compilation indicting a sense of anxiety-induced panic, forcing viewers to think about overconsumption and the purpose of, well, everything, the theme often lending itself to anticapitalism.
In other words, it's manufactured dread vibes.
While corecore looks and feels like a new trend running amok on social media, it shares some DNA with the Dada movement of the early 20th century, art intentionally created to infuriate and offend the artistic and political elite.
Instances of Dadaism can be seen in artists such as Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968), well known for his "Fountain" piece, a porcelain urinal signed "R. Mutt." Francis Picabia (1879–1953), was a cubist artist who loved creating pieces with hidden messages, double meanings, and sexual innuendos. Picabia's Women with Bulldog is a painting inspired by French softcore porn magazines from the 1930s. However, the picture appropriates the imagery as the women and dog comes from different photo sources and, when merged, tell an entirely different story than their initial intention.
While all of the artists within the movement were reacting to the effects of World War I and the impending state of capitalism, their work is now what can be considered pop art, surrealism, and conceptual, titles these artists would have likely disagreed with. In a way, these artists embraced and critiqued society, sharing its profoundness while rejecting it entirely.
Dadaism was an artist's way of visualizing and sharing the horrors of war and the damaging effects of industrialism. And while those days seem long gone, we're in a paradigm shift now. Climate change and its existence is somehow still a debate. Fake news spews from everywhere, creating a spread of disinformation. Human rights are constantly being challenged for minorities and the LGBTQ+ communities, and there's an ongoing war in Ukraine. TikTok virality and the worst parts of consumerism play out on an endless loop, all with a backdrop of looming doom, with artists depicting this societal imbalance.
TikTok might seem like an unlikely gateway for packaging designers to gather inspiration, but it's nonetheless intriguing. Just look at today's packaging, and you can see how brands adopt current graphic visual styles and ideas. Instagram ignited and propelled consumers and brands into a world in which CPG brands have to regard packaging design through the lens of social media. Considering social media's trajectory and the rise in Tiktok and video media, it's not out of the question that packaging design might start to take inspiration from these places. In fact, we might already be witnessing it.
Vroom Cold Brew, designed by Antonio Mustico, openly stated that the Dada movement inspired its packaging design to help reimage the unconventional branding system. The packaging features bold typographical elements and collage-style imagery that help bring the brand to life. Additionally, the color palette is muted, adding to the edginess.
Likewise, Gyuhan Lee upcycled McDonald's paper bags, leaning into the same anti-consumer, anti-overconsumption themes seen within corecore. This series completely rethinks packaging. The McDonald's bags, used for a short time, inevitably end up tossed in the trash but are given a new, more permanent life by being reformatted into functional lamps that double as sculptures.
Another example is Balenciaga reimagining packaging for fashion, bucking fast fashion, and rethinking consumption and the constant narrative of reusing and recycling. The luxury fashion brand released a collaboration with Lay's, and the result spelled a $1,800 chip bag-inspired handbag. Also, you'll find an alluring, anti-design perspective in Burt Ward's Gentle Giants dog food packaging, mimicking corecore's anti-everything and cookie-cutter aesthetic perspective.
It's nothing new to say that culture and what's trending is one big hamster wheel of reiteration. Corecore, when broken down, is a manifestation of Dada art, and the timing of its rise makes sense. In our post-pandemic-everything-is-on-fire-but-fine state, we all feel time marching on as we scroll away; but we're tired of being at its unpredictable mercy.
So, will corecore aesthetics pop up more in branding and package design? That's hard to say. Brands could implement the visual language of the movement into their identity, but using existential dread as a marketing tool is usually a big no-no; so is showing the effects of hyper-consumption, especially when your overall goal is to get folks to keep buying. While it's not a viable strategy for the P&G's or Unilevers of the world, the aesthetic trend could be applied to any number of eco-friendly, sustainable brands trying to curb the impact of climate change or single-use plastic.
For now, we'll just keep doom scrolling and hope for the best.
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