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Comments (6) Posted 12.15.10 | PERMALINK | PRINT

Jessica Helfand

Be Careful What You Wish For




What happens when you combine People's Sexiest Man Alive with GQ's Hottest Babe? They get married!

Then they split up.

Sad but not so very surprising, and it didn't take a Wiklileaks potboiler to make it front page news, either. While Time Magazine blamed it on too much hotness, most news sources have been rather respectful or maybe they're all just bored. MTV recently quoted Scarlett Johansson (above right) referring  to her husband Ryan Reynolds (above, left) as "that Canadian I live with". 

Touching, isn't it?

It's fascinating from a design standpoint to witness what happens when public displays of perfection just spectacularly self-destruct, and begs the question: aren't designers guilty of a similar crime? Much has been written about the tautology of media culture, about the degree to which we both consume and contribute to this vicious cycle. While we're typically dealing with inanimate objects, don't designers on some level embrace a parallel pursuit of a kind of aspirational perfection? Don't we critique ourselves on our search for flawless form, for ideal beauty? Isn't design about being hot and sexy enough to convince someone of something? To persuade? To sell?

So there you go: the sexiest boy meets the hottest girl, and what does it get you? Bupkis. 

Then again, why even bother looking at the pictures when you can google Gawker and see the rise and fall of the American celebrity marriage in one click? 



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Comments (6)   |   JUMP TO MOST RECENT COMMENT >>

There is nothing wrong with the pursuit of perfection in design. If you are not striving for perfection some form, what ARE you striving for?

The problem here is a definition of terms. I see nothing perfect about the pairing of an over-hyped, under-talented celebrity couple, nor in my work do I see the pursuit of 'sexy' (in the most canned, labeled and mass-produced sense) as 'perfection'.

So in that sense, I suppose I agree.
Heather
12.15.10 at 05:19

Well, to the point above, I say striving for physical perfection IS a problem in design if there is no underlying spark of an idea that makes it more than just eye candy.

Sometimes too perfect is boring (right, Ryan Reynolds? Right, functional modernism?) in design and in life. Scarlett Johansson is beautiful, obviously, but she also comes off as self-aware and a little oddball, so there's something meatier, quirkier and more intriguing about her as a celebrity. (did you ever see the movies she did when she was a child?? Remember 'Manny and Lo'??). I always thought she was too good for him.

Maybe Scarlett Johansson as a design methodology isn't bad.
Julie Teninbaum
12.15.10 at 06:04

A similar metaphor playfully considered here --
http://www.omnitecturalforum.com/POMD/POMD.html
Pantonik
12.15.10 at 06:13

Be Careful What You link to:
A Freudian slip, also called parapraxis, is an error in speech, memory, or physical action that is interpreted as occurring due to the interference of some unconscious ("dynamically repressed") wish, conflict, or train of thought.

What is it called when you link to the wrong page?
When you click on the link GQ's Hottest Babe you get People's Sexiest Man Alive.
Carl W. Smith
12.15.10 at 07:44

Carl: Thanks. There's that tautology for you!
Jessica Helfand
12.15.10 at 09:20

"Curiouser and curiouser!" as a famed Englishman once wrote "the country itself, as its own map."
Carl W. Smith
12.15.10 at 10:35


Design Observer encourages comments to be short and to the point; as a general rule, they should not run longer than the original post. Comments should show a courteous regard for the presence of other voices in the discussion. We reserve the right to edit or delete comments that do not adhere to this standard.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jessica Helfand, a founding editor of Design Observer, is an award-winning graphic designer and writer and a former contributing editor and columnist for Print, Communications Arts and Eye magazines. A member of the Alliance Graphique Internationale and a recent laureate of the Art Director's Hall of Fame, Helfand received her B.A. and her M.F.A. from Yale University where she has taught since 1994.
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DESIGN OBSERVER JOBS









BOOKS BY Jessica Helfand

Screen: Essays on Graphic Design, New Media, and Visual Culture
Winterhouse Editions, 2001

Scrapbooks: An American History
Yale University Press, 2008

Reinventing the Wheel
Winterhouse Editions, 2002

Paul Rand: American Modernist
winterhouse Editions, 1998

Looking Closer 3
Allworth Press, 1999

More books by contributors >>