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Phebe Welby-Jenkins 11047008 Contextualising Practice 2 (Modern Bodies: Performing Identity and Difference) (1G5Z9901_1213_9Z1F)

The Ideal Body- The contrast between perception of perfection within typefaces and the human body

The recent history of design has had a need for precision and accuracy, letterforms and typefaces have to be completely proportionate for legibility in order to support and complement the visual communication. There is a need for grids and equal space, creating a clean crisp ʻinvisible artʼ (add reference) that reads and resonates well with the viewer. We as a society want to have a perfect appearance and that is why typography is so imperative within modern culture; it is our source of mass communication and portraying a narrative. “Typography is the voice of the written word” (Simon Garfield, 2010, 7) What impression does each typeface give? When we choose a typeface what are we really saying? In construction of a brand and its overall image, typography is the most important aspect as it gives the object personality and a perfect stamp to a product, it almost creates an ego. Typographyʼs human aspects influence the passion in perfection behind its creation. The psychology behind the choices we make, in terms of assuring we portray the right message, could be compared to how we ourselves want to be perceived- as a solid narrative and character. We strive for perfection of the ʻidealʼ body and are fueled by our egos. What is interesting to analyze is the unusual correlation between typography and perception of the ideal body. The construction of typefaces, perfectly calculated, proportionate letterforms that withhold a particular personality, message and tone of voice can be compared with representations of the body in society. We all strive for the ʻidealʼ perfectly proportionate bodies so that we have the best representation of ourselves and achieve a sense of fulfillment. We all want to be constructed into perfection and conform to what is deemed acceptable physically. Constantly surrounded by images of the ʻidealʼ we are heavily influenced by visual communication. A strive for perfection is emphasized throughout societies subliminal vehicles. A main viewpoint is mannequins and other replicas of the body.

Although their purpose is to display a product “the aim is to arouse admiration for the object not the mannequin” (Tag Gronberg, 1998, 87) the passerbyʼs gaze is very aware of the perfect formation of the body underneath and has a sense of similarity if they purchase the item, convincing them they will end up with the same result, as you see yourself represented by the mannequin. So the mannequin does its job, yet the consumer is also faced with the inevitable dissatisfaction and failure of achieving the ideal due to the mannequin portraying the item in a different light. These elements of pressure in society will heavily influence the effects of body image issues.

1.Siegel Mannequins 1930.

2. Calvin Klein Advertisement

3. David- Michael Angelo

These issues of have been apparent for a while throughout history due to the invention of mannequins and elements of art history such as fashion illustrations and fashion photography; which denote pure fantasy imagery of the female form and figure. It has always been a focal point of society that a womanʼs ʻidealʼ body is deeply desired, from both genders, although this has not been seen as so integral for men. Men used to dress as vibrantly as women in the 18th century during the reign of Henry VIII wearing white wigs and brocaded coats that were highly decorated and even high-heeled shoes. Only in recent years has there been more pressure for the male to conform to the typecast of a muscular, strong physique; which represents a male as being a ʻmanʼ and differentiates between adolescence and manhood. Although throughout art history most sculptures and depiction of men are portrayed as heroic, strong men with a muscular physique, most of the elements of pressure and conformity come from the influence of the current fashion industry. Beau Brummel was a iconic fashion figure in the reign of George VI creating the fashion for men to be less ostentatious and to wear beautifully cut suits, a style, which still remains today. “If people turn to look at you on the street, you are not well dressed.”Beau Brummel (Phil Cooke, 2012, 12) “George Bryan Brummell is one of the iconic figures of the Regency period, perhaps more culturally significant than the man for whom the era is named, the Prince Regent himself. Beau Brummell, after all, taught men how to dress, almost single-handedly changing the entire look of the male wardrobe in a revolution called The Great Masculine Renunciation—a revolution that still has a direct effect on modern culture every time a man wears a power suit.”(Ian Kelly, 27, 2006) “Even male mannequins in store windows have become more muscular (Olivia 2002) studies have consistently shown that exposure to muscular images is associated with body image concerns in adolescent boys (Botta 2003) and adult men” (Joan C. Chrisler, Donald R. McCreary, 2010 166, 167) Under the clothes we are still aware of the strong influence that replicas such as mannequins portray. It dictates a projection of perfection onto many influential minds. Taking Barbie for example; she is a perfect vehicle of the notion of perfection, girls are encouraged to play with dolls from a young age and are exposed to conforming to normality, differentiating gender roles and socializing their ideals of perfection at a very impressionable age.

