Design presents conservative systems of gender representation through the vehicle of the media. The media is interpreted through its production of material artefacts, namely that of the magazine—which is seen to contribute to the establishment and reinforcing of gender norms, on a conceptual level, through the imagery it reproduces. These media narratives are analysed through one specific case study—the aim being to analyse gendered meanings inherent in specific representations and explore the condition of the ‘mediated body’ in design: in other words, the body as it is captured, effected and transformed by the vehicle of the media. The study focuses on representations of the body found in seven consecutive issues of Frame Magazine (numbers 89-95).
To understand the media communication system and make ideas about the construction of gender tangible, a visual analysis pulls apart popular mainstream design publication Frame Magazine. This publication was selected for analysis because of its content diversity, wide readership, popularity as a professional design publication, multidisciplinary approach, and ability to influence. The following issues of the magazine were analysed:
Frame #89 (Nov/Dec 2012), Frame #90 (Jan/Feb 2013), Frame #90 (Jan/Feb 2013), Frame #91 (Mar/Apr 2013), Frame #92 (May/Jun 2013), Frame #93 (Jul/Aug 2013) Frame #94 (Sep/Oct 2013), Frame #95 (Nov/Dec 2013)
Representations of the body are strongly present in this publication. They feature in advertisements for design objects and the body of the designer is often pictured alongside their work. The analysis presented here performs a type of visual surgery—each body appearing in the magazine is physically cut away from the context and objects which surround it. This analogue process isolates the form of the body and aims to slow down the speed with which images of the body are naturally consumed. The process of cutting is akin to a visual endurance exercise, which allows the conditions which enclose a mediated body to be contemplated.
These body images are subsequently grouped and re-arranged. The reorganisation attempts to reveal patterns of gendered behaviour through posture and gesture, gendered relationships as defined by composition and visual weight, and depictions of lifestyle ideals inherent in the magazine. These rearrangements also analyse broader intersectional implications such as questionable racial and class associations. Aesthetic techniques of montage are used to assemble the visual critique. The cutting and joining of multiple body images seeks to create a unique and critical image. This new assemblage shows a collection of mediated bodies which, together, make explicit the cultural framing of gender and identity by the magazine.
The process of pulling apart, dissecting, analysing and re-arranging are actions accommodated as part of a semiotic visual analysis. This research is concerned with the application of gendered meaning The analysis interprets the organisation and structure of sign systems embedded in cultural artefacts and in conjunction with the use of the body. Furthermore, it looks at the signification of the body in relation to gender and attempts to understand how people and objects become interchangeable in this system and how, together, they produce meaning.
The findings of the study are seen to initiate a shift in behaviour by the magazine on account of the feedback provided, leading to a change in the production of gendered material from this source. Therefore, it could be claimed that this study has exercised an influence over the concepts of gender materialised by the magazine.