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  • Writer's pictureEduardo Franco

Finding faces (or birds?) in everything

Since I was a child I remember 'finding' faces all around the city. Whenever there is a pair of round shapes I instantly recognize eyes watching carefully what's going on. A slightly arched line below them makes them happy or sad (depending on the side of the curvature). I don't know the first thing about cars, but I can always tell their 'personality', based on the shape of their eyes (or headlights, if you will).

The Blue Umbrella, a short animated film from Pixar (2013), plays with this idea. The main characters actually have eyes and mouth drawn on them, but the rest of the city comes to life with no extra effort in giving them cartoon eyes, noses, mouses, or ears. They are already there, in the objects, ready to be seen by us. The objects are ready to have their personality revealed to us.

Last week, we started one of my Masters' classes at CCA with a warm-up exercise that also explores this concept. The Squiggle Birds is simple: Each person should draw eight squiggles on a piece of paper. Every 20 seconds each person should pass the paper to the person on their right, and transform one random squiggle into a bird.

This exercise is a good tool to make people warmed-up to visual-thinking activities and also to demonstrate how human minds are pattern-finder by nature and will convey meaning to pretty much anything. We have our shared visual repertoire and will try to make connections between what we are seeing and what we already know. To understand this concept is vital to every visual designer, that tries to evoke meaning out of visual elements.

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