In days of late, there has been much controversy over the use of Photoshop and various other marketing techniques. As a graphic designer I struggle to set aside my personal opinions on this topic. These techniques have pros and cons, whether you like them or not.
I will admit to being reluctant to learn how to Photoshop people’s waistlines and various other components. I may feel like I am being unethical, but sadly, the industry dictates to us what beauty is, or rather, what it thinks it is. Like it or not, sex sells and as graphic designers, we must make up a generic image of what the industry consider ‘sexy’ and ‘perfect’. Sex used to be a taboo subject and now-a-days it has lost it’s innocence and naivety. Sex used to be a secretive topic, but now it is widely spoken about as if it means nothing. This kind of makes us a very sex orientated world. Everything can be sexualised. A nation that can speak freely, is often seen as idyllic, but should we keep some subjects behind closed doors?
Advertising campaigns that use sex to sell, work. The majority of perfume and male cologne is sold in this manner. Human beings, due to our natural instinct, will strive to be a better mate. Not everyone finds these models attractive, but they are there as commodified heroes. It’s difficult to understand, but we idolise people who we see on television and in other media, because we feel they are better than us. I admit that advertisements like this use our insecurities to persuade us. That’s all commodified heroism is. Our extra jiggly bit, isn’t as sexy as a slim model on t.v. We will strive to look our best, or rather what the majority think is the best.
I have seen first hand the manipulation that goes on in various ads. You can witness for yourself on the likes of youtube what goes on to make an already beautiful, or handsome, model look ‘perfect’. In looking into this further in my own study, I realised what magazines do in general: lightening skin tones, making a body skinnier, eyes bigger, lips plumper, boobs given fake, non realistic cleavage, legs longer, feet smaller, abs drawn on or more defined and much much more.
I know, it’s cruel to us ‘normal’ people and possibly offensive to the models, but we have to realise that this is just an advertising strategy. It works, probably better than other legal strategies.
Dove most recently had a natural beauty advertising campaign, where they used ‘real’ sized models and ‘real’ women in their ads. I would however like to point out that this was not the case. Yes they did have real sized women, but they still asked for women with perfect skin. I’m sorry, but the average woman probably will have the occasional blemish, one or two scars and stretch marks. Dove’s idea of ‘real’ was still moulded. I do, however, appreciate the attempt, as did millions of women who bought into their products. This is more the kind of advertising that we think we buy into, but it’s just not true. We admire this advertising, but whether or not it works in the same way, we will never know.
Everyone reacts differently. In changing topic a little, to another form of commodified heroism. There was an advert not to long ago by SMA Baby Formula. The advert shows the reality of parenting, but ends with the voice over person saying, “Take it from us, you’re doing great”. It normalises the realities of parenting. It tells you the reality of it all. Some ‘super-mums’ found this advert patronising, but first time mums, and mums who maybe had post-natal depression, found this exactly what they wanted to hear. They, therefore, bought into the product.
Commodified heroism, may seem bad in certain ways, but the truth of the matter is that we are all just a demographic. Advertisers need to do anything to sell their products. I may not agree with the over use of Photoshop in magazines, or raunchy adverts for perfumes, but I acknowledge the necessity to be like that. In conclusion, I think, as graphic designers, we must embrace the modifications we do, as it is just business. It doesn’t mean we have to like it, we just have to get on with it. If we had it our way, we probably wouldn’t use Photoshop to adjust images, for the greater good of the average human’s self esteem.
Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder. Take it from me, if you are reading this, someone out there believes you don’t need Photoshop to be perfect. You are perfect to them exactly how you are.