Please see the image. Just to write the copy, I had to place white color over the upper half of the person on the right side.

Is it okay to do so in graphic design or is it terribly wrong here?

PS: Copy size and number of lines/words may vary.

enter image description here

  • 7
    Behold, the Headless Anesthesiologist!
    – Vikki
    Jun 26, 2019 at 21:28
  • That looks half way between spooky and scary. Ok, more on the spooky side... Jun 27, 2019 at 17:44
  • As a non-designer, why wouldn't the bottom-left work?
    – anon
    Jun 27, 2019 at 20:38
  • 3
    @NicHartley the bottom left corner is always a horrible spot for content which you wish the viewer to actually see and recognize. It's kind of a "banner-blindness" corner. see this answer
    – Scott
    Jun 28, 2019 at 3:42
  • Having seen the non-headless version of the image provided in some of the answers, I actually think the version in the question is an improvement.
    – Pharap
    Jun 28, 2019 at 9:48

4 Answers 4


When advertising, especially something which involves the human condition such as medical care, you want the viewer to be engaged and connected as much as possible. Human faces tend to soften advertising and if the faces appear kind, welcoming, engaged, themselves, then viewers tend to subconsciously pick up on that and somewhat empathize with those emotions. Pulling them in and hopefully leading to sales/contacts.

So.. for medical treatments.. human faces = good.

Now, not having faces is fine. Without a "human connection" the general ROI of any such advertisement may not be as good as one with faces, but it would not be directly devalued. In other words, it wouldn't be working against itself. It simply may not be as engaging and as good at ROI as an advertisement with faces.

However.... covering faces, especially in an unnatural manner, does nothing other than the lower the ROI of any such advertisement. And I mean lowers it beyond what any non-face advertisement may result in. It's working against itself. It is specifically seen as unpleasant to viewers. It's fairly natural for most non-sociopathic humans to feel uneasy at the sight of someone missing a head, even if it's not "horror" related. It is a subconscious primal human reaction to a figure which is seen as not being complete. There's an unstated "that doesn't feel right." twinge some people may feel - percieved at a base level, before rational thought takes over, as damaged, broken, imaginary, etc. You typically do not want such things associated with the product/service you are advertising. So, covering faces unnaturally is just about the worst choice for something like a medical advertisement whether related to a procedure/treatment, a device used, or the doctor/patient.

In my book ---

  • Never cover human faces.
  • If a design isn't working unless a face is covered, find a different photo
  • Adjust the design so faces aren't covered unnaturally

Human faces should never be "covered".

Related: Cropping faces is generally fine. There's a different connotation if an image is cropped and a face is not visible. The same "unnatural twinge" from "covering" isn't conveyed when cropping. Humans tend to perceive "I just can't see the head.", which is different than "The head should be there but it isn't!!".

There's no "rule" or "guideline" regarding any of this which I am aware of.

However, my experience has clearly shown that medical sales related pieces always do better with faces - not always full heads, but at least eyes, nose, mouth... If the medical issue is related to extremities then images cropped to show hands/feet/whatever always do better than non-human-image pieces - but these pieces don't have the ROI that face-oriented pieces seem to have.

Specifically.... the photo you've chosen and how the head is covered, means there's some headless figure actually doing something to a person who appears in an incapacitated state and lying down... that, to me is a huge mistake -- unless the advertisement is for kidnapping or organ theft destined for the black market. :)

  • 3
    I recently saw an advertisement in a DealNews email for mens clothing that contained everything below the neck, and I can say that this fell squarely in the uncanny valley for me. Jun 25, 2019 at 17:54
  • 1
    Another example here: twitter.com/NDSUTrackField/status/1141408722767491072
    – Matt
    Jun 25, 2019 at 21:57
  • I always looked at such things as "mistakes" like cropping the limbs at joints. Or skewing something not enough to communicate that it's on purpose. I would blend the anesthesiologist even more (to his abdomen) with an elliptical shape that would focus viewer on holding hand in the lower left corner. Jun 27, 2019 at 7:51
  • @Matt Holy moly. That is shockingly bad. I’m more than a little surprised they don’t seem to have caught more flak for this, because it goes way beyond bad design and into really, really bloody offensive territory. It’s basically sending the message that they’re giving an award for best women’s coach, but they don’t really want to because they really hate women and just want them to disappear. I am frankly appalled that no one saw how egregiously bad that design is. Jun 27, 2019 at 16:29
  • Relevant XKCD
    – T. Sar
    Jun 28, 2019 at 16:18

A patch is always a scar on an image

The question is wrongly formulated. You are taking for granted the existence of another component as something of correct use and valid as a design element in any image: a patch.

I think before asking if you behead a character inside an image with a patch, you should ask:

Is it necessary to use a patch over an image?

