by N. Müller and V. Heerde


  1. We take pictures of surfaces or objects looking for shapes we recognize/associate, such as a face, an animal or a certain figure.
  2. We use the pictures taken as material and inspiration to design a character.

DURATION: 2 to 4 teaching hours


  • Handy with camera in good shape
  • Computer and Beamer to watch the photos taken (optimal)
  • For the second part we need a Computer with image editing software like Photoshop or Photopea.


The basis of this exercise is the phenomenon called Paredolie. According to Wikipedia Pareidolie “refers to the phenomenon of recognizing supposed faces and familiar beings or objects in things and patterns. Well-known examples of pareidolia include passing clouds whose shapes are reminiscent of everyday things”.

Perception is a creative process that requires the resolution of visual problems. In this exercise we consciously use selective perception to playfully rediscover our environment with “new eyes”, fantasy and associative skills. 


This exercise has 2 variations. The first one has as final product the photos taken. The second one uses the photos as material to design a character.

1. Inspirational input

15 min. We explain what is Pareidolia and show several examples.

We show examples as the images below and comment them with the students. They are asked to solve the ambiguities in the images and to associate freely.

It is also important to mention that the pareidolie principle is widely used in industrial design. Designers use this principle to convey qualities associated with the brand of their product. They can be shown examples from the automobile industry.

2. The students go out in search of the images

50 min. The students have to go out in search of traces (shapes, patterns, etc.) and capture them with the camera.  It can be in a tree, on the ground, on the walls or in the buildings surrounding us. When we stop to observe, we discover a variety of shapes such as faces, animals, bodies, etc. To identify these shapes we need careful observation, associative capacity, playful spirit, fantasy and selective perception.

3. Pause (10min)
4. FEEDBACK ROUND (1st part)

20 min. We comment on the captured images. An online padlet is very convenient for students to upload the photos taken. In order to comment them in plenum, it is optimal to have a beamer. Here are some examples made by 14 years old kids:

5. Technical Input

20 min. For the second part, it is of advantage that students know the basics of image editing in Photoshop. Selecting, cutting and separating parts into different layers. If not, we have to make a technical input where they learn these basic functions.

6. character design

60 min. We choose one of the pictures taken. What does the character in the photo suggest to us? We freely interpret what kind of character we have captured and what its shape would be like. In case we have to cut out the shape, we try to design our character according to a simple basic shape, a square, a circle, a triangle, etc. My advice is to make the hands and legs of the character as rubber sticks.

Students happily work on their characters and are asked to give a name or nickname to their characters.

7. Feedback round (2nd part)

15 min. We look at all the characters and try to figure out what kind of personality they have. We comment on the form, posture and expressiveness of the character. Below are some of the characters made by 16-17 year old students:

This is an exercise that allows us to rediscover our environment with “new eyes”. We create new associations with things that have always been there, and suddenly, when we change the focus of our attention, we see the familiar as strange and the strange as familiar (a property of creative thinking).
For me as a teacher, it is always fascinating to see what the students photograph and the variety of associations that emerge.

#perception as creative process #selective perception #playing with ambiguities #free association #observing with fantasy