You’ve probably heard us say that “two-day free and fast shipping weren’t an expectation that you created for your customers; that was something that Amazon did without your permission.”

And, sure, that argument has been made time and again — customers have expectations, and if you don’t meet them someone else will.

But what are the next generation of customer expectations? And how do AI, social media, and multiplayer collaboration tools create new and unanticipated customer expectations?

Today on Insiders we’re going to break down an emergent subcultural behavior — something we’re calling Mockup Culture — and we’re going to examine how it, and similar behaviors are a new form of individual participation that leads to group expectations.

By pitching products in a public arena with varying degrees of feasibility, Mockup Culture is extending hyperstition into reality and shaping new customer expectations.

What is Mockup Culture?

Mockup culture is a new form of meme where graphic designers create images of new digital products, or alter existing ones, to make critique about consumerism or technology.

In the culture of mocking up user interfaces (UI), we no longer see the meme template of the early aughts. Instead, we see familiar shopping and social media interfaces, lightly-yet-plausibly modified, to gain additional features that result in funny critiques about the modern world.

Pictured: “Pay to skip the line” by popular mockup creator Soren Iverson

Pictured: “Pay to skip the line” by popular mockup creator Soren Iverson

In one mockup you can pay to skip the line at Starbucks. In another, the cost of a meeting is displayed in a calendar invite as a function of the salaries of those in attendance.

Perhaps Uber Eats rolls out a “leftovers” feature, where you pay 60% less for (ahem) “gently-used” food.

Those participating in mockup culture are thoroughly versed in the current digital economy. Like the art collective MSCHF, the modern dadaists are using the very medium that is the ire of their critique in order to make a statement. MSCHF uses shoes. Mockup Culture uses digital interface design.

Pictured: “The true cost of a meeting” by Krystal Wu.

Pictured: “The true cost of a meeting” by Krystal Wu.

Because mockup culture centers in on popular user interfaces, it often takes aim at human behavior. Many pieces coming out of this emergent subculture on Twitter, Dribble,, and other places where designers congregate, make commentary about commerce itself, and the consumerism on which commerce depends.

Tools Drive the Aesthetic, Even for Mockups

It cannot be understated that digital UI design is now a medium for artistic expression. Media theorist Marshall McLuhan said it best: “the medium is the message.” By using a tool like Figma or Framer to produce plausible design iterations, mockup culture seeks to steer the discourse amongst industry insiders.

The designs look native because they’re produced by the very tools that create the genuine artifacts.

Some aesthetic decisions, and the genres that emerge as a result of them, are due to the tools themselves. The tools enable a certain type of “look” which becomes more pervasive as a tool becomes more popular amongst designers. This can be felt no only in UI design, but in commercial print and even CPG packaging designs, as some have pointed out with the recent refresh of the General Mills snack portfolio.