Tuesday, December 11

Make the most of your face

What's in a face?

More than you might think.

I recently learned of a design principal known as face-ism ratio and in this article I will share with you my research on the subject and how the knowledge of this fascinating phenomenon affects the designer.

The principle of face-ism highlights how the ratio of face to body in an image influences the way the person in the image is perceived. Research on gender bias in the media shows that men tend to be portrayed with a higher face ratio than women. This appears true regardless of the cultural landscape and results don't change with gender. When asked to draw a man or a woman, two groups of college students drew women with few facial features and men with significant facial detail. What does this mean? Though there is little consensus on the reason for this phenomenon, evidence does suggest that it reflects gender stereotypical beliefs regarding the characteristics of men and women. It would seem that the face is not high on the totem pole of sensual/physical priorities because the face mainly evokes personality-centric connotations such as ambition and intellect. It would stand to reason since we express our emotions and characteristics to a large degree with our face whereas emphasis on the body calls attention to more carnal interests.

What does this mean for the designer? When faced with a choice of images to communicate any given message, consider face-ism in your overall solution. When the objective requires a more thoughtful interpretation or needs to draw attention to more cerebral attentions use images with a high face-ism ratio. Conversely when the goal is to call attention to more physical or ornamental concerns use images with a lower face-ism ratio.

Exercise: Take various pictures of yourself and of your friends with different face-ism ratios. Show other friends (preferably some that don't know the people in the images) and ask them to describe what impression they get from the different photos. What sorts of comments do people make? Do certain comments occur frequently? Do you notice patterns in relation to the face-ism ratios? What could these things mean?

Feel free to post the results of your exercise. Have fun!

Here is a link to an in-depth study on face-ism
Face-ism as a Determinant of Interpersonal Perceptions

This next article discusses the repercussions of face-ism
Female pols suffer from "face-ism"

You can also read more on the subject in this book published by Rockport.

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