4004: Barbie Presentation

In the final week of the semester, I had the slides prepared to deliver on Thursday. I used InDesign for the slides and exported it to PDF for the presentation. I included links to 2 videos within the slides, therefore needed to select ‘include hyperlinks’ when exporting the document.

I needed to ensure the presentation had a narrative arc that makes sense. I did this by opening with the mention of Barbie being controversial and their influence on me as a child, moving on to explaining other controversial elements of the dolls, then ending with the same mention of the issue with Barbie and the effect on children.

Barbie presentation full script

Slide 1

This is me when I was 6, as you can see I loved Barbie dolls and anything with Barbie on it.

Slide 2

Barbies have always been controversial, This has mainly been because of their unrealistic body shape that has a negative influence on young girls especially. The body shape actually changed in the early 00’s. From this to this.

*Hand around the dolls so people can see the difference for themselves*

Slide 3

To demonstrate how Barbie was at the time and some of the issues I have, I want to show you this advert for Sleeping Beauty Barbie, from 1999.

Slide 4

I have an issue with how gender is portrayed in this advert. I feel like the advert re-enforces negative gender stereotypes where we see barbie as the helpless princess and Ken is the strong rescuer. And this can normalise unhealthy relationship dynamics, especially to this younger audience.

Slide 5

Another issue that  can be seen in the advert, is , as you heard at the end of the advert, the ken is sold separately. So when the child sees the advert, and sees that ken is an important part of the story, that both characters are sort of, needed, they’re gonna ask their parents for both. But because they are sold separately, this strategy gets people to pay twice the price, which can be an issue for working class families who struggle to, especially at Christmas, to afford these presents that these children are asking them for.

Slide 6

I also saw this class issue in the advert, with the actors. We have this blonde girl who’s at the front of the frame and she gets to hold Barbie, and her attitude is calm and entitled. Then we have the Asian girl who seems impressed and amazed at the doll and she never gets to hold Barbie herself, and Barbie is the one everyone wants to be. There’s a bit of inequality there and this girl physically resembles Barbie with her blonde hair.

Slide 7

What we didn’t see in the advert was the black sleeping beauty barbie, who was also sold at the time.

Slide 8

And if you look at both the dolls together, they’re the same in every way, as in they have the same dress, the same type of hair, the same body shape and the same mold was used for the head , meaning that their facial features are identical and the only difference is the colour and so this doesn’t represent much diversity and means the company is still angled towards the Eurocentric beauty standards. Mattel is the company who makes Barbies and they designed her in the 1950’s, based on a German doll, which explains why the blonde hair and the blue eyes became Barbie’s classic look.

Slide 9

If we compare the back of the box, this is the back of the box of the white sleeping beauty barbie and the back of the box of the black sleeping beauty barbie  What do you notice?

Slide 10 & 11­­

You might say ‘that was the 1990’s, that was a different time.’ But I was shocked to find this blog post from 2010, where the blogger was in the shop target in America, she walked down the toy aisle and  she took many photos, showing the same thing. What can you see in these pictures?

Slide 12

And finally, this video shows a psychological experiment that has been repeated several times in history. It addresses the issue of racial prejudice in children

Slide 13

You might say ‘It’s just a doll’, ’it’s just a plastic toy.’ but to a child these are representations of women and in a girl’s eyes, who they are expected to be as a woman. For a boy, how they can expect women to look.  Barbie’s are modelled on perfection. Something that is unachievable. This doesn’t need to be the case. Mattel have addressed this and are now producing wider representation in their designs. This is a good start.

Optional ending:

To give an example, in 1999, the same year as the advert, I remember being at school and being asked what I want to be when I grow up. Me and my friend both said ‘super lady’ since that covers all bases. We drew the same picture: a blonde woman wearing a pink suit.

The 2 videos I included, to support the presentation:

I was able to buy vintage Barbie dolls fairly cheaply on eBay. I bought 2 of each body shape (newer and older) to demonstrate the change of shape to the audience. I plan to pass the dolls around in the room. Being able to see them physically adds an interactive element to the presentation. Buying dolls from when I was a child also tied in how I relate to the topic and made the presentation more personal. I find speakers who can speak from experience, more interesting to listen to. This is why I chose to include the photo in the opening slide.

vintage barbie dolls to be used as props in the presentation.

I typed out the script into shorter notes so I could easily read them as bullet-points when presenting. I glued these onto pink card to go with the theme of Barbies.

For the slides, I included the Barbie font, downloaded from the internet, named simply ‘Barbie’. I also downloaded the ‘sparkle’ vector to add to the theme:

I included the Barbie colours in my slides also. I did this by placing the colour scheme into InDesign, then making colour swatches from the image:

On top of using pink in the slides, I added a gradient to the pink, as this was the style in the 1990’s, and looks out-dated now.

(To add to the pink theme, I wore a pink Barbie-esque jumpsuit when presenting.)

Narrative structure

My presentation has 4 main parts to it. I chose to stick the notes onto 4 cards, so that the points are grouped into their section of narrative.

