All the Brat memes: Charli XCX’s album is the viral sensation of the summer

On the cover there’s not a picture of the artist, but a blurry word on a green background: a sharp graphic design carrying a relevant message, that is spreading online and offline.

Brat, a word in lowercase in Arial Narrow font on a vibrant lime-green background. This is the album cover of Charli xcx’s latest release, born Charlotte Emma Aitchison, which has not only become the best-reviewed album of the year according to Metacritic, but a veritable viral phenomenon, generating memes galore. 

The cover of The girl, so confusing version with lorde.

The recipe is simple: a minimal, grainy typeface with an easily recognisable (and replicable) typeface on a field of a colour that looks like an eyesore. The graphic design, created by US designer Brent David Freaney of Special Offer Inc, is deliberately provocative and aims to challenge our expectations of pop imagery (“offensive” is the word Aitchinson used talking to Crack Magazine).

In an interview with Vogue Singapore, Aitchison explained that the cover is a response to the “sense of ownership” that fans have over female pop figures, removing their own image and replacing it with a script, adding that the green is a reference to media and fashion. This is not a case like the photos on the zebra crossing (quoting The Beatles' Abbey Road) or other memorable music covers, such as Brian Eno's seminal Music for Airports or Nirvana's Nevermind. Here, graphic design wins out over photography and, above all, simplicity of execution. It is one of the classic cases of 'I could have done that', but nobody had thought of it yet.

The recipe is simple: a minimal, grainy script with an easily recognisable font on a field of colour that is like an eyesore.

The cover art for each single from “Brat” and its remixes also boasts a stark aesthetic: a stylized portrait of the artist and a single graphic element: a small colored band on the side where the track name is written in tiny, almost illegible letters.

But the musical project (which is also a major visual project) has been in the works for much longer: all of the pop star’s albums, starting with “True Romanc” from 2013, have appeared on streaming platforms in a new guise, with the artwork unified to match that of Brat, featuring a title in Arial Narrow and a flat color background.

In some cities where a “real life” campaign has been carried out, Brat’s square winks at passers-by from posters placed on buildings and at the “right” spots. But Brat is also an endless source of memes and content that are already a trend worldwide.

Through online and offline promotional activity, including the launch of the “Brat Generator” app, the release of Aitchison’s album at the beginning of June immediately transformed into a green wave that feeds on virality, navigation between social media through a collaborative concept and aesthetic fueled by an enthusiastic fanbase and anyone ready to embrace the mood of Brat’s project.

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