Project Face Design


Project Face Design

Face Design by Marsha Wichers.jpg

Project Face Design is a design research project about the effect of facial enhancement on the human condition by Marsha Wichers. Besides her work as a cosmetic doctor, Marsha also has an education in fine art and design. She is specialized in sculpture, 3D scanning and Computer Aided Design of the human body.  


Marsha: "Facial enhancement has almost become a commodity these days. Everybody can buy full lips, botoxed skin and re-shaped cheekbones. But here lies a danger, our face isn’t a commodity".


"Our face is one of the most important parts of what makes us human and embodies our personality and individuality. If we go too far in facial enhancement, our faces will start to look unnatural and may communicate in a different way. Within my design research I wanted to gain insight in this matter because I think it is important to be aware of the side effects of our efforts to look young and beautiful".

"I think it is important to be aware of the choices we want to make regarding the way we look as human beings. Especially with the coming technological age where we as humans will compete with artificial intelligence and robots".

"Medical technology provides us with the opportunity to soften the signs of ageing, but we should always respect and embrace our individual looks, with its imperfections, because that's an important part of what makes us human".


Marsha combined her knowledge of medical technical possibilities with an ‘out of the box’ design approach. She took her own face as a starting point for visualizing different design possibilities. The goal of project Face Design is to raise awareness and to start a discussion about societal and ethical issues regarding facial enhancement.


The use of Botox has increased enormously in the past 20 years. People are also starting to use it at a younger age. What is the effect of this trend on our (non-verbal) communication?

The number of Botox treatments in the US rose from 65 thousand in 1997 to more than 4.5 million in 2016. This trend is also reflected in the Netherlands. The taboo on the use of Botox is starting to disappear and more and more people want to improve their appearance. However, they are also afraid of "losing themselves": although they would like to be treated, many clients emphasize that it should look natural. They do not want anyone to notice that they have had something done to improve their appearance.  

But what can make a face look unnatural after Botox injections? The answer lies in differences in movement during facial experession.


Botox relaxes muscles in the face, but when too much Botox is used, you lose the ability to use your facial expression correctly. Then the facial expression starts to look strange and unreal. I have visualized this phenomenon by using myself as a test subject. I filmed myself making various facial expressions before and after having undergone a complete facial treatment with Botox. With emotion recognition software I measured the differences in emotion that my face radiated before and after Botox.


I have noticed how difficult it is to show anger when you can't frown or show disgust when you can't pull the corners of your mouth down. But strangely enough -after the Botox injections- it was also difficult to experience the emotion that was part of the expression. It was almost as if I felt less positive while smiling.


If Botox use continues to increase in our Western society, this could have an effect on the way people communicate with each other. They may not understand each other as well. It is also questionable what it means when young people start using Botox before their 25th year. Their brain is not yet fully grown and they are still learning how to use their faces in non-verbal communication in social interactions.


In short, ' work to do'  for the cosmetic industry to take more responsibility and to think about an age limit for cosmetic procedures.