  1. Introduction- What I will be discussing and why, handing around the physical example- showing the first video
  2. Discussing this video- What issues have we come across by watching the ad (mainly class and gender)
  3. Discussing race- where the company are coming from- the black sleeping beauty doll
  4. The effect on children- the evidence of racial prejudice around us – the future of the dolls

I needed to cut down the amount of slides I included in the presentation, as I needed to make sure I stayed around the 7 minute mark. I dropped the slide about the song Barbie Girl by Aqua:

I also chose to remove the mention of the video game that accompanied the sale of the sleeping beauty Barbie doll:

I only needed 1 slide when talking about gender. I therefore removed the slide with this photo:

I already included 2 photos from this blog post. I therefore removed the third photo:

Final presentation: Deciding on an image & starting to plan

This week, we began to think about the final presentation. We looked at some videos for inspiration on presenting and thought a bit further about what the presentation could contain.

I wondered what image could be controversial concerning the environment. Luisa explained that this might be an image from the 1980’s, where designs had no concern for the environment:


Including different images within the presentation may be useful because they help the audience with being able to compare and contrast with other images.

We considered how we could involve the audience: printing and distributing information or sending the presentation to classmates phones, for example.

The number of slides are not important.

A difficult task for me was to decide on the image. This means being selective and decisive, which is not one of my strong points. I began by collecting a series of images which are each problematic, though in different ways.

I searched the internet using these queries:

  • Offensive childrens books
  • Racial stereotyping in media
  • Controversial illustrations
  • Controversial artworks
  • Racism in art
  • Racism in adverts
  • Class distinction
  • Class biases in advertising
  • Cultural bias in advertising
  • Racial bias in media/the arts

which provided me with a few results which I saved.

I then took a trip to Brookes library to search for books about race, the media, advertising, culture and any other relevant topic.

I came across a few books that were helpful:

I decided to focus on advertising, for no reason other than I needed to narrow down my options. These images are all from advertising:

race issues
gender issues: why does a woman need the face/head of a male lion to be considered powerful?
environmental issues: are the brightest lights necessary? The image feels like machine vs nature.
Environmental issues: the ad is boasting about the amount of fuel it needs.
Environmental and class issues: the ad encourages people to strive to achieve material wealth, regardless of impact on the environment.
Gender and race and class issues: the beautiful white people, mostly women, are posed beside the car to promote the car by association. Their dress associates them with the wealthier classes. They also present beauty standards that are unrealistic for anyone to achieve. They are also treated as objects just to promote the car.

The ad below has a similar image to the Mercedes-Benz ad. It makes light of religious beliefs, by presenting caricatures of angels.

gender issues
class, gender and race issues

I then looked at 3 videos on youtube of TV adverts from the last century:

To help me decide, I asked myself the question: ‘What can I talk about for 7 minutes?’

I decided this was the Barbie advert, for a few reasons:

  1. I have personal associations to this product, as was a child at the time it was out and can remember very similar adverts. Personal anecdotes work well when giving a talk.
  2. This ad brings up questions from all the categories we have discussed over this semester.
  3. I felt strongly about all 3 adverts, but perhaps mostly about the Barbie ad because it is aimed at children.

I began making notes and collecting images about this image, the subject and the product itself.

I then made a digital mind map of these ideas:

I started to write a drawing board for the presentation, starting with just words.

How to present?

Looking at a few examples of people’s presenting styles is good inspiration because people have different styles and approaching that are effective for different reasons.

Irma Boom video-

  • Book designer, based in Netherlands
  • How she presents
  • She is filming her desk and presenting her books using the live camera
  • Her tone is performative, personal “Can you imagine?”


  • Utopian design. (Art and design combined)
  • They work together to question each other. A way we could do this in our presentation: displaying the question on the screen or getting a classmate to participate with questions
  • Their presentation becomes more personal and opinionated.
  • They are reading the book with the audience.

We could make the journey apparent that lead us to choose an image.

Can be speculative- an alternative to what the ad could be.

What about white working class? (Novara Media)-

  • Humourous tone
  • How to show your artifact? Zooming in and out, photomontage
  • Presenting the object as it was seen originally e.g. in a shop.
  • How to shift from a to b. Using a sound or a rhythm.
  • Voice over or a sound played over if its relevant.
  • Poll if the public agree with your point?
  • Words pop up on the screen
  • Presents a problem, explains, then conclusion (narrative curve)

Class & design

24th February 2022

In today’s lecture we discussed the fourth category of class.

Class is an issue that comes into the discussion when talking about the previous topics of gender, race and ecology.

For example, ‘In general — although there is significant variation across countries at all levels of development — plastic waste generation tends to increase as we get richer. Per capita plastic waste at low incomes tends to be notably smaller.’

We began by thinking about what class is.

