Killing Me Softly, With His Ads…

After reading Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media: The Extensions of Men a couple chapters stood out, from which my group’s activities and discussion were based on.

Chapter 4 – The Gadget Lover: Narcissus as Narcosis

The mediated technology numbs us.

“The principle of numbness comes into play with electric technology, as with any other. We have to numb our central nervous system when it is extended and exposed, or we will die. Thus the age of anxiety and of electric media is also the age of unconscious and of apathy” (McLuhan, 2013, p 51).

This article from UCLA’s Newsroom from 2011, brings up an interesting point regarding the connectedness of people and how desensitized they have become to horrors seen online ( ).

Even though this seems quite negative, there is a new wave of technology developers that put humans in the center of development. In this article from Forbes ( ), Dianne Wilkins talks about how technology businesses are becoming more human-centric as a way to give purpose to their developments.

Maybe technology has pushed us toward numbness for a while that now the tables are turning and we are looking back at ourselves as the drivers of meaning in society.
Chapter 23 – Ads: Keeping Upset with the Joneses

As someone who has studied feminist art history, it is almost impossible to think about ads without remembering the words of Jean Kilbourne. She has been collecting images of ads representing women since the 60’s and has created the series “Killing Us Softly.” Below is her TEDx talk at Lafayette College in 2014 in which she explains her work and talks about the huge impact that ads have on men and women of all ages.

Her series is a must see in a world lead by capitalism. When we need to buy to keep up with life and changes, those changes come with a cultural and social price. The more we consume, the more those products shape our way of life and understanding of the world around us. From McLuhan’s chapter on ads he says, “ads are not meant for conscious consumption” (2013, p. 247) and “ads push the principle of noise all the way to the plateau of persuasion” (2013, p. 247). Ads are shoved onto us even when we believe that we are immune to them, but the repetition and the noise it creates it breaks our conscious barriers and instill the “need” to consume.

who are we?


“Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es” (Not by Bread Alone) translates to English as “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.” This famous quote that has entered American popular culture is credited to Brillat-Savarin’s book Physiologie Du Gout, published in the 19th century and now shortened to “You are what you eat.” This quote goes beyond the gastronomy realm and can be interpreted as “you are what you consume.”

Daily, we consume much more than only food. Everything we see, hear, or touch is interpreted by the body and therefore, it changes us and our perception of the world. “If Aliens from the planet Tharg were to be monitoring the earth by watching our television programmes, how realistic an impression of our lives would they receive?” (Howells & Negreiros, 2012, p. 237). Popular culture gives a good insight of people’s lives and helps give context to what is happening. A great example of this, is artist’s Jeff Thompson work Computers on Law & Order. He watched all episodes of the original Law & Order show (which ran from 1990 to 2010) and captured stills from almost all of the computers in the show. He was commissioned by Rhizome and turned his work into a blog ( and a curated book as well.

Even though the example might seem entertaining, it brings to light one of the obvious reasons why popular culture and society are so connected. What we watch reflects what we produce and vice-versa. Meaning that these cultural artifacts can become the source of information to a society.




Howells, R., Negreiros, J., (2012). Visual Culture. Malden, MA: Polity Press.

Not by Bread Alone: America’s Culinary Heritage. (2002). Retrieved March 23, 2018, from

Thompson, J., (2014). Computers on Law & Order. Rhizome

Representation of Women

Up to now, we’ve been looking at many different images and analyzing them in class.
For me, the ones I feel strongly about are the ones that have women pictured in them. It all started with some beer labels that, even in 2018, were using the objectification of the women’s body as a sale strategy.

This usage of the women’s image has long been done, especially in European paintings. John Berger, in the BBC series and book of same title Ways of Seeing, says, “[…] men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at” (1977, p. 47, emphasis in original). This quote reinforces the idea that women are being portrayed for the sole purpose of having men stare at them and be drawn to the painting or product.

Fine art, when looked through the lens of hermeneutics, tells us the story of the “[…] human experience made visual” (Howells & Negreiros, 2012, p. 173) therefore, the number of images that represent the nude tell us a story of society at that time. From the images of Adam and Eve (Berger, 1977, p. 47) to the venus paintings.

When photography came along, the representation of society itself continued this time with a more realistic consideration. Unlike fine art pieces, photography “[…] persuaded people that when they looked at a photograph, they were looking at reality itself” (Howells & Negreiros, 2012, p. 190) which goes beyond a perceived interpretation of life and society to it being reality itself. “[…] [A] picture is said to be worth a thousand words” (Mitchell, 2005, p. 140) “but images are not words. […] They may show something, but the verbal message or speech act has to be brought to them by the spectator […]” (Mitchell, 2005, p. 139). So, the way people read images, be it fine art or photography, depends on their own background, but the lines get blurred when what they think what they are seeing is part of reality. The reality of the photograph just reinforces any beliefs that they might have had, “as it [the camera] is a mechanical recording device, it can only record the truth” (Howells & Negreiros, 2012, p. 190).

Understanding the images we see has as much to do with our own cultural and social background as the artist’s background. When someone creates an image, all their knowledge is transmitted through the image, whether they want it or not. But how the image is read depends on the viewer’s background. Some may say that they don’t consider contemporary art or performance “real art,” which, most often than not, has to do with their own background, what they studied and how much they know about art. Everyone can read images, but each person might have a different interpretation of it until they learn about the artist’s background.


