Self Portrait

Looking at the photograph of myself side-by-side with my hand-drawn self portrait, it is pretty easy to see some major differences.  The most obvious example is that the photograph is an example of realism whereas the drawing is much more abstracted.  The photograph shows me as I appear in nature; to a neutral observer I am nothing more than a young man in his 20’s with hazel eyes and some five o’clock shadow.  On the other hand, my self portrait is a much more abstracted version of myself that uses symbols to describe my personality rather than my general characteristics.  My self portrait offers no hint as to my heritage, nor does it provide any clues as to my age, eye color, or any other facial features.  When my self portrait is positioned directly next to my photograph there are extremely few details that hint at these images being the same person.

Despite all of the differences, there are a few similarities in the images.  The most obvious is that the hair color in both photographs is brown, which is one of a few examples of realism in my self portrait.  When creating my self portrait I felt inclined to keep the general shape of the head intact even though I was attempting to abstract my personality through it.  In staying true to the form of my head, a few more similarities come through the photograph and the drawing.  I would say my hair and eyebrows are pretty accurate to the photograph in terms of general shape (despite the eyebrows being a symbol in the self portrait-discussed below).  Outside of these minor details, and perhaps a hint of a smile in both images, the similarities in these images are few and far between.

Whereas the photograph of me is well defined in terms of my appearance, the self portrait is a little more unclear.  I purposely chose to utilize a lot of symbols in order to describe myself as a person, rather than just showing my outer appearance as the photo does.  Starting at the top and working down, there is evidence of my brain hidden by my hair (may need to look closely).  This was purposely done to symbolize that I don’t always show my thoughts openly.  I am most definitely a Type-A personality where I am always thinking, but I do not always say what I am thinking.  This is not to say I am not an open person, but that will be discussed a little later on.

Next, I chose to use police tape for my eyebrows for a few reasons.  First off, police tape always attracts a lot of attention, which my eyebrows have done since I was little.  However, going a little deeper than that I have also found that some people tend to see my eyebrows, form judgments about me, and then skip ever getting to know me.  I purposely crossed out the word “Not” in “Do not cross” because I myself would prefer people talk to me before thinking that they know me, but I have found that is not always the case.  Granted, for those many people who have crossed through the tape and befriended me, they become locked in my eyes.  The magnifying glass in my left eye simply symbolizes how I really like to get to know the people in my life so that I know how to interact with them and help them deal with any problems they may have.  In my right eye I chose a map that says “You are here” with the “X” behind people representing me in relation to select people in my life. For my family and closest friends, I always try to put them first and consider the consequences of my decisions on them before proceeding.  I always want to be there to help my friends or family should they need someone to talk to, which is what my left ear also symbolizes.  The combination of my ears symbolizes that I unfortunately have selective hearing.  When something is important to me I give it full attention and do my best to be a good listener (i.e. problems in the lives of close friends, important advice/details, etc…), but in other cases I oftentimes have an ear like a brick wall where I won’t hear anything (which translates to my memory working the same way).

Moving down to the nose, I included a sign that says “Future” to symbolize that I am future oriented. I like to try to plan out a few steps in advance without completely ignoring today, but I know that I am always thinking about what comes next.  Finally, my mouth is a zipper, which symbolizes my progression of knowing anyone.  I am always quiet when I first meet a new person because I need to feel out the situation and get comfortable.  However, as I get more and more comfortable we can see the zipper get more and more open, and eventually it’s impossible to keep me quiet.

Looking back at the photograph, there is much less symbolism shown mostly because the photograph really only gives us the face value (no pun intended).  However, there are a few things that could be taken as symbolic representations of myself.  The slight hint at a smile describes my personality quite well.  I tend to be a happy person, or at least try to be.  Whenever I am not feeling happy I can usually still hide it (my retail background may have contributed to that), and I never want to be a downer.  The only other feature that I would also consider potentially symbolic would be my left (right in the photo) eyebrow being a little frayed at the end.  I would say this is a symbol of disorganization, which I can often times have problems with.  I have days where I get very scatterbrained and would lose my head if it wasn’t attached, but I usually pull myself together.  Otherwise, my photograph does not seem to have many tell tale signs of who I am as a person; I leave that to my self portrait.

