In this blog post, I'll explain what is Pareidolia and in what way it helped me before. I'll use a case study to relate it with design.

Pareidolia might look like the name of an exotic shampoo brand but it’s actually a brain condition or more properly, a psychological one.

Long story short, the human brain has the ability to recognize familiar patterns even when there aren’t any.

To give you an example, think about when we look at the sky and see clouds shaped like faces, objects or animals. That is a sort of Pareidolia.

It has also been described as the ability to, not only recognize faces in inanimate objects but also to hear familiar words in unfamiliar sounds (it might also mean that you are a bit crazy, but I won’t judge you).

I decided to talk about it because it’s something that I always had and I believe it to be an advantage, especially by working in a creative field. Why? Because you see things differently from everyone else. You look at something and your brain gives it a new meaning (and it also means that the world looks a lot more fun).

So, I want to share with you a personal story about when having Pareidolia actually came to be very handy.

Super Notifique: a case study

A couple of years ago, I was doing an internship in a company, and we just had a setback in a campaign video that we did. The video was about the importance of reporting adverse drug reactions and we intended to explain the concept to children. Let’s face it, it’s a complex subject to explain and the truth is that the first visualization test was a flop. Adults really got the message but they weren’t our main target so we couldn’t rely on their opinion.

We were sitting in the office, brainstorming about other possible approaches, when someone mentioned that we could take the company’s logo and somehow used it to create a superhero to be featured in the video. And right there my friends is where my Pareidolia kicked in and helped me out in a moment of crisis.

I looked at that logo and saw, without a doubt, the head of a crazy and alien-like superhero, later called Super Notifique (it’s something like Super Notify but it works better in Portuguese).

This time around, we manage to do an awareness video that really got kids engaged. Besides getting the message and understanding the concepts, they really loved the superhero and were always asking things about his powers and what else could he do.

Pareidolia as a helpful tool

As you see, seeing faces in unexpected places can be a good thing if you know how and when to use it.

Later on, I was talking about the character with my teacher, and she told me that she would have never thought of using the logo as the head of the hero. According to her, she never saw a face in there before and she would, most likely, use it as a shield or a symbol in the hero’s armor.

I can’t tell you how happy I was that I was able to do something different from the ordinary and yet appealing enough for kids.

So now is your turn. Let me know if you are seeing faces everywhere now that you now what Pareidolia is or if you, are like me and have always seen them!

Also published on Medium.