One of my principles in design is to try to avoid as much as possible the use of patches on an image. Why?

  • The photographer has used much of his professionalism to locate, frame and arrange each of the elements in the composition of that image. A patch is a stain to the exercise of another professional.
  • As decorative as it may be, a patch is always a scar on an image
  • Any design element that is placed on top of an image must be balanced, shouldn't destroy the image, and should alter it as little as possible.

Before using a patch on an image, a series of questions can be asked:

  • Is the chosen image the right one?
  • Can the design elements (not the patch) to be placed on top find a better place to be located without altering the image?

If after all this analysis, the use of a patch is inevitable, then the questions such as where to locate the patch or how it should look can be asked. Try to make the patch part of the identity of that image by using design elements to integrate it. There are more than enough options before falling into the blurred destructive smoke cloud that occupies almost a quarter of the image.

enter image description here

  • 3
    @VikasKumar but at least the patch doesn't cover the whole top part of the person. It always looks a bit off to have a headless person in a photo. And perhaps you could crop the image differently? or put the logos in a different place? Or get a different image, sometimes it's necessary to fit the copy / elements.
    – Luciano
    Jun 25, 2019 at 10:31
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    @VikasKumar if the original copy lines are 2-3 words longer than this one and the logos are compulsory here, and the logo sizes will cover the head of that person, then read my answer again. The sketch I put in the answer is not the design you must choose, I guess you are professional enough to create something better than this. It's just a way of showing other ways to put a non-destructive patch over an image.
    – user120647
    Jun 25, 2019 at 10:41
  • 3
    @VikasKumar i agree with Luciano and daniellillo that you should go with better patch if possible then erasing it at all. you can either remove other parts or the best way to zoom out and crop the other person if possible. after all just make 3 or 4 compositions always and compare them all together! that is the best practice you can try . enjoy!
    – Mr.Online
    Jun 25, 2019 at 10:49
  • 1
    @VikasKumar By the way, when you say I can't use the design you presented, does this mean you are looking for a design proposal for your work? If so, you are looking for a free job, a clear reason to close your question.
    – user120647
    Jun 25, 2019 at 11:24
  • 5
    Just don't remark in a comment –I can't use the design you presented– because this wasn't the intention of the image and, as you said in this last comment, you aren't looking for an alternative to your design.
    – user120647
    Jun 25, 2019 at 14:13

Yes and No!

=> when it comes to branding all thing you should keep in mind and keep focused is = Brand name ; logo and what it clearly does or for what it is made (purpose) . and to achieve this you can do anything if your placed image is working as background (less focused)

but in your case the branding doesn't contain some main elements like logo etc so in that case your placed image takes place of your logo and so for that you should keep the main part of image and you should try to avoid erasing the person but...

if your brand is some kind of item rather than services then it is okay to erase the person and there is not any rule at all which you have to follow.

if you want to erase then erase and if you want to keep then keep but it's good practice if you avoid erasing and use another image where you can keep persons safe because some people might get offended!

and if you want to keep current image then there isn't issue at all because it already contains more then one main persons (doctor and patient)!

Edit : After reading scott and danielillo answer; i would suggest you to avoid erasing person at all as i mentioned before and if you want to add logos you might can heal the upper side of area to extend the image and then you can add something like navigation bar etc. and about the middle content you can follow danielillos guide which is avoid patching and use overlays to separate the items. see below image where i extended upper side while keeping below person same :)

enter image description here

  • 1
    yes it's okay as long as it doesn't affect on your product. like if that man have not any effect on the product then you can remove it :)
    – Mr.Online
    Jun 25, 2019 at 9:28
  • 1
    as i said ago if it's devices but not service then you are ready to rock :D just make sure you give focus to that devices as more as possible :)
    – Mr.Online
    Jun 25, 2019 at 9:44
  • 1
    some people might get offended: disagree, I believe the reason is that it becomes a distraction to have a person with cropped limbs in a composition, look at the one in the question: It just draws my eyes in the direction of that blank! See an interesting discussion here photo.stackexchange.com/questions/62202/…
    – Luciano
    Jun 25, 2019 at 13:22
  • 1
    @Luciano some people might get offended: yes, the photographer 😉
    – user120647
    Jun 25, 2019 at 14:50
  • 1
    Thank you, but I find Scott's answer more relevant here.
    – Vikas
    Jun 26, 2019 at 3:16

In this particular case, the face removal doesn't worry me in the slightest. If the product is care-based rather than medicine-technology-based it's even an improvement. Quite different to the example @Matt offered (below) where the sidelining of the woman is open to so many levels of criticism!

I certainly wouldn't suggest a general 'keep the face' rule.

enter image description here

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