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Spectatorship & Power Relations in Advertising

In this advertisement for Hallmark recordable storybooks, we see a boy with a book looking up at what we would assume to be a parent or close relative.  It appears that the subject has no idea that he is the object of the photograph that we are viewing simply by his body language.  In terms of his body itself, he is turned slightly askew from the camera (evident by his head and the slight angling of the book), signaling that his attention is clearly focused on something else that may not appear in the frame.  If he was aware of the camera, he would turn the book to face the camera directly rather than simply angling it down towards his chest.  Moving beyond his body language, the most defining characteristic that shows his lack of awareness of the camera is his gaze.  His eyes are clearly fixated on some object that lies outside of the frame of the photograph.  He shows no evidence of attempting to glance out of his peripherals; he is clearly engaged with someone else.  For the sake of the advertisement this is powerful because it encourages the reader to be drawn into the moment captured in the photograph and picture what/who the boy is looking at.  For the parental audience (the ad is out of Good Housekeeping, which is popular for mothers), the ability to connect to “bed time” and a potential story before bed can be powerful.  Having a photograph where the boy is looking at the camera would not be anywhere near as powerful because it removes that connection.  It would be a little boy, who is not your own son, looking at you and smiling.  Rather, by choosing to have the boy wrapped up in a moment, unaware of the camera, we as the viewer are drawn into the moment and can make a deeper connection.

Conversely, in this second advertisement for Coca Cola, which is also playing off of the idea of spending time with family, we see two subjects, one of whom is clearly aware of the camera.  In this photograph it appears that Ryan Secreast is potentially unaware of being the subject of the photograph (his body being square to the camera suggests he is aware, but his eyes are clearly focused on the boy), whereas the boy in the image is clearly aware that he is the subject of observation.  In this advertisement the boy is clearly in the position of power simply due to his gaze.  His gaze instantly demands attention as you begin to look at this ad.  Your eyes are instantly drawn to the boy because it appears that he is looking at you, and seems to know that you are looking back at him.  There is an instant connection, whereas Ryan Secreast simply appears.  Much like in Las Meninas, where the other people in the painting put the attention the princess through their gazes, Ryan Secreast puts more focus on the boy with his eyes.  By looking at the boy who is looking at us, it is simply unavoidable to lock onto the boy as the dominant person in the photograph.  Had these two people been looking at each other or their drinks, it would become a little more difficult to determine who the more powerful character in the ad is.  By choosing to have the boy clearly aware of the camera and having Ryan Secreast focus extra attention on the boy, the viewer is seemingly forced to make a connection with the young man.  Once again, for the intended parental audience (also out of Good Housekeeping), the focus on the boy (representing family) rather than Ryan Secreast (representing American Idol) sends the intended message that Coke and American Idol can help to bring the family together.

Both of these advertisements take different approaches in terms of awareness of being observed by their subjects, and yet both advertisements are communicating to similar audiences.  In the first photograph the young boy is laughing likely due to joy from his book, but that joy is directed to another person not in the frame.  In the second advertisement, the boy is clearly looking out and smiling as if to communicate to us as the viewer that Coke and American Idol are an enjoyable combination.  Despite their different approaches, both advertisements are attempting to communicate a similar message to the same audience.

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Appropriation in Popular Culture

Honda CRV 2012 Super Bowl Advertisement:

A very recent example of appropriation in popular culture would be the Honda CRV commercial that was aired during the Super Bowl.  The commercial had present day Matthew Broderick play the role of himself intertwined within the story that was Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Focusing first on the movie itself, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was a movie based around the concept of enjoying life.  The famous line in the movie is, “Life moves pretty fast; if you don’t stop and look around once in a while you could miss it.”  It was one of those movies that appealed to every age and social group because we all have those days where we just dream of taking a day off and enjoying life.  The movie takes a comedic approach to accomplishing this by having the fake illness escalate throughout the course of the day, but the overall message made it an instant classic (maybe better described as a cult classic).

In this Honda CRV commercial, the appropriation of the movie is quite obvious.  Rather than being Ferris Bueller, Matthew Broderick is going through a day in his own life.  It begins the exact same way as the movie with Broderick calling into work pretending to be sick.  He then goes throughout his day in an unknown location that appears to be somewhere on the west coast, very similar to the way that Ferris paraded around Chicago.  Many of the well recognized lines from the movie are thrown into the commercial including the most famous line (mentioned above), as well as paralleling the famous attendance scene (“Bueller, Bueller”) with the valet service.   There are other minor details such as a man in a Detroit Redwings jersey behind Ferris on the ride, but most of the parallels are intentionally obvious due to the goal of the advertising.

Through appropriation the advertisers for Honda have attempted to associate their vehicle with the ability to have a day much like Ferris Bueller did.  Essentially Honda stole the idea of going out and living life and attempted to commercialize it by positioning their vehicle at the center of the wild day.  The message that advertisers are hoping that the takeaway for viewers is that the Honda CRV is the vehicle for those people who want to enjoy life.  Obviously the majority of us do not have the luxury to skip work/school and do such, but the aspiration to live a life like Ferris and the connection to a beloved movie has the potential for a powerful connection to its viewers.