4. Barbie 1959 “When Barbie was released she was very different from other dolls on the market. Teen dolls had been around since the 1940s and 50s, but they were quite conservative and meek. Barbie was glamorous, with an accentuated female hourglass figure, long legs and side glancing eyes. Her image captured the spirit and desire, following the Second World War, for haute couture.” (Museum Of Childhood, 2012) Although in society, the ʻidealʼ shifts and changes, the Barbie is a representation of a perfectly normal proportionate perfect woman. The reality of this particular representation of the body is that if Barbie were a real life woman she wouldnʼt be able to walk properly as she is actually not proportionate. Barbie as a figure and a character has a lot of influence in peoples future prospects and careers, it encourages the notion of materialism and a sense of achievement if you own ʻxʼ amount of items such as fancy convertible cars and a family of pets, she denotes the idea of glamour and fantasy, a life without limits- a life we all strive to achieve.

ʻShe has an on-off romantic relationship with her boyfriend Ken (Ken Carson), who first appeared in 1961. A news release from Mattel in February 2004 announced that Barbie and Ken had decided to split up,[12] but in February 2006 they were hoping to rekindle their relationship after Ken had a makeover.[13] Barbie has had over 40 pets including cats and dogs, horses, a panda, a lion cub, and a zebra. She has owned a wide range of vehicles, including pink Corvette convertibles, trailers, and jeeps. She also holds a pilot's license, and operates commercial airliners in addition to serving as a flight attendant. Barbie's careers are designed to show that women can take on a variety of roles in life, and the doll has been sold with a wide range of titles including Miss Astronaut Barbie (1965), Doctor Barbie (1988) and Nascar Barbie (1998).ʼ (Wikipedia, Barbie)

There has been a lot of superficial decisions due to the exposure of the ideal and pursuit of an ideal body from such an early age. One will constantly wear a mask to feel comfortable and fit in with society. We are controlled by our egos and compliance. One perceives the grotesque to be anything that isnʼt youthful, and unflawed, society does not embrace nature, even since Victorian times people have manipulated their perception of one self. There is a continuing pattern of modification and manipulation to achieve an ideal. I believe that some (some may, some may not) be heavily influenced by replicas of how the body should be formed. In the discussion of ʻThe Body In Contemporary Artʼ Sally OʼReilly describes that “…the artist would be required to paint the clientʼs likeness with a sympathetic eye, perhaps playing down or even obliterating faults and blemishes. The history of the bodyʼs representation in art then, has been more occupied with expectations or aspirations than with veracity. ” (Sally OʼReilly, 2009, 17) Studies into gender research psychology address the issues of body replicas affecting ones image, and the impressionable youth of today faced with figurines from a young age may be influenced to some subliminal level. “…Although research is lacking on how playing with these action figures affects the body images concerns of young boys- one study showed that young adult men report lower self esteem after touching and manipulating hyper muscular action figures (Barlett, Harris, Smith, Bonds-Raache, 2005)” (Joan C Chrisler, Donald R McCreary, 166, 2010) This position text is an indication of how long manipulation of the ideal has been apparent. Societyʼs self conscious attitude due to the coverage of ʻpropagandaʼ in the media of body image, has influenced the production on mannequins, over a period of time they have become more slender and toned as to reflect our current idea of the ideal body in society.

Our visual culture that applies pressure to the ideal is heavily saturated by the fashion industry and the obvious influences of skinny models and airbrushed advertisements. High fashion clothing brands and the influence of haute couture has shaped a society of underachieving self discipline when it comes to the body. What naturally occurs in development of the body cannot be changed yet we attempt to manipulate the truth on a vast level of outputs. In modern society social media programs and apps such as Instagram allow the user to use ʻfilter effectsʼ removing blemishes, changing the lighting and tone of the image, thus changing the actuality of the body. “Our visual culture quite simple demands broad competency on effigiesnot simple the mannequin kind but an entire range of recorded and digital bodies” (Mark B. Sandberg, 2003, 3-4) The bizarre concept that this is what was and is deemed acceptable to most of society has shaped how we act as characters towards our ideas of the body. These subliminal decisions we make from surrounding everyday inspiration are very potent in terms of forming ones identity, we always want to be seen as perfect and first impressions count for everything. We are willing under all circumstances through any means necessary to shape and sculpt the image of ourselves and transform through the elements of make up, surgery and photo manipulation. Our first impressions on a physical appearance are a main dynamic in our current society. This is comparative with the very same strong principle of a typefaceʼs purpose. “In the world of typography, terms such as typefaces, character, body etc are used to describe the form of a letter- the reason why they use expressions closely related to the human body, is perhaps because each different letter has a a distinct quality & personality, in a similar way that all us humans are all unique” (Masashi Kawamura, 2010, T shirts)

