Even though I did not come out as a girly girl, my mother was quite successful in planting the very gist of Barbies in my mind forever. It turns out, that spending a yearly salary on a Barbie caravan / convertible and surprising me with a white Barbie horse for my little brother’s birthday has paid off after all. When I got my first doll almost 30 years ago, they were all about beauty and fashion and the rest of the superficial stuff that comes with it, but I really like how their message has evolved throughout the years. And just like Mattel, I truly believe, that girls can be anything they want to be.
When the others asked me whether I have an idea to come up with for the 2018 Budapest Startup Safary, Barbies came as an obvious answer. We put together a Barbie saga, all three of us preparing a piece in the story. My part was exciting in many ways, because I had to put the database together myself, while both Gephi and Photoshop that I used for the viz were completely new to me. You can see my end result just below! (Tip: if you open the picture as a new tab, you can have a look at the high(er)-resolution version!)
Putting together the database
If you’ve ever wondered, there’s a page called Barbie Wikia where you can read the most useless things about Barbie dolls you haven’t even heard of. Probably this is the best way to fill your mind with frivolous information, that will never get out of your head. Like the fact, that Barbie left Ken for an Australian surfer guy called Blaine, but went back to him two years after, when they muscled him up a little.
The not so funny part was building up the database, as I had to read the bio of all Barbies – 102 for the sake of precision – to see who’s friends with whom in the doll universe. Gephi eats nodes and edges, so after mapping out the network, I created 323 relations in 4 categories among these lovely plastic people: family, friends, love and rock band.
Pretty pimpin’ in Photoshop
Before it was ready to get pimped in Photoshop, I spent endless hours on the internet hunting for white background Barbie pictures to shake my design up a little. My BF took me on a rapid date with Photoshop to help me implement my ideas on the canvas. He was the one finding me the Dollie script font as well, that matched the imagined design. He’s a real Ken, isn’t he?