What Would Your Portrait Look Like, As A Blueprint?

Minjeong Ahn renders intimiate portraits as a flood of technical information.


It’s rare that we consider information beautiful, or beautiful art informative.


But work by Minjeong Ahn somehow achieves both. She has an unmistakable style of portraiture, one that breaks down complex human relationships into symbols, diagramed with a beyond-skeletal precision. They’re meta blueprints, hyperreal diagrams that look at human bodies as one might circuit boards or transit systems.

Original self-portrait, complete with high heel specifications. Click to enlarge.


“10 years ago I came across an architectural floor plan on the web and found the complicated lines and signs just beautiful and compelling…this was a kind of clicking moment” Ahn tells Co.Design. “All the elements such as dots, lines and signs written on it were neither merely decorative nor auxiliary, but each of them carried important information. I think the impression of the blueprint was quite deep.”

Her work follows suit, somehow finding a balance between both the clinical and the sentimental at the same time. In The Power of a Kiss, she breaks down her mother’s kiss before school each day as a physics equation, driven by musculature like the orbicularis oris. But you can also see a stream of love, hearts entering the small child while her arms flap with uncontrollable joy.

A sprawling epic of Ahn’s six family members.

In Ahn’s grand self-portrait, her first work in this style, she diagrams her own subjective body view in an objective fashion, pointing out physical specs “rough and bony hands” alongside a “scar of unknown origin (1982)” and a “proud six pack” along with technical ones: Her high heel threshold is 7cm.

“I just felt showing what I looked like physically doesn’t completely show who I was. I naturally expanded my attention to the invisible part of me as well,” writes Ahn. “The information of the invisible got to be interpreted as diagrams, symbols, signs or texts, comprising the complicated composition. However, I would say this approach is not for decoration purpose. Instead, I would say the charm lies in that each of the seemingly trivial elements carry important information.”

Note that Ahn’s hand has three configurations: prayer, work and a metaphysical attack mode.

Indeed, her diagrams tell stories you’d lose in murkier smeared pigments. As timeless as Mona Lisa’s beauty may be, we’ll never know her heel height preference.

[Hat tip: Triangulation Blog]

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company who has written about design, technology, and culture for almost 15 years. His work has appeared at Gizmodo, Kotaku, PopMech, PopSci, Esquire, American Photo and Lucky Peach