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.


Over the past 20 years, the use of Botox has increased dramatically. Not only are more and more people using Botox, 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 want to be treated, many clients emphasize that it should look natural. They don't want anyone to notice that they've had a cosmetic procedure.​

But what can make a face look unnatural after Botox injections?

It's in the way the face moves. 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 mimicry will look strange and unreal. ​ I visualized this phenomenon by using myself as a test subject. I filmed myself making various facial expressions before and after a full Botox facial. With emotion recognition software I measured the differences in emotion that my face radiated before and after Botox treatment.


I've noticed how hard it is to show anger when you can't frown your brows or show disgust when you can't pull the corners of your mouth down. But strangely enough, it was also difficult to experience the emotion that was part of the expression, after undergoing the Botox injections. So it was almost like I felt less positive while laughing. ​


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


So I think there is work to be done for the cosmetic industry to take more responsibility and think about an age limit for cosmetic procedures.