Below shows the interim presentation which was submitted for the first Professional Context presentation. I chose to present the Professional Context presentation first, which will be followed by a more theoretical presentation.
The ‘script’ for the presentation is also shown below, and has been broken down into slides.
Slide 1: Introduction and About Me/My Practice
I’m Danielle Muntyan, a Graphic Designer, Digital Illustrator and Consultant working with Beauty and Fashion brands to create both digital and print-based visual solutions to unique brand problems.
In 2006, I began my journey leading me to where I am today, on the MA Creative Practice course delivering this presentation.
Whilst studying for my English Language GCSE, I undertook a project whereby I researched a topic and would in return, create a magazine article journalling my findings. The topic chosen was ‘Size 0’ and the idea of ‘Thinspiration’ which at the time were heavily talked about in the press and showcased in the media. This, along with the pressure of wanting to ‘be the best’ in my studies, spiralled into a world of Anorexia which I was captivated under until the end of 2010. I weighed 5 stone, and was severely ill to a point I didn’t think I’d ever actually recover. However, upon reflection, and as a grown woman, it is apparent that the media and the journalistic-side of the Fashion industry I was interested in studying at the time, triggered, shaped and moulded my expectations of myself, and without realising would shape my studies and practice for the next 10 years or so of my life.
Whilst in recovery from my Eating Disorder in 2010, I enrolled on the BA(Hons) Fashion Marketing and Branding degree at Nottingham Trent University and studied for 2 years before realising I was too creative to be on, what was in my mind, a business-led course. Still interested in Fashion and the Promotional world surrounding it, I enrolled on the BA(Hons) Graphic Design degree at Leeds College of Art in 2012, and tailored the next 3 years of my studies to the Fashion and Beauty Industries, utilising previously acquired knowledge. It was also important for me at this stage to also reflect upon my personal traumas, and how these could be turned into positives through my work. Over the course of the 3 years, I studied various contextual and theoretical topics such as ‘How Body Image has changed over time due to portrayals in Fashion Magazines’ and also carried out a research-led piece of work, working with the community to showcase how ‘real’ people perceive themselves in a world so dominated by ideals, and furthermore the idea of attaining ‘perfection’.
As soon as I left the BA(Hons) Graphic Design degree, I began working with Haddow Group as a Cosmetics Designer. Initially thinking this was a dream job to get straight after uni, I took it and 9 months later was designing products for Boux Avenue and Ann Summers. As exciting as that was, on the contrary I found myself designing cosmetic products for target audiences as young as 10 years old. Working with ‘special non-toxic formulations’ and bright pink and gold packaging made me question the the ethics and responsibilities of the company I was working for, but also as a designer this made me feel uncomfortable and based on my past experiences knew how this could impact upon someones perceptions of themselves at a very young age. Since I have been working with clients on an International basis, including LA, Sydney, Egypt, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, for example.
This leads me to present day, and my research question asking ‘how Social Media and Magazines within the Beauty and Fashion Industries affect our sense of body image and self-perception?’. I feel at this moment in time, there is more ways than ever before to change how we look, and I’d like to also understand this on a cross-cultural scale in order to produce relevant pieces of design work with my clients going forward, whilst sharing my research and findings through visual outcomes over the next year.
Slide 2: Cross-Cultural Influences on Magazine Content/Advertising
Whilst working with clients about either through my freelance work, or contractually, I have found the contrasts in culture and its reflection on the industry quite predominant. For example, whilst working on a project in line with an Egyptian menswear brand for NYFW last year, a black model was used, which offended the client being perceived as a symbol of ‘the devil’. The lack of diversity, cultural, ethical, religious and societal issues have become much more important to me regarding my practice, to ensure that I am engaging with the correct target audience, in the correct way. However, this opened up my eyes to other cross-cultural issues surrounding the Industry.
For example, Vogue Japan. I have always been an ambassador of Vogue, owning around 400 copies of UK and International Editions. I am always striked by the creative direction used in Vogue Italia, and the richness of colour and culture that is reflected through Vogue India, and the brashness of Vogue Russia, however Vogue Japan struck me as an anomaly in representing its true culture, as Anna Winter detonates each International edition should do. Vogue Japan still resonates with the West almost entirely with 7 Japanese cover models being used since 1999 – the remainder have been mainly American or British. 3 of these Japanese models were used in the first year of the magazine being published, and the first edition featured a collaboration of Kate Moss and Miki – still keeping the Western influence in tact from day one.
