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Reflection, Visual Literacy

Branding & the Lady Question

Things that make you go “huh”: a primary example.

While trawling the Internet tubes the other day, I came across an interesting art project by Brooklyn-based video/performance artist Shana Moulton. “Squiggles, Trees, Ribbons and Spirals: My Collection of Women’s Health, Beauty and Support Group Logos as the Stages of Life in Semi-Particular Order” does exactly what its lengthy title suggests: the author has compiled an assortment of images used as marketing tools for female-based products/services, all curiously integrating loops, swooshes and soft, flexible lines to indicate “WOMAN.”… Now, as a lady myself, I’ve been a sitting duck (clay pigeon?) target for for gender-influenced advertisement since… well, since I emerged glorious from the womb. As a non-squiggly human being whose body looks little like any of the logos Moulton has collected.

So, what does this have to do with blogging? I’m glad you asked. When choosing graphics for your blog — whether they specifically relate to your initial design layout or are integrated into your posts, keep in mind that the images in question have a clear purpose. You may not be selling deodorant with the image of a wavy-haired lady with arms outstretched (who inevitably smells like a vanilla latté rose garden), but the graphics you choose should be relevant to the message you want to convey. If you’re successful, your graphics will engage your reader, make information more accessible, and/or contribute to how you express yourself. And it should go without saying that if you did not create the graphic yourself, you must absolutely give credit where it’s due.

The bottom line is: this project has definitely given me some food for thought. How do we process gender-based advertising? Some commenters at the bottom of Moulton’s post make good points: how is it that advertisers (and consumers, natch — it’s sort of like the chicken-egg quandary) associate “woman” with “wavy body and pointy limbs”? Can it be chalked up to lazy graphic design, or a continuation of an effective marketing scheme? And wait a minute … why don’t men seem to get that problematic, squiggly-line treatment? One could argue that none of my queries have one-sentence answers — and, as a women’s college graduate who feels obliged to question mass media and advertisement, I would agree. As a general rule, it’s obvious that gender-based marketing is based on visual literacy and how a logo dictates brand identity. Even if it makes me uncomfortable, I subconsciously associate those wavy lines with a product geared towards women.

So I will spoon-feed y’all some appetizers for further blogging reflection: what do you think of Moulton’s project, and how do you perceive gender-based advertisement? Is the “squiggly line treatment” a call to arms against the marketing ploy itself, or simply another use of clip art? Does the woman with the waving arms immediately make you think of womanhood, and do these logos allow for enhanced visual literacy? Do they make you want to roll your eyes, or buy what they’re selling? Consider these questions as you venture into the weekend — I know I certainly will!


About Emily

I read! I write! I stand! I sit.


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