5. This quote connotes the thought that all humans are unique; yet why do so many strive for the same idea of the norm? Everything has to be acceptable to an ideal of perfection, still today in modern society, when people break out of conformation they are cast aside and deemed ʻdifferentʼ. Typography has a visual identity that resonates like a first impression, there is more of an influence recently in modern society to break the norm in certain cultures and express complete individuality. “Typefaces are clothes for words and like a finely tailored suit, itʼs the detail in their composition that adds interest” (Jim Williams, 2012, 39) The typeface ʻTimes New Romanʼ is a very classic in the way it is constructed. It was initially made for a newspaper. It has brilliant legibility and has adapted characteristics from both old style and modern. It is one of the most successful and widely used typefaces that people recognize from a young age, the typeface was used by British artist Mark Wallinger in his work on self representation. Wallinger presented a sculpture that at first appears abstract but is actually the letter “I” in Times New Roman typeface, it is meant to represent the self. The first steps in childhood, in terms of forming an identity, is being able to say “I”. This is a brilliant conceptual journey in how the self could be represented just as an inanimate object, such as a mannequin.


6. The people we idolize influence the choices we make in forming our identity. When purchasing clothes from a mannequin we are under the influence that we will be observed in a certain way, we see ourselves as the mannequin.

The typefaces and imagery used in womenʼs magazines have the theme of constant fantasy of the ideal, projecting perfectly formed figures. Typefaces have a first impression, as do humans. Bodoni designed by Giambattista Bodoni (1740–1813) in 1798 is the typeface adapted and used for Vogue magazine. Italian Didot is the actual typeface used and although it is very similar to Bodoni it has its own personality and denotes the classic, classy chic appeal in a new light. It screams out luxurious and expensive and is intangible to a lower class citizen. The typeface depicts the word “Vogue” as a logo, with the kerning altered to bring the spacing of the lettering tighter together to form a more solid stamp and impression. Vogue is such a long standing magazine that the connections with the typeface will be relived when it is used in a similar or familiar content. It will be easily recognizable and digestible to a mass audience in different contexts too. Bodoni typeface has the personality of elegance and structure. Itʼs construction including serifs with thin and bold lines reflects its Italian heritage of suave, sophisticated clean cut style. It is a solid, legible typeface that has first impressions of class and luxury, there is a notion of lavish society that the typeface holds, implying a sense of security and knowledge of what you will be purchasing just with the stamp of a typeface.

The way we obtain perfection, is through alteration and disguise in current society and culture, so we ourselves wear a mask over our true identity. We wear brands that possess their own identity and cover our own, due to having connotations within the brand, e.g. Fred Perry, Vivienne Westwood have a very strong visual representation of punk subculture and implications of rebellion and anarchy due to the history of stereotypes. The large colonies of people in society creating an image of oneself or a narrative through the vehicle of fashion, has signified a solid association with such brands.



These two particular brands have created stereotypes associated with the clothing and stylization of the products. We have to have character and personality to make a good impression but it feels like where our main projection of identity lies is within fashion and the typography within the branding. We label ourselves into characters with the aspects the brand holds. The expense and quality of a product determines a class status in society, as aspects of a brand image are associated with a certain behavior. For example high-end fashion brands give the perception of luxury, class and glamour with an intellectual background to be able to obtain such luxurious items; sportswear is considered cheap and ʻcommonʼ. A feeling of take over in a technological age has occurred within the last 50 years, society has lost touch with tactile communication. Even the idea of letterpress type production having a physical activity and human interaction involved, to take care and precision over the beauty of the information, has been lost and people have converted to computer aided programs to design type, everything is so easily manipulated in the current state of play. People are losing their personalities behind online profiles, and being sucked into communication digitally. In society, first impressions through personality are still vital in etiquette but more importantly the fundamental on how one is read through fashion and grooming and physical appearance seems most potent. Judging a book by its cover is exactly how society functions. And of course, the typography of a book sleeve is what makes you purchase the book, because of how much it contains and explains within a matter of words. Swedish department store Åhléns, their equivalent of John Lewis, have introduced mannequins which promote a fuller figure and more of a truth element. This figure being a size 12, when usually exhibited at a size 8 (UK SIZE) Hopefully this will be the push that society needs to escape the traumas of reaching the ideal. This has sparked all number of conversations about body image and whether this should be acceptable.

