ANATOMY OF DESIGN
Sex sells, and sex featuring hot babes sells better in most markets than sex
featuring beefcake guys. Well, that is the theory in certain quarters of the
advertising world, although the paradigms are changing every day. Nevertheless,
the conventional paradigm was status quo in 2001 for TDS Printers in Schiedam,
Holland, who commissioned the Dutch design firm Dietwee to create a small
desk calendar they would mail to their clients as public relations gift. Titled “The
365 Colours of 2001,” it was a “hymn of praise to the record-cover sweetheart”
and a wink-and-nod to the soft porn of Pirelli tire and similar skin calendars.
Dietwee located thirteen girls on the covers of the trashy Dutch
goed! (“All 13 Are Great!”) LP, released in the 1970s. “Their erogenous zones are
carefully concealed beneath little colored censorship blocks on which the days
of the month are printed,” Dietwee explains. The block is actually similar to a
periodic table of element, except that it has been colored with CMYK
combinations. The calendar includes the CMYK percentages for each color block,
so it seconds as a clever sample book, efficiently mixing sex and business in
one small desktop item.
Recycling the classic vamp stereotype has long been both a common
and a serious practice, even in this presumably enlightened era of women’s
liberation and heightened consciousness. In fact, there is a lot lying around
that’s worth recycling, from kitschy film posters to bachelor party LP covers to
skin and sweat books. The sexual conventions are the same throughout these
images, notably pursed red luscious lips, searingly sensual (though vapid) eyes,
and a greater or lesser degree of nudity, usually in the same three or four
universally accepted poses showing off perfect muscle tone and other virtues.
Even this parody version by Dietwee, while taking satiric jabs at the traditional
sexism, is inherently sexist. Even with the bitmap-covered breasts and the
clever CMYK chips the message is clear: Babes are better attention-grabbers
than baby lambs and kittens (though we’re not knocking them).
Thanks to digital magic, bitmapping as a means to conceal has become
both a functional tool and a design affectation. In the
Ode, both are at work yet
done with an ironic twist, like the advertisements shown here for Carla F Brand
Shoes, where a naked woman from behind is shown in full bloom while her
shoes are bitmapped out, and the one for Leisure Shoes (both designed by Phil
Van Duynen), where the entire body is similarly obliterated save for the shoes.
The calendar further employs other graphic trends to ensure allure.
While to septuagenarians the 1970s seems like a moronic yesterday, for
members of Generation Y who received this calendar it is a distant mythic time
when disco ruled, babes were not promiscuous, and, from a design perspective,
postpsychedelic shake-and-shimmy Op Art–inspired typography was highly
regarded. This Ode is a celebration of the dubious excesses of 1970s design—
the excessive sunbursts, shadows, and rainbow in-lines and outlines affixed to
typefaces like Busorama.
Unfashionable design once remained passé for over a generation before
it was revivified. Today designed styles are co-opted and revived almost as
quickly as they appeared in the first place. Granted, the 1970s was over three
decades ago, and for those who were happy to leave it behind the tributes to
it in film, music, and TV seem premature. “Ode to the Record Cover Girl” shows
that nothing is too old or new to be brought back to design life for the
enjoyment of many—or just a few.
Ode to the Record Cover Girl
2001 Ode to the Record Cover Girl, calendar
ad: Ron Faas/Tirso Frances i: Marjolein Spronk, Martine Eelman
s: Dietwee/New Dutch Graphic Design c: TDS drukwerken
TDS Printers in Schiedam, Holland, commissioned the Dutch design firm Dietwee to create a
small desk calendar they would mail to their clients as a public relations gift.
Bitmapping censorship of image
Typefaces from ‘70s
Vintage pictures of babes