How do perceptions of beauty vary across the globe? In search of an answer to that question, UK medical service Superdrug Online Doctor commissioned marketing agency Fractl to ask graphic designers around the world to Photoshop a woman’s body based on their nation’s beauty ideals. The results, as can be seen below, are eye-opening.
Unlike Esther Honig’s 2014 experiment, which focused primarily on the face, hair, makeup, and skin, this new study covers the female form from head to toe. Freelance graphic designers–mostly woman, in order to understand more about the beauty standards and pressures they may face–from 18 different countries were given the instructions: “Photoshop her form. The idea is to Photoshop and retouch this woman to make her more attractive to the citizens of your country. We are looking to explore how perceptions of beauty change across the world. Multiple designers are involved. You can modify clothing, but her form must be visible. No nudity. All other changes, including those to her shape and form, are up to you.”
The Photoshopped images vary wildly from nation to nation. Some designers rendered the original subject nearly unrecognizable, while others did minimal retouching. Clear contrasts in skin tone, eye size, slenderness, and hair color, among other factors, paint a picture of how beauty standards may differ across the globe. East Asian countries like China, for example, may favor slimmer bodies and V-shaped faces, while curvier hourglass figures are perhaps more prized in Western societies.
Although the study does not claim that these Photoshopped portraits are definitive representations of each nation’s “perfect” face and body type, they do raise interesting questions about aesthetic ideals and the pressures that come with those standards. As written on the project’s website: “Widely held perceptions of beauty and perfection can have a deep and lasting cultural impact on both women and men. The goal of this project is to better understand potentially unrealistic standards of beauty and to see how such pressures vary around the world.”
Superdrug Online Doctor: Perceptions of Perfection Across Borders