I find Vogue Japan very interesting in contrast to the UK edition due to the culture change – we have grown up in a society whereby we want to fake tan in order to fit in and change our appearance, whilst the Japanese are still very heavily influenced by the West, and have specially formulated beauty products which actually lighten skin, opposed to darken it. This is shown via Lancome and the AD with Emma Watson as the sponsor – the typical ‘English rose’ with porcelain skin. This is also shown on the double page spread on the top centre image – Clarins and Clinque are also shown to have their own skin-lightening products. Furthermore, this ‘Beauty and Health Special Edition’ also promotes the ‘ideal’ western figure, showing women in Japan how to achieve ‘long legs’. This is shown through the selection of models used throughout the magazine, as well as highlighting the fact in a dedicated article, allowing people to question if they fit in or look ‘right’. How do these visual and brand-led influences affect Japanese culture and their sense of self-perception as a unique society? Are magazines standardising the way women look across the world more?
In January 2016 I am going to be spending a week in Tokyo, Japan, which I have already booked and I am currently researching further into at the moment, in an aim to understand this gain research first hand. I plan on trying to speak to an Editor at Vogue Japan, whilst carrying out a range of interviews, focus groups and field-research.
Slide 3: Influencer Culture and Social Media
As a designer, magazines have always interested me due to not only the process of page layout, but through the idea that as an editor, art designer, designer or writer for instance, you are sharing your work with an engaged and interested audience. Furthermore you are in control of this. With magazines such as Vogue, it is clear that the editors are responsible for dictating which models are used and what they are dressed in – pushing trends and brands which they themselves love upon us, the public. By buying into this we are falling within a consumerist trap, whereby we are told what to buy, wear and look like consciously or unconsciously affecting our self-perception, and therefore our perceptions of others too.
Social Media however in recent years, has allowed us to take back this control from the editors and choose what we want to share, curate and promote. Platforms such as Instagram I feel started off as a positive in a commercial world, whereby as individuals we could share and document our experiences and photographs. Overtime this platform has also become in many cases a negative impact upon someones self-esteem, confidence or self-perception, for example. Due to its popularity, brands have taken to this along with celebrities and icons, as a method of promoting products, brands and even people. However, as with magazines there is a cover model, there are also those who have created careers around their carefully created Instagram feeds, and have therefore become ‘bloggers’, ‘vloggers’ or ‘influencers’ adding a new type of cultural trend to an already self-aware and self-obsessed industry.
Celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, and bloggers or vloggers such as Samantha Ravndahl and Aimee Song have re-defined their careers within a world of social media, and have branded the ways in which they are seen accordingly to avoid any mis-conception as to who they are, and what they look like. The pressure of social media within this world, means hundreds of photographs are taken a day until the perfect ‘selfie’ is taken – Kim Kardashian states the key is “your best angle and good lighting” and released a book titled “selfish” containing over 600 images of herself, taken by herself. Hinting at a digital world of Narcissism, there is also a book and YouTube video by Aimee Song showing one “how to take the perfect photo for Instagram” and how to build your Instagram brand, hinting that if you look right and portray yourself right, you have a chance of obtaining the same lifestyle as she does – expensive, luxurious and other worldly.
Beauty Vlogger and Makeup Artist, Samantha Ravndahl whom I recently interviewed stated that she feels, the industry has “cheapened experiences” overtime for her, taking away the craft and skill of makeup artistry and relaying the trade back now as a means of testing whom looks the best at 8am at the gym on a Monday morning. When asked what “cheapened experiences” means, Samantha noted that everything has become about how she looks and is constantly aware of how she looks, acts, talks etc, as she has a certain image to maintain now she has built a following on 2.4m followers, but when she does want a day off, she gets ‘judged’ for not looking ‘perfect’ as this is the perception she has actively built for herself. She also noted how when she is on holiday she isn’t taking in her surroundings, she is simply looking for scenery to support her photographs of herself to promote and exude a luxury, lavish lifestyle that comes with the ‘job’.
So if this facade can affect someone in such a high position in the world of Social Media, and the competition of whom has the most followers, or works with more brands can push one to get lip fillers, botox and a breast enlargement at 22, I wonder what impact this has on those in their teenage years who are still finding themselves and whom are very susceptible to the pressures, ideals and ‘perfections’ pursued by the media.
Slide 4: Advances in Technology
This leads me on to the Advances in Technology surrounding my practice, and the field of Fashion and Beauty which I work within. I would consider the recent developments in Instagram as relevant new technologies, allowing short videos to be shared with followers in a ‘SnapChat’ style way – further encouraging user-interaction and engagement. User-interaction, experience-design and personalisation have become key technological advances within the Beauty and Fashion Industries, especially in the way of App design and Photo-Manipulation tools.
However, on a cross-cultural and International scale also, these technologies and platforms, in particular Instagram and YouTube have become vital for brand growth, marketing and promotional strategies, as well as allowing for collaboration across Industries and Inter-disciplinary practitioners. Furthermore for my own practice, working with Industries, which are going more digital, it is important and a positive for me to use these new technologies to not only promote myself and my work with, but as forms of research and experimentation as my practice develops further. In addition, these platforms have allowed me to work with clients and collaborate with a variety of practitioners on an International scale, whilst reaching relevant and large audiences instantly, and with ease opening up my ideas and practice to a larger audience, which I feel with my research topic is very important to keep in mind.
