Saturday, August 15, 2009

Associating a name to a face

Drawing by Charles Cave - Carbonico pencil - scanned and post-processed in Gimp

Now that you know how to convert a name into a substitute word, here is the technique for associating the name to the face in such a way that you remember them both.

This technique requires you develop the skill of looking at all the features of a person's face then identifying the one outstanding feature. It could be anything: small eyes, tiny mouth, thick lips, thin lips, high forehead or lines and creases on the forehead.

Pick the feature that is the most outstanding for you. Someone else might choose a different feature. This is not important as the thing that stands out the most to you is what will be most obvious to you when you next meet the person.

You were probably taught as a child that you shouldn't stare because it is rude. In order to remember a face you need to look at the person's features. Make a quick scan of the face. It can be done in a matter of seconds and your observation will not look like staring.

  • Eyes - colour, shade, close or apart?
  • Eyebrows - non-existent, thin, bushy?
  • Nose - length, shape, colour
  • Cheeks - fullness, dimples, colour, cheekbones
  • Mouth and lips - thickness of lips, width
  • Chin - shape, prominent?
  • Head shape - overall impression of shape
  • Hair - colour, length. Hairstyles change so don't rely too much on this! An Indian colleague of mine got his head shaved and when I saw him next I thought he was a new employee
  • Neck - thickness, shape
Cartoonists regularly look for distinguishing features when drawing caricatures. Look at a selection of political cartoons and identify the key feature. A cartoon has an economy of line and shows the essence of a person's appearance.

Once you have a distinguishing facial feature, you are ready to associate it with the name. For example, if Mr Sachs has a very high forehead, you might visualise a lot of sacks falling from his forehead. Mr Hamper might have a big mouth, so imagine his mouth is the entrance to a clothes hamper. Miss Forester has definite lines on her cheeks, so imagine a forest of trees growing out of them. Hopefully you get the picture!

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