Summer 2003

Vector sex

Tracing the line from art for dummies to design for sexists

Why is so much explicitly sexist graphic design rendered in flat, vector-based illustration? Could it be that a clichéd illustration style is the natural form in which to express tired sexual stereotypes? Or perhaps scanning, tracing, and digitally manipulating pornographic images is a visual activity that is analogous to the lazy intellectual processes leading to sexism itself.

Caron Hodson’s Full Service Manual project, depicting vector illustrated models as if in a car manual, addresses what she calls ‘the modern phenomenon of the “Boy Racer” – the young male driver who associates fast cars with sexy women.’ The exploded diagram of ‘Carla’ links to a six-point instruction list for ‘Removal of bra’, accorded a four-spanner difficulty rating. The other images here show little in the way of humour or critique. The screen-bound illustrator’s desire for a look that is ‘cool’ or ‘cutting-edge’ can all too easily conflate cultural transgression with the conformity of social prejudice. The image-makers’ formal expression becomes as reactionary as their sexism.