It was a simple enough ask: who on the internet could identify a bit of art — a pattern, really — believed to be from a 1980s album cover?
No, it wasn’t from the popular 1989 show Saved By the Bell, despite all the people who felt like it belonged in that universe. No, it wasn’t related to George Michael‘s ’80s British pop duo Wham!, either. No, it wasn’t the pattern found on plush bus seats. It seemed to be tough to identify, but everyone had a feeling they’d seen it before; some even went to the lengths of watching full episodes of old TV shows to try to come to grips with it, as they shared with frustration on Twitter.
I’m sure twitter can help. A friend is trying to identify this artwork, from a 1980s album cover he thinks. Any suggestions? pic.twitter.com/sfCN6Lqa3b
— Remoana 🇮🇪🇪🇺☘️🔶 (@RemoanaF) May 31, 2019
I've watched entire episodes of supermarket sweep, strike it lucky, art attack, sweet valley high and many, many more trying to find where this is from… Thoughts and prayers with anyone who is also going through this tonight x we will get through this together
— Nicola Hart (@YoungHartzz) May 31, 2019
After 1 hour, I’m throwing in the towel on this quiz! 😴😴 I’ve searched A-Ha thru to ZZ Top with Bronski Beat, Bjork, Duran Duran, Gary Numan, Hazel O’Connor, Haircut 100, Men At Work, Nena, Kim Wilde, Stevie Nicks, INXS, Soft Cell plus a 100 more artists. #albumcover #artwork
— Keve Ní Ghéarc (@underwiredbro) May 31, 2019
Eventually, however, the collective intelligence of the internet and its viral process appeared to come through. After the Twitter query also spread to a Facebook group, someone found a skateboard that had the identical pattern printed on its underside. While it’s a bit of a chicken-or-the-egg conundrum — did the pattern exist before the skateboard, or did the original quest come from familiarity with the skateboard? — it more or less solves the mystery.
This spread to a Facebook group I run and the answer has been found.
It wasn't even a record cover as many suspected 😀 pic.twitter.com/9MbA0DFlXc
— Repo136 (@ageingbboys) May 31, 2019
The aesthetic can be traced back to the Memphis Group, an influential design group active in the ’80s. Distinguished by bold, colorful, angular geometric shapes that evolved from previous ideas of modernism, Memphis design is embodied in the pattern that Twitter was so confused about — and similar forms of it are indeed to be found in the opening credits for Saved By the Bell and in those fabric patterns in buses, for instance.
Not the same pic.twitter.com/Iw4Wr6iPjd
— MrsJ. (@ThatMrsJ) June 1, 2019
The real question, then, is now: what’s the defining pattern of the 2010s?