Is it okay to fade a human face just to create some space to place important content over it?

Please see the image. Just to write the copy, I had to place white color over the upper half of the person on the right side.

Is it okay to do so in graphic design or is it terribly wrong here?

PS: Copy size and number of lines/words may vary.

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When advertising, especially something which involves the human condition such as medical care, you want the viewer to be engaged and connected as much as possible. Human faces tend to soften advertising and if the faces appear kind, welcoming, engaged, themselves, then viewers tend to subconsciously pick up on that and somewhat empathize with those emotions. Pulling them in and hopefully leading to sales/contacts.

So.. for medical treatments.. human faces = good.

Now, not having faces is fine. Without a “human connection” the general ROI of any such advertisement may not be as good as one with faces, but it would not be directly devalued. In other words, it wouldn’t be working against itself. It simply may not be as engaging and as good at ROI as an advertisement with faces.

However…. covering faces, especially in an unnatural manner, does nothing other than the lower the ROI of any such advertisement. And I mean lowers it beyond what any non-face advertisement may result in. It’s working against itself. It is specifically seen as unpleasant to viewers. It’s fairly natural for most non-sociopathic humans to feel uneasy at the sight of someone missing a head, even if it’s not “horror” related. It is a subconscious primal human reaction to a figure which is seen as not being complete. There’s an unstated “that doesn’t feel right.” twinge some people may feel – percieved at a base level, before rational thought takes over, as damaged, broken, imaginary, etc. You typically do not want such things associated with the product/service you are advertising. So, covering faces unnaturally is just about the worst choice for something like a medical advertisement whether related to a procedure/treatment, a device used, or the doctor/patient.

In my book —

  • Never cover human faces.
  • If a design isn’t working unless a face is covered, find a different photo
  • Adjust the design so faces aren’t covered unnaturally

Human faces should never be “covered”.

Related: Cropping faces is generally fine. There’s a different connotation if an image is cropped and a face is not visible. The same “unnatural twinge” from “covering” isn’t conveyed when cropping. Humans tend to perceive “I just can’t see the head.”, which is different than “The head should be there but it isn’t!!”.

There’s no “rule” or “guideline” regarding any of this which I am aware of.

However, my experience has clearly shown that medical sales related pieces always do better with faces – not always full heads, but at least eyes, nose, mouth… If the medical issue is related to extremities then images cropped to show hands/feet/whatever always do better than non-human-image pieces – but these pieces don’t have the ROI that face-oriented pieces seem to have.

Specifically…. the photo you’ve chosen and how the head is covered, means there’s some headless figure actually doing something to a person who appears in an incapacitated state and lying down… that, to me is a huge mistake — unless the advertisement is for kidnapping or organ theft destined for the black market. :)

Source : Link , Question Author : Vikas , Answer Author : Scott

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