What is Beautiful?

The hyperreal world that media transmits to us as individuals is often not real, but ideal. We as viewers – and very subjective ones – idealize and try to make this ideal world true at all expenses. Pictures we upload on social media networks, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, are often re-touched and modified in order to achieve society’s perceptions of normality. In my opinion, this is contributing to a false perception of what beauty truly is.

Perception is the primary means of how we gather and experience sensory knowledge. Perceptual understandings are often divided into the following three broad categories:  Veridical Perceptions, Illusions, and Hallucinations. Take this mental exercise for example:  there is a blue cube-like object on the floor. If I look at the object and perceive it as a cube that is blue, I am having a veridical perception. However, if I perceive the object as a red cube, I am experiencing an illusion. Furthermore, If I see nothing at all, I’m having a hallucination (Stanford Encyclopedia). Nowadays with media and technology continually evolving, we are are constantly submerged in a reality where veridical perceptions are rare, illusions are constants, and hallucinations are becoming less and less out of the ordinary.


Advertising is one of the biggest reasons why we as consumers are becoming more immersed in this false reality – a hyperreality. The exaggerated use of software such as Photoshop make the ability to edit images much too convenient. The overuse of these programs has sabotaged society’s point of view and alienated individualism. In this case, I describe individualism as personal independence and uniqueness. We are encouraged to strive towards society’s opinion of ideal physical beauty. In 2006, Unilever launched advertisements as part of the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. One advertisement called “Evolution” showed step-by-step how a typical advertisement is created. Dove’s “Evolution” shows an average woman taken to makeup, then a photo-shoot, followed by photo editing. As you can see in the video below, the process altering the woman’s appearance from beginning to end is quite shocking.

In their advertisement, Dove portrays how the images we see nowadays in advertising are unreal photo manipulations. By exposing this false dichotomy, Dove attempted to empower women, and encourage them to rebel against the false images they’re encouraged to conform to. In response to this advertisement, a parody was created:  “Slob Evolution.” This 30-second parody features the inverse process of “Evolution.”

To emphasize their point, dramatic changes were made to the model, taking him to the opposite extreme. Once again, I ask… What is ugly? What is beautiful? Our veridical perceptions become completely altered due to the amount of hyperreal images we are bombarded with on a daily basis. I believe the concept of living in a simulated reality is becoming a very real possibility due to the amount of hyperreal media we are exposed to – and I’m not sure whether to agree with this societal shift. It is my belief that as a designer, I am at least partially responsible for images that are introduced to the public through advertising; it should be my duty to fight against the emergence of this hyperreality, and to fight for the values I believe are morally and ethically correct. Yet, I admit my practice has not followed my thoughts. On occasion, I have succumbed to society’s consumerist ideals. At times, it seems like the human mind lacks the rationality to break away from society’s influence to assimilate.

Written by Marcela Ramos, Interactive & Web Designer