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Anatomy of Design by Mirko Ilic, Steven Heller

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12
ANATOMY OF DESIGN
It doesn’t take a marketing sexpert to know that sex and food sell—each often
by itself but also in tandem. The unbridled debauchery during the famous eating
scene in Stanley Kubrick’s bawdy film Barry Lyndon is vivid evidence of the
time-honored symbiotic relationship between these two essential life forces,
which when well prepared and executed are feasts for the famished.
Recently, however, pundits have argued that for many of us entering
late middle age, good food is perhaps more sought after than good sex (isn’t
the Food Network, after all, food-lovers’ porn?). And while this claim has yet to
be scientifically substantiated, anecdotally speaking, this is indeed an age when
it is possible to be gourmet and gourmand in both areas, and the interplay
between sex and food today is as routine as in 200 B.C., when the Roman god
of wine and intoxication, Bacchus, was having his fun.
Which is one clue to why graphic designers appear more obsessed
with these themes than ever before. Despite the rise of puritanical
fundamentalism, the mass media—responding to “the will of the people”—have
pushed the boundaries of convention and acceptability to such an extent that
sex (and sexuality) is no longer taboo. Of course, there are limits to social
tastes and mores, but eroticism, which was long a subtle presence in late-
twentieth-century advertising and graphic design, can now be overtly displayed
in many, and not always elegant, ways. In addition to innuendo, shock has
emerged from the underground. Such formerly unmentionable topics as
sadomasochism, ménages à trois, lesbianism, and homosexuality are acceptable
images and references for popular consumption in all kinds of fashion and
cultural media. Adding food to these and mainstream eroticism is not merely
garnish but a key ingredient.
The poster for Teatro, a German café, bar, restaurant, and dinner
theater, is a palatable way to get three messages across. (1) Food: The
copulating male and female figures are cleverly made of vegetables, a visual
conceit that dates to the Renaissance and possibly to the Milanese painter
Giuseppe Archimboldo (1527–1593), known for metamorphosing cornucopia of
fruits and vegetables into human beings. Certainly since then, foodstuffs of all
kinds have been regularly transformed for comic and symbolic affect. (2) Sex:
What you see is what you get. The image is so obvious only the dead will
miss the illusion. Yet ever since the early twentieth century, when the mass
media was strapped with prudish limits, designers have used metaphor and
allusion to fool the censors. Double entendre—as in films of a train speeding
through a tunnel—or (on this page) the close-up of the thonged toe that looks
like a thong-clad torso—is the designer, photographer, and illustrator’s meat. (3)
Dinner theater: For the few that don’t get it—the plate is the stage, and the
food in flagrante delicto is the actors.
When photographed well or cropped dramatically, almost any nonsexual object
can be given a deceivingly sensual aura. Sex is so prevalent throughout our lives, yet
past repressions are so impressed on our psyches, that it is easy for the mind to
make the cognitive leap and see sex in everything. When helped along by a clever
stylist or keen conceptualist, it is not difficult to, for instance, see a glob of ketchup
slowly pouring on a hot dog as a pulsating tongue caressing . . . well, a hot dog.
Teatro
Designer: Maedche und Jongens
2004 Teatro Restaurant, ads
ad: Ulrich Budde d,p: Frank Nesslage cw: Udo Springer s: Maedche und Jongens
c: Teatro Restaurant
Ads designed to improve the image of a restaurant located next to a theater.
Fruits of desire
Looks like...
Fun with food

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