The photographs shown on this slide showcase a portion of new technologies within the Beauty and Fashion Industries. All apart from bottom right are Apps which have been designed to change our appearance through facial recognition technologies and augmented realities. BeautyPlus is a Japanese app, which as shown, does this through a range of filters, or options, to edit our facial features – anything from tooth whitening, to eye widening and skin lightening. There is also a UK version called MakeUp Plus for those who may be interested in giving this a go! Rimmel and L’Oreal have created Apps allowing the user to ‘try on’ products which then can be bought afterwards – this was a solution to shopping at home, and to also solve the problems of trying cosmetics in store. In China, L’Oreal released a relevant version, and was more popular than anywhere else in the world, as allowed women to try on makeup at home, without shame. China still are quite uneducated in regards to cosmetics, and can be seen as a bad thing to do, therefore this app allowed those who are interested to do so in a safe, and realistic, yet virtual environment. However, Rimmels app, allowed one to take a photo of a ‘celebrity’ for example, in order to re-create their look through new recognition technologies.
Either way, the apps encourage you to either look like someone else, whom doesn’t actually look like themselves anyway due to photo editing post-production, or encourages you to change the way you look in order to fit in with the expectations and norms of your culture and pre-determined ‘ideals’ of beauty.
Kylie Jenner has also released her own app, titled Kylie, allowing you to watch videos of her makeup tutorials, buy the clothes she is wearing today, tune in for live chats and browse through an endless stream of fashion and beauty related photos and videos. This app doesn’t allow you to upload your own content but allows you to engage with the community and boasts user-interaction and a personalised stream. Advances in technology in this respect further promote the idea of constantly being able to view the idea of ‘perfection’ 24/7, and allow for further ways to change how we look and are perceived intern altering how we see ourselves and our own beauty.
Lastly, H&M were found in 2011 to be using CGI created models with real-models’ heads photoshopped on in their catalogues and on their website, creating a debate around the idea of standardisation. Skin tones were changed to create diversity, however the body shape was stick like, and each model wore the same pose. I feel this alone showcases the negatives in what technology within the Beauty and Fashion Industries can achieve, and how this can affect ones self-perception and eventually the perceptions of others too.
Slide 5: B-EAT and Summary
B-EAT note that Eating Disorders are not solely caused by visuals shown in the media, but that this added with current pressures, expectations and stresses in life can lead-to or prolong Eating Disorders. As noted whilst talking through my first slide, I believe this is what happened to myself, and also what happens to others who position themselves as a follower or an active participant of the industry. From the information I have shared with you it is apparent that the beauty and fashion industries can affect our self-perception in numerous ways from whether we use apps or from the impact on oneself being constantly under pressure through being ‘an icon’ and being the ‘desired ideal’. However, this is what I plan on exploring, researching and sharing through my practice over the next year.
In support and in response to the negative impacts of the beauty and fashion Industries, several organisations and policies have been put in place to help the media tactfully tackle these problems. These are organisations such as B-EAT, EDAW and the UK All Parliamentary Group on Body Image can help brands, and fellow organisations with advice if requested, however this does not seem to happen often enough. Some brands do not have any policies set in place allowing them to use CGI Models i.e. H&M without question, however ASOS for example, an International E-Commerce site appealing to many countries, have The ASOS Model Welfare Policy in place allowing for only healthy models to be used, for those models to be looked after whilst in ASOS’ care and allowing for diversity across a range of men and women, from petite to plus size – not simply standardising with one size, shape and ethnicity. I feel that this is a really proactive and positive approach to tackling the sensitive issue and to also avoid both National and International scrutiny from those who are aware of such issues surrounding their practice like myself, and also from those in the public who want to see ’real’ people modelling clothes. I do think however that more brands should enforce such policies, and I also believe that if magazines put into place guidelines or rules on models used for ad campaigns for example, this would alleviate many body image issues and self-perception issues which are triggered by the the media.
It is said that 725,000 people in the UK are affected by an eating disorder, 89% of which are female and only 43% will recover fully. Is it time that companies, brands, icons, influencers and celebrities for example encouraged positive body image and beauty, opposed to building brands, businesses and self-worth through the neglect of others mental health, feelings, emotions and physical well-being?
I would like to leave you with a couple of questions.
- How do you perceive your body image?
- Do you feel the rise in social media and new technologies affects your self-perception?
- How do magazines and social media affect the male perception of women?
- Do you feel magazines and social media affect your own self-perception?