My perception of class, before this lecture:

Class is something you are born into. It determines your quality of life and surroundings in your early years. But I have also seen that your class can change. For example, Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady. A famous ‘rags to riches’ story where the main character is a working class Cockney woman, taken in by a phonetics professor and is trained to be a lady. Doolittle’s accent is shown as being a marker of her class. The professor tries with difficulty to ‘correct’ her accent. (Her prospects are likely to improve as a result.) Does this apply in today’s society?

A real-life example is Gaynor Scott, a working class woman originally, now living the life of the mega-rich in Dubai. Born in Stoke-on-Trent, she has a northern accent. This accent is seen as a mark of class even in England today. But this example shows us that accent might no longer apply to class, or that where someone is in the world changes people’s perception of them. Her Britishness may be enough for others to view her as another class?

We see her lifestyle in the current BBC iPlayer documentary Inside Dubai. Scott married into the rich life and as a result, rubs shoulders with celebs and millionaires and is seen as one of them. So class has something to do with the way you are seen and treated because of who you associate with, as much as it is about money.

Gaynor Scott, Inside Dubai

In the lecture, we spoke about there being 2 interpretations of class: sociological and political. (static or dynamic)

Class came into being with the industrial revolution.

Marx first defined class by these 2 categories, in the 19th century. He called them bourgeoisie (upper classes) and proletariat (working class).

Max Weber suggested that the issue was more complicated and that there are more than 2 categories. (A person’s market position- the amount of money a person has. And their status- how people are regarded and received in society- more sociological)

We looked at 3 paintings which represent class:

The Stonebreakers by Gustave Courbet (1849)

In this painting, (above) the stonebreakers are anonymous. The focus is on their actions, not on who they are, since we cannot see their faces. It feels like we are spying on the figures.

Whereas in the painting below, the figures are sitting, they are still instead. It is an aristocratic painting where the focus is on the portraits of the individuals. It is exaggerated, the luxurious exterior, showing off wealth. We can guess that the painting functions as a social purpose in the owner’s house. The painting has been commissioned to promote and celebrate the life of the aristocrat. The wealthy classes liked to leave a mark.

WAG17566 The Family of Eldred Lancelot-Lee, 1736 by Highmore, Joseph (1692-1780); 237.5×289. cm; Wolverhampton Art Gallery, West Midlands, UK; © Wolverhampton Art Gallery .

The painting below has been painted in 1901. It again, shows the working classes as in The Stonebreakers, but in this painting, the figures are moving towards us. They are confronting the viewer and moving as a group. As a collective group, they become a class. Instead of the stonebreakers painting, where there are only 2 men.

The marching action suggests they are standing up for their rights. E. P. Thompson was an English historian. He suggested that a class is a collective group of people who share the same social-economic conditions. But more than this, they also need to identify as a group. He said there was no such thing as a class in isolation, but that what made a class was the fact that other groups have interests that are different from another group. (There are friends and enemies.)

Where industrialisation took place, workers strikes and unions came about, unifying the people as a body who were conscious of the exploitation they suffered. They were asking for rights and higher salaries.

The Fourth Estate/ The Path of Workers by Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo (1901)
Miner’s strikes

The miner’s strikes in the north of the UK, occurred in the 1970’s-80s.

The main employment for people at the time, was the mines. Thousands were made redundant when Margaret Thatcher closed the mines. At this point, workers physically came together – protesting and marching. They became a political body and were recognised as a group. They were shown solidarity by other groups such as gay groups.

What is labour?

Labour is manual work done for someone else. It can be material/intellectual.

Who are key workers?

During the pandemic, there has been a lot of talk about key workers. I never really understood what this meant. Key workers are workers considered to be essential. These are jobs that society needs, in order to function:

  • Factory workers come to mind when we think of labour. Their work is considered material labour, as it results in tangible goods.
  • Immaterial labour is knowledge and informational.
  • Chain work is usually used in factories. This is where each person performs a small task contributing to the production of goods.
  • Productive labour results in goods or services that have a monetary value.
  • A paid wage can be tangible or non-tangible. Sold in market, material and immaterial. Can be exchanged.
  • Reproductive labour is unpaid activity. In the sphere of domesticity. Cleaning, cooking and bearing children. Activities that need to be completed, to be able to go to work the next day. Domestic labour has traditionally been a woman’s role. In the 1970’s, this was brought into question by the second wave feminists.
1950’s housewife

The feminists pointed out the issue of domestic labour being overlooked and seen as unimportant.

Capitalism also depends on domestic labour.

Ellen Lupton

The designer as producer

The designer performs a high variety of tasks. Both intellectual and manual. Material and immaterial. Technology has changed the role of the designer.

Division of labour is neater in larger organisations. (In smaller companies, you need to do everything yourself.) For example, one team deals with colour in bigger studios these days.

Where do we work?

Since the pandemic, this has been a question asked by all workers and managements. Today the lines are more blurred between working and not working. Our virtual life happens through apps and engaging with social media is part of building a brand.

Consumers have become producers. (social media influencers, youtubers etc) We are now in the ‘Information society‘.

Design work become less well-paid because of the ‘bullshit jobs’ being created. A company will hire someone to do a job that could be done by the designer.