Another example of how the commercial appropriated the movie was the location.  Unlike the movie that attempted to show off the beauty of Chicago, the Honda commercial made the location rather ambiguous with the palm trees and beach being the only clues as to where Matthew is.  From an advertising standpoint, this was likely done to ensure the focus of the commercial was on the vehicle rather than the location.  This tactical move proves to be an example of appropriation because the director of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off has said that the film was partly a “love letter” from him to the city of Chicago (AMC Blog, 2007).  In a sense, the movie itself was more than just a story about enjoying life; it was an advertisement for the city of Chicago and what it offered in comparison to New York, which has always been a hotspot for Hollywood films.  In this advertisement, Honda completely ignores the idea of making any city look better than another and ensures that the focus is only on the car.

Overall, Honda created an entertaining advertisement that also provides a good example of appropriation.  Their use of the film was obviously not subtle so that viewers would recognize the connection, but the meaning of the original production has been changed for the sake of selling vehicles.  The effectiveness of the advertisement will be judged based on sales figures, but it’s certainly an advertisement that makes me want to re-watch Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

AMC Blog. (2007, April 17). Ferris bueller: John hughes and chicago. Retrieved from http://blogs.amctv.com/movie-blog/2007/04/ferris-bueller-.php

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Image Icon Advertising

In this advertisement for the Dodge Challenger, George Washington is the image icon meant to stir up the viewer’s emotions.  Outside of simply being the first president, George Washington is often referred to as the father of our country.  He was a brave war hero depicted in many famous paintings for his acts, most notably crossing the Delaware.  His bravery is often exalted to heroic levels and he is a perfect symbol of the spirit that our country was founded on.  He is a symbol of freedom and just being “American” in general, which is obviously what Dodge is attempting to convey in this advertisement.  To dislike George Washington is to be un-American, so this ad is certainly attempting to play on that idea of national pride.  This advertisement is not necessarily “universal” in that not everybody wants their car to be American, but the idea of national pride is certainly universal, and that is what this ad is playing on.  The car could be positioned with another famous war hero (in a relevant situation) and have just as strong of a message in another country, and the same idea would remain intact.  However, most educated people in the world would understand the message in this particular ad regardless of their feelings toward America because they would understand what George Washington meant to the country.

The Dodge Challenger itself is strategically positioned in the middle of what looks to be a “painting” (since photographs were not around in the Revolutionary War) with George Washington standing proudly with his hand on it.  This is almost as to suggest that George has a deep connection to this vehicle and that this car stands for everything that he stands for.  Put the two together and the advertisement is trying to say that the Dodge Challenger is as American as the founder of our country, which is obviously seeking those potential consumers who take pride in their country.

Breaking down this advertisement in terms of semiotics, we can look at the two pieces as a signifier and signified.  From Barthes point of view, the signifier in this advertisement is the Dodge Challenger and the signified is the concept of being a true American as discussed above.  Put together this ad is trying to say that the Dodge Challenger is the car for a true American.  The tagline, “This is the car you buy because you can’t buy a bald eagle,” further demonstrates this sign by bringing yet another sign of national pride into the pitch.  From Peirce’s point of view this ad takes on all three forms of signs.  As an iconic sign, the car is positioned within other soldiers to seem like a part of the militia; most likely as George Washington’s “horse.”  The sign is the same as in Barthes’ model  in that soldiers fight for freedom, so the Challenger is a sign of freedom, but it is iconic because it is intended to appear to be part of the army (despite obviously being misplaced in time).  It could even be extended further if the car is intended to represent George Washington’s horse (by its positioning) in that it could be the car is a sign of hard work and strength (Cartwright & Marita, 31).  From a symbolic standpoint, the fact that the car is the Dodge Challenger is something that would require a viewer to understand the English language.  The tagline is probably the best demonstration of a symbolic sign because somebody would recognize an image of a bald eagle, but may not necessarily understand what it is or what it stands for by just seeing the word without knowledge of the language (Cartwright & Marita, 32).   Finally, as an indexical sign, the idea that this ad is a photograph is attempting to create the idea that this moment actually happened in history.  Obviously the car was not at this moment in history, but “photos never lie,” so one can see what the advertisers were attempting to do(Cartwright & Marita, 33).

