Print: Use Faces to Command Viewer Attention

Did you know that humans are the only primates with eyes that contain a white sclera around the dark iris and the pupil?

Consequently, unlike our animal counterparts, we have the ability and tendency to follow each other’s eye gaze, to pinpoint precisely what someone is focusing on, and even to read into the emotion behind a viewer’s eye. This also gives us an innate ability to sense when we’re being looked at or to hastily avert our gaze in awkward moments.

Eye contact plays a crucial role in human communication, and faces have an incredible ability to command a viewer’s attention.

Imagine yourself walking down a busy street in a large city where you don’t know anyone. Suddenly, among a sea of faces, you spy a family member. Among hundreds of people, you can immediately recognize one individual and you have a strong emotional response.

Why is this experience so powerful?

Scientist Nancy Kanwisher identified a special part of the brain called the fusiform face area (FFA). The FFA allows faces to bypass the brain’s usual interpretive channels and helps us identify faces more quickly than objects. Because the FFA is so close to the brain’s emotional center (called the amygdala), the time lapse between recognition and response is nearly non-existent.

Faces Add Impact in Marketing

How does this play into marketing and print? First, it’s important to recognize the impact of faces so we can prioritize them in design.

Research by Catherine Mondloch (1999) shows that newborn babies less than an hour old prefer looking at something that has facial features. Humans prefer humans, and people buy from people! It would be careless to overlook these statistics while continually deferring to inanimate objects. When you’re looking to add that personal touch to your marketing mix, remember faces can help you to:

Connect With People

Large, faceless corporations feel cold and manipulative.

Putting faces on your brand allows people to connect with your audience in a way they can relate to. As you position faces in your ads, remember eyes looking right at people will have the greatest emotional impact, because the eyes are the most significant part of the face.

Create Curiosity

If a face on your poster is gazing toward another spot or product in the margin, people will also tend to track toward that area.

Emotions can be carried from a subject to a viewer as you set a tone within your design. The emotion in the faces you display can draw people to linger at your design or to be drawn deeper into the message.

Cultivate Trust

People react to a photo on a page faster than any other design element, and seeing the people behind a business can establish credibility very quickly.

You can use faces to cultivate trust by using staff profiles on your website, facial photos in welcome displays or high traffic areas, or by utilizing brochures that include testimonials and photos from real customers. If viewers can relate to the people enjoying your product they will automatically build positive associations.

When used properly, the use of people and faces can help you connect with people, create curiosity, and cultivate trust.  Bypass resistance and build connections through the magnetic power of people!

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