Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, or more commonly, it's shaped and defined by cultural standards that are different around the world. To try and understand how the perfect body is viewed across the world, designers from 18 countries were asked to Photoshop the same model.
The aim of the project, commissioned by UK pharmacy chain Superdrug, was to understand the perception of female beauty, and cultural pressures faced by women to conform to a standard. The not-exactly-scientific study used (mostly female) freelance designers, found through online jobs sites and given the same, fairly loose instructions:
Photoshop her form. The idea is to Photoshop and retouch this woman to make her more attractive to the citizens of your country. We are looking to explore how perceptions of beauty change across the world. Multiple designers are involved. You can modify clothing, but her form must be visible. No nudity. All other changes, including those to her shape and form, are up to you.
The authors then estimated the weight and BMI of each retouched model, with the results varying from nearly-anorexic (China and Italy) to technically overweight (hi, Spain). It's a fun thought exercise, but subjective as hell — the sample size is tiny, and hey, maybe people really do think different things are attractive.
For the full set of images (and more detail on the methodology) you can view the complete study on Superdrug's blog.