From the team: Christian Tate’s favourite Madame Fifis
Art director Christian Tate blows the lid off one of team DG’s most closely-guarded editorial secrets: Madame Fifi.
“A Madame Fifi is a small detail in an illustration that’s not mentioned in the text but is a hidden extra, spotted by a lucky few.
The concept was born while we were working on the first issue of DG, in a time line about the history of aluminium. One of the entries was about a guy called John Moisant, who built a plane from aluminium. We found out that Moisant flew across the English Channel in his plane in 1910 and took his mechanic with him as well as his cat, Mademoiselle Fifi.
“I decided to draw the cat in the plane without explaining it, so it would be something weird that people could do extra research into. Maybe one in a thousand people will notice these details. Over time the office slang for this sort of detail morphed from ‘Mademoiselle Fifi’ to ‘Madame Fifi'”
Here are some of Chris’s favourite Madame Fifis.
“Whenever a book is mentioned in a ‘Butterfly Effect’ or infographic I like to recreate the correct cover. It would be much simpler just to drop in the real cover, but there is something nice about making it fit our illustrative style, particularly when you have to do a bit of research to make sure you’ve got the correct edition for the year.”
“These are a few Madame Fifis which are of ridiculous historical accuracy. On the left above is H.H. Asquith in front of the door of 10 Downing Street which was only painted green during his time as prime minister, from 1908 to 1916. We don’t mention or allude to the colour of the door at all in the text and it’s definitely one that might get people asking themselves why we’ve made it green and doing a quick google search.
“The post box is from the same Butterfly Effect and that’s a simple one, making sure the correct king, George V, was mentioned on it.
“When we have any historical mentions of the US, I always have to look up the flag to make sure I’ve got the right one in – the star spangled banner started off with 13 stars in 1777 and ended up with 50 in 1960 as new states joined.”
“Here’s another Madame Fifi from a Butterfly Effect. It’s a tiny detail but I thought it would be fun to make sure Thatcher’s wedding dress was represented properly, particularly as it’s quite appropriate that she married in blue.”
Work on DG #15 is underway and the issue promises to contain quite a few of these inscrutable gems. We hope you can spot them.
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