Overall this advertisement for the Dodge Charger creates a very clever advertisement in an attempt to sell the car as a true American vehicle.  The use of George Washington as a symbol of the American spirit was a good one, and the execution of the image itself was excellent.  For me personally this advertisement is not very convincing simply because every auto maker is trying to take the “American car made in America” route, but most of them are made overseas.  I think this is certainly the cleverest approach, and the TV commercials that accompany this ad campaign are quite entertaining, but it is nothing new for me.  Granted, I am also not as swayed by “made in America” as some people are.  I drive a Toyota, and I’m not sure if it came from one of their American factories or Japan, but I’m happy with it.  I just want my car to work well; it doesn’t matter where it comes from.  Even if it comes from America, I don’t know if I’m putting Americans to work or just machines, so it is really just not a good angle for me personally.  As a marketing major, I would say it is an effective ad for transmitting the intended message, but as a consumer I would say it is nothing more than an amusing ad.

 

References

Cartwright, L., Marita, S. (2009). Practices of looking: An introduction to visual culture. (2nd ed., pp. 31- 33). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

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The Design Query

When I hear the terms “art” and “design,” I tend to think of two different things.  I believe the two words are often complements to each other, but individually they differ.  There is the art of design, and a design can be art, but I believe you can usually have one without the other.  When I think of art, I either think of something that is aesthetically pleasing to one person or another, but I also tend to think of it being an individual’s free expression in a visual form.   When I think of design, I tend to think more about how something is set up rather than whether it is visually appealing or not.  In many cases I believe that there is art in design in the sense that design allows an individual to express his/her feelings and create something that is visually appealing, but it is not always the case.  I tend to think of art as a more “free” form of expression, whereas design is usually taking predetermined elements and arranging them.  However, one could argue that if an artist and a designer were given the same resources they would both be expressing their own designs in an attempt to create something that is visually appealing, so I certainly understand how the two terms could be taken as the same.  But, all things equal, I feel that design tends to be more about structure whereas art tends to be more about free expression.

Looking at some of the popular terms used to describe art and design, I can see where these terms are applicable for both words, but I do believe that a few can be grouped as exclusive to one word or the other.  I feel that “monetary compensation,” “form,” “commission,” and “meaning” are all very applicable to both since there is the ability to be compensated for both.  Also, everything we do in this world has some form of meaning behind it, and anything visual has to have form.  However, the other “buzz” words are a little less ambiguous.  For me, “self-expression” and “aesthetics” automatically trigger thoughts of art.  Art usually does not have the limitations that a design may (i.e. I tend to think of design as applying to something within a confined space; be that paper, a home, etc…).  Art also tends to focus on being appealing to a larger audience, which is where aesthetics claim a little more important.  In making that argument I actually realized that aesthetics applies to both because a design is usually meant to be appealing to a larger audience as well, so it is impossible to say that it only applies to art.  Finally, “function” is a word that makes me exclusively think of design because whether it be a house, website, or paper, the design of anything always has some purpose to be functional.  For a website it needs to be usable, and for a home it needs to be a place that people can live in.  Art does not always need to have a rhyme or reason for where things are positioned, and I think that could severely inhibit function.  While all of these terms can be applied to both art and design, I don’t think they all necessarily do apply to both.

In terms of how I approach art and design, I tend to feel that there is not enough time in the world to make me an artist.  However, I feel like with enough training I could become a successful designer.  I am not saying that art is completely innate, but I think it requires a different mindset.  No matter how hard I try, I still question whether my artistic ability would ever become good enough to create a picture that I would proudly hang in my home.  I would much rather pay for somebody to create something of high quality for me (though this certainly removes the aspect of being proud of said art).  I would certainly be concerned about its quality relating to getting my money’s worth, but it is hard to objectively judge how much art is worth.  In terms of design, I believe I could design my own home well enough with proper resources that I would not need to pay anybody else to do it.  If I did choose to outsource the work to a third party, I would still have the same concern as buying artwork because I still want to get the most out of my purchase.

After reviewing what I have said thus far, I realize that I think much more as a design-oriented person than an art-oriented one.  When I buy a car I am certainly looking at function over style, but I cannot deny that I want a nice looking car.  However, when it really comes down to the decision, the car needs to get me from point A to B safely and efficiently.  The fact that I want a nice looking car still being a consideration does tell me that I do have concern for art as well.  In any purchase I would tend to buy an item that looks nice as well as functions, and when function is equal the aesthetic appeal is certainly my next influencing factor (outside of price).  I cannot actually think of something that I have bought that I thought was ugly initially because I tend avoid buying anything that I feel may not fit my taste.  I have had the opposite effect where I have purchased things (clothes in the past seems to be a good example) that I think look nice at the time, but for whatever reason I don’t wear them as often as I thought I would.  I have gotten better at not making such decisions, likely because I put more thought into them.  Overall, while I place a high value on functionality, I do find myself seeing the aesthetic appeal as important as well.  In terms of art and design I feel like that makes me a design first, artistic appeal second type of person, but I would certainly be open to someone playing devil’s advocate and saying both influence my decision because they are the same.

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