Welcome to our blog series on design.
There are all types of design: industrial design, graphic design, user-interface design, product design, computer design, automotive design and architecture, the design of buildings. Design is everywhere and in everything.
The word design indicates purpose and intent; there’s a particular reason for every decision during the design process. Some choices are based on style conventions or a personal aesthetic, but there are universal principles of design we use every day to create great work.
In each post we’ll look at a principle of design and provide examples of how we use the principle in our work and how you can use it too. In this series, we’ll look at 10 principles from the book Universal Principles of Design by Lidwell, Holden and Butler. This book is easily one of the best and broadest introductions to design. The subtitle says it all: “100 ways to enhance usability, influence perception, increase appeal, make better design decisions and teach through design.”
Control the amount of face, make better photographs
Principle 10: The Face-ism Ratio
If the cover photo is just a face, the photo editor wants you to know there is a serious story on the subject. The story is going to get inside their head and reveal some insight into their character and ambitions.
If the cover photo is mostly body, the story is about how cute they look in that dress. How attractive they are. How active they are.
It’s a cross-cultural bias: when anyone from anywhere sees a photo of just a face, they think the subject is smart. We naturally attribute all sorts of positive traits related to the head: intellect, ambition, moral character. This bias is described as the ‘Face-ism Ratio’. Social psychologists can describe how it affects us, but are not sure why the bias exists – here’s a good guess: It’s how we are used to seeing our leaders.
So how can face-ism work for you?
Marketers use the face-ism ratio to help pair message and image. Intellectual appeals are combined with head shots, whereas body shots go with messages about the overall experience using a product. While you’re not selling anything with your family photos, thinking of Time and Glamour can help you shoot compelling images. Giving babies and toddlers the Time treatment really toys with the convention for outstanding results.
Professionally, make the intellectual appeal in your photo. As Candace Crowe says, “I want to see the whites of the surgeon’s eyes. I want to see them looking straight at me. That’s the photo that builds trust.” Don’t think of it as a ‘head shot,’ it’s a ‘character shot.’
Character shots can also transform patient testimonials. The testimonial is an intellectual appeal. Combined with a clear, well-lit character shot, the testimonial can be transformed into an effective piece of advertising.