Berger, J. (1977). Ways of Seeing. New York, NY: Penguin Books.

Howells, R., Negreiros, J., (2012). Visual Culture. Malden, MA: Polity Press.

Mitchell, W., (2005). What Do Pictures Want: The lives and loves of images. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.

Visual Essay (strong images ahead)

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1. Adam and Eve – Albrecht Dürer – 1504 (Retrieved from

2. Europe supported by Africa and America – William Blake – 1796 (Retrieved from

3. The Birth of Venus – William Bouguereau – 1878 (Retrieved from

4. Luncheon on the Grass – Édouard Manet – 1863 (Retrieved from

5. Olympia – Édouard Manet – 1863 (Retrieved from

6. The Apparition – Gustave Moreau – 1876 (Retrieved from

7. Job – Alphonse Mucha – 1900 (Retrieved from

8. We Can Do It – J. Howard Miller – 1942 (Retrieved from

9. Weyenber Massagic Shoes Ad – 1974 (retrieved from

10. Interior Scroll – Carolee Schneemann – 1975 (Retrieved from

11. My Bed – Tracey Emin – 1998 (retrieved from

12. Victoria’s Secret Ad – 2017 (retrieved from

Celebrating Design – TYPEBOX Unboxing

For my final Grad Studio project, we were told to CELEBRATE DESIGN!

After a whole semester of criticizing consumerism and parts of our culture, it was time to celebrate the good things design has brought us.

I chose to celebrate typography since it is one of my favorite parts of graphic design.

The assignment also asked us to play on tropes from youtube or websites. Since I am already working on making videos for youtube I thought this would be a good opportunity to make a funny, over-the-top video.

I chose to create a new subscription box called TYPEBOX and do an unboxing on camera of my first month. This box contains the typeface Futura, a bonus Futura Bold, and some historical accounts of the typeface.

I tried to make it over-the-top, funny and exaggerated to really play on beauty guru’s unboxing videos that I’ve been watching lately as well as bringing some curiosities about the typeface.

Here is the result, hope you enjoy it.



CASLON: a new ligature


I present to the world a new ligature to the Caslon family.
One of my favorite typefaces now feels complete with my own collaboration.

(Project created for ArtGr 512 – Audience Perception with Paula Curran as instructor)

Assignment 3 – Stickers (ArtGr 275)

Finally something fun and broad enough that everyone could relate to it.

This time in my TA class, I decided to ask the students to create stickers based on a couple of very broad categories that encompassed just about everything in the universe: Emojis, Food, Quotes/word (only handwritten), Nature, Traveling/transportation, and Music.

Some would say I was too generous, but I think that by being able to do something you are interested in, learning Adobe Illustrator will come naturally. Personally, I’ve been having a hard time explaining Illustrator. I believe it to be a very open and forgiving software. There isn’t much you can do wrong in it, which is one of the reasons I love it so much. Using illustrator for me is very much automatic; I don’t know what I know and don’t know. It is weird, so trying to explain that is very odd. But since I have the most awesome students, they are very patient and help me out a lot.

They also seem to be having a great time with the software (more than with inDesign, but inDesign isn’t as forgiving). From the feedback from this project, I could gage that making the stickers wasn’t a difficult task and the majority seemed to have enjoyed the process.

I posted a picture of their work on my personal Instagram account (@vickfaccin) and it got reposted by the Iowa State College of Design Instagram page, which I thought it was the coolest thing.


I am so proud of my students and their work as well as the effort they put in this class. I couldn’t be more excited to be a TA and help them navigate these first semesters of design school.

Keep on rocking it.

Technology & Letterpress

Very often, I feel like I am extremely old even though I’m not. This week this happened again. I am what some would call technology-skeptic. I like to wait for new forms of technology to develop before I dip my toes in it because I have a hard time buying into the whole idea right away.

I remember having these skeptic feelings when the first touch screen phones came out. I thought that was so outrageous and how clunky the first screens were. I waited until 2013 to have my first smartphone, a date that could be considered late. And even today I am not 100% sold on the touch screen, as typing (as someone who writes daily in two languages) is extremely frustrating.

But anyways, the good side of being skeptical is how impressed you are by the simplest things. This week, technology didn’t let me down and impressed me once again.

Professor Paula Curan told the class to purchase the app LetterMpress from the app store and we were to use it as an in-class exercise. I was paired up with David Carius for this exercise since I do not own an Apple device (after this exercise though, I am gearing up to get an iPad).

The app is basically a printing press, with all its specific languages and learning curve. It has to have been the most frustrating project ever! Learning how to place the letters and understanding how the app behaved was tiring, but pushing through the frustrations me and David were able to create a poster inviting people to a “Donut Eating Contest.” 

The results really impressed me. The level of detail that we could get, how finicky it was, just like a real printing experience. The look that it gave to the poster was also a great reproduction of what the real experience is.

Because of these technological advances, I believe that Baudrillard was right, these simulations are just getting better. We can have the experience of setting lead type through a screen without having to own a 5-ton machine and get all dirty with ink. The app even mimicked the weight of the magnets on the press.

I am so surprised at the level of detail, how technology has developed, and how far we’ve come. I am amazed and soon I will own an iPad so that I can play with that some more.


Here are the results