Silhouetted Profiles In Design

Prior to the invention of photography, silhouette profiles cut from black card were the most economical way of recording a person's appearance. As photography became accessible, the silhouette became more of a stylized artwork form of the human portrait.

It is interesting to see the evolution of the silhouette in modern graphic design.

(L) Portrait of Federico da Montefeltro - Piero della Francesca, 1465-66
(R) Distinguished Man with Silhouetted Vest - William Chamberlain, 1820
The early Renaissance period saw a fashion for painted profile portraits and many famous people in profile. Considered to be the most famous profile in fine art, Portrait of Federico da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbinn (1465-66) was painted by Piero della Francesca.

 In the early 1800s, William Chamberlain made hollow silhouette cuts utilizing a technique of partial cuts of heads and busts. He then  applied an ink wash for the hair and neckline details.

(L) Dylan - Milton Glaser, 1966
(R) Ragtime - Dino De Laurentiis Productions, 1981
The first modern graphic design silhouette profile was created during the Hippie revolution. Milton Glaser's Dylan poster bridged the transition between the traditional silhouette form to a form of expression. The classic image of Dylan's profile with flowing technicolor locks has become one of the icons of the Sixties.

The movie poster for Ragtime, 1981 weaves the lives and passions of a middle class family into racial tensions, infidelity, violence, and other nostalgic events of 1906 America.

(L) Sleeping with the Enemy - 20th Century Fox, 1991
(R) The Passion of the Christ - Icon Productions, 2004
Over the last twenty years the silhouette has been a common element in film posters, almost cliche. This is due to the fact that the silhouette can convey emotion, drama, and mystery.

Apple Ipod Commercial

And who can forget the silhouette style of Apple Ipod silhouette commercials? Featuring dark silhouetted characters against bright-colored backgrounds that are usually dancing, these television commercials are backed by up-beat music. The silhouettes are also usually holding iPods and listening to them with Apple's supplied earphones. These appear in white, so that they stand out against the colored background and black silhouettes. Apple changes the style of these commercials often depending on the song's theme or genre.


  © 2010 Design by Stephanie Janke -

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