Woman As Design: Before, Behind, Between, Above, Below


A completely original reappraisal of that most familiar, yet mysterious, of things, the female body.

In this endlessly provocative volume, Stephen Bayley, design authority and cultural critic, takes on the female body, analyzing each crook and every curve as a sign, a symbol, and as a designed object. ...

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A completely original reappraisal of that most familiar, yet mysterious, of things, the female body.

In this endlessly provocative volume, Stephen Bayley, design authority and cultural critic, takes on the female body, analyzing each crook and every curve as a sign, a symbol, and as a designed object. From Aphrodite to the industrialization of the breast, and from pin-ups to the future of sex, WOMAN AS DESIGN is a fascinating mix of design, cultural history, erotica, fashion, and fetishism.

Wonderfully designed and superbly illustrated WOMAN AS DESIGN is a modern study of the continuous conflict between the real and the ideal...in its most familiar form.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
From early Greece to 20th century Paris fashion, this book examines women's curves-emphasis on the breasts-as portrayed both explicitly and implicitly in popular culture. The scope is huge, and the connections are often a reach, such as the Volvo car company's 1950s resurrection of name "Amazon" just as women's roles were beginning to shift, an explicit response to the American 1953 Kaiser Dragon Hardtop Sedan ("to project an image of competitiveness and aggression"). Elsewhere, Bayley references Ezekiel the prophet, Aphrodite, the Virgin Mary, and Rousseau in a single paragraph. The multiple links can produce unnecessary, at times breathlessly goofy tangents, such as a comparison between Marilyn Monroe and the '59 Cadillac: "as insanely desirable, as powerfully symbolic, as ridiculous and as ultimately doomed as Monroe herself." Bayley's chattiness can be amusing, but ultimately distracts from the overall effort to chart thousands of years of history. Considering the ambitious scope and high level of research, that's a shame; more clarity and restraint could have elevated this beautiful volume into a classic of cultural history.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal
Noted British modern culture and design critic Bayley (Cars: Freedom, Style, Sex, Power, Motion, Colour, Everything) presents an original look at women as a product of design from all directions and points of view. Readers/viewers are bombarded with numerous examples from history, literature, and art, along with stunning photography and other imagery. First, Bayley focuses on the body as represented by the cults of Aphrodite, eroticized bottoms, bras, and breasts, and undergarments. In Part 2, he takes on the cultural side, covering pinups, the life of blonds, fashion distortions and exaggerations, and beauty enhancement techniques. All in all, this work is a cross between a guide on everything you ever wanted to know about women but were afraid to ask and Marshall McLuhan's "the medium is the message" concept. VERDICT Designed for and marketed to heterosexual men—from the embossed female front and rear forms on the dust jacket to the slick contemporary and colorful layout—this total package is better for individual purchase rather than for public libraries. It generally strikes one as an indulgence disguised as research.—Stephen Allan Patrick, Jonesborough, TN
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781840915327
  • Publisher: Octopus Books
  • Publication date: 11/1/2009
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 10.10 (w) x 11.40 (h) x 1.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen Bayley is one of the world's best-known authorities on design and popular culture. He has been a design consultant working on imaginative communications projects for clients including Ford, Absolute Vodka, The Coco-Cola Company, Volkswagen Audi, Marks & Spencer, Penhaligon's, Foster Associates, Harvey Nichols, BMW, Piaggio and the V& A amongst others.

He is well-known as an outspoken commentator on art and design and contributes regularly to The Times, The Los Angeles Times, High Life, The Independent and GQ. He often broadcasts and appears on popular television programs. He has also written numerous books on design. Additionally, he lectures in universities and museums throughout the world. In 1989 he was made a Chevalier de L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, France's top artistic honor, by the French Minister of Culture.

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