10. Typographers have much more freedom in this day and age, allowing artists to hand render type and introduce the personality of the artists themselves. Pieter Janssen, better known by his stage name Piet Parra is a Dutch graphic designer and illustrator that has created a wonderful extensive portfolio of humorous, simple, imagery. Mainly focusing on illustrative type that connotes freedom, youth and fun.

11. Parra His imaginative, yet simple bubbly typography embeds a lot of his own personality into the lettering. The progression of hand rendered typography has evolved and shaped the new world of design, leaving designers to input their own character into their typography- not just a key message or style that is needed to be portrayed. There is less need for accuracy and precision with more encouragement for experimentation.

Fashion in society is more accepting of extravagant characters, and is less judgmental. The more outlandish the style the more noticeable and critiqued it is, not necessarily in a negative way, all the negative connotations of the body are made by one self. Our influences in our visual culture shape our insecurities and ego. Elle Kim argues that without letting go of our ego there is no real way to be happy.

12. Ego = Illusion “People feel the need to control, to be approved and to judge. People are sometimes too proud and ambitious. People grab on to elusory notion of self and all the desires, ideas and activities that will feed that false construction. Perhaps ego becomes the shield that protects us when necessary? There can be no peace and contentment unless we let go of all the vanity of the self. But is that even possible?” (Elle Kim, 2010) In conclusion, all the topics discussed break down into one element of our human nature- our ego, and without a push forward into being more accepting of all elements of the natural form, we as a culture and society will never be completely content. I agree with Elle Kimʼs argument that the ʻego becomes the shield to protect us when necessary” as we all put up a front or a mask per say to defend what is underneath and have a sense of assurance from the people who surround us. Without our egos the ʻidealʼ of the body would be completely distorted and viewed in a different manner, we would probably all be completely accepting of all oddities and defects within ourselves and others around us.

Society始s view of the ideal is constantly shifting and is dependent on cultural circumstances, fashion trends and visual communication but one thing that remains is the pressure to conform to and achieve the ideal. This constant shift in the perception of the ideal can also be seen in typography and its everprogressing industry. It is the most important element of communication in our visual world, and without it there would be no language, narrative or personality to aspects of life. The way things are designed have personality for a reason. You wouldn始t display female clothes on a masculine mannequin because of societies preconceptions of the norm, as with typography you would not address a serious issue in comic sans. All elements of communication need to withhold personality for substance and instant comprehension.

Bibliography Books: -Joan C. Chrisler, Donald R. McCreary (2010). Handbook of Gender Research in Psychology: Gender research in social and applied psychology. London: Springer. 166-67 -Phil Cooke (2012). Unique: Telling Your Story in the Age of Brands and Social Media. United States: Gospel Light Publications. 12. -Simon Garfield (2010). Just My Type. London: Profile Books. 7. -Tag Gronberg (1998). Designs on modernity: exhibiting the city in 1920s Paris. Manchester: Manchester University Press. 82. -Sally O'Reilly (2009). The Body In Contemporary Art. London: Thames & Hudson. 17. -Mark B. Sandberg (2003). Living pictures, missing persons: mannequins, museums, and modernity. United States: Princeton University Press. 3-4. -Jim Williams (2012). Type Matters. London: MERRELL HOLBERTON PUB Limited. 39.

Websites: -Elle Kim. (2010). Ego=Illusion. Available: Last accessed 20th Apr 2013. -Museum Of Childhood. (2012). Barbie. Available: Last accessed 19th Apr 2013 -Masashi Kawamura . (2010). 'T' Shirts. Available: Last accessed 18th Apr 2013. -Ian Kelly. (2006). The First Truly Modern Celebrity Beau Brummell: The Ultimate Man of Style. Available: Last accessed 19th Apr 2013.



The Ideal Body- The contrast between perception of perfection within typefaces and the human body  

Modern Bodies 2nd Year Contextual Studies Essay

The Ideal Body- The contrast between perception of perfection within typefaces and the human body  

Modern Bodies 2nd Year Contextual Studies Essay