Back about a week ago, I made [a few observations](/blog/2006/10/23/scenarios-personas-and-the-iconic-face/) about [McCloud](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scott_McCloud)’s notion of the iconic face and how it related to persona detail when building scenarios for strategic visioning or for usability purposes.
I’m not the only design-geek to be fascinated by Scott, Kathy at “[Creating Passionate Users](http://headrush.typepad.com/creating_passionate_users/)” [name-checks his notion as well](http://headrush.typepad.com/creating_passionate_users/2005/10/the_best_thing_.html) and he gets mentioned a couple of times in the [comments](http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/archives/2004/02/18/the_pictures_in_ichat_weird_me_out.html#comments) at danah’s “[apophenia](http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/)” as people talk around danah’s frustration at [iChat](http://www.apple.com/macosx/features/ichat/)’s avatars.
That’s all good, but I just wanted to drop another observation. Most of the things that seem to help us consider a person [facially attractive](http://face-and-emotion.com/dataface/facets/attractiveness.jsp) – symmetry, conformance to a statistical average, makeup (which evens out visual distinctiveness like bumps and spots), even youth – seem to be about how far a face is toward the iconic end of Scott’s scale. Consider how attractive you find [averaged faces](/blog/2005/11/22/the-face-of-tomorrow/) and what that means.
These are the faces we choose to advertise products, the models, the one-hit wonders, the game show hosts. In addition to the well-accepted explanations for this, that symmetrical faces [indicate genetic fitness and are perceptually easier to process](http://www.frinktank.com/?p=369), McCloud’s theory adds an interesting perspective on why we do this – because the iconic face let’s us “fall into” the world of the ad or the show, we can see ourselves wearing that suit, winning that prize, using that toothpaste. Perhaps this strategy literally appeals to our [narcissism](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narcissism_%28psychology%29) – our need to see ourselves as the centre of the world.
People we actually consider beautiful – while mostly attractive in this classical sense – seem to me to have some unique, asymmetric features, some difference, something that resists our egoic demand and maintains a distance that makes real empathy possible. We become fascinated by The Other… hard to process, mysterious, not-Self.
Think of one of the hundreds of pretty faces you’ve seen in ads in the last week try to call it to mind clearly. Now try thinking of [Robert De Niro](http://images.google.com.au/images?q=robert%20deniro&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&rls=org.mozilla:en-GB:official&client=firefox-a&sa=N&tab=wi) or [Julianne Moore](http://images.google.com.au/images?svnum=10&hl=en&lr=&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla%3Aen-GB%3Aofficial&q=julianne+moore&btnG=Search).