Thursday, January 28, 2010

Physiognomy of cars

What kind of car do you drive? I drive a Subaru Forester. I wonder if it, like a profile says anything about me?
I want to talk about the Physiognomy of the cars we buy. In the Pixar movie Cars, John Lasseter and Joe Ranft took varieties of cars and turned them into
 specific characters based on what I believe is there usage, associations  and looks. Most cars have a front common to them with two lights, hood, plates, grill, windows and bumpers. What most cars have is a face. By looking at cars you can see clearly that head lights make the eyes, the hood ornament is the nose and bumper becomes the mouth. Cars in general like faces seem to also have personality. Like the physiognomy of faces in Lavatar's books which depict the profiles of faces as having a certain precursor to the kind of person, tendencies or even social class.  

Cars have the same kind of physiognomy. Only this is a physiognomy both 
understood, and marketed 
to the public.  For instance the Bug is made up of soft curved 
circular lines with circular lights making the car receptive and perhaps happy. The curvy and springy lines and the over all happy face might classify this car as a girlish or 
feminine car. It's hard to see a lumber jack from Colorado squeezing into a baby blue Bug. He might be more inclined to buy the functional masculine truck with a broad and serious face.
  Like in the movie Cars many of the characters seemed paired perfectly with the car they were linked to. For instance Mater and the tractors made a relationship between the less educated out-in-the sticks country farmer and the dumb cows roaming the fields verses the fast pace sports car. 

I believe people for the most part pick out a car to purchase which matches their personality. Or rather a car is made to fit a certain personality which we classify our selves with. We can all guess as to the type of personality cars like the Toyota Prius, Jeep Wranglers, Dodge Mini-vans, Ford pick up's and Dodge Charger's are are trying to market by embodying the expressions in the exterior and interior of the very personalities they are trying to attract. So in a sense cars can be thought of as allegories of person types.
  It is a bit odd that cars seem to have a facial expression, some with folding lights that can even wink at you, but when met face to face the car can act as an extension of ourselves and caricatures of our personalities.


  1. I agree with you to a certain point, I agree that a lumberjack would probably prefer a pickup to a bug. However I think there are a lot of exceptions and limits when it comes to relating to your personality. For example my dad drives a 1972 Triumph Spitfire. He is six feet tall and has a black belt in Karate. The small sports car does not reflect his physiognomy, in fact the car is misleading.

    I disagree with you because unlike cartoon characters we only have so many options when it comes to cars. Cost, gas mileage, color, seating and other accessories really limit us. So I think that cars do act as an extension to our personalities, but are more general in describing who is driving.

  2. I also agree with you to a point. Cars have obvious personality and 'facial expression' in the way they look, but i do not think it always has something to do with the personality of the driver, although that is not true for every situation.

    I also think that houses have a same kind of personality and almost face like quality that cars do. They too do not necessarily reflect the personality of the owner.

    You should research dogs and they uncanny resemblances to their owners. now that's some physiognomy!

  3. This is a nice comparison- I definately get a sense of physiognomy through car design and can also kind of infer who would drive certain models/ types. Especially those cars that are particularly expensive. Also the types that are stereotyped such as "soccer mom vans." I think the sketches are a big help in this argument, along with an actual illustration of Cars- the movie, where personality coinsides with the model and age/year of the car.

  4. Agreed...linking your car to your personality can be a far shot in some cases, but in many ways a lot can be gathered about a person based upon the preferences they choose. So I think i might re-phrase that if you could "choose" your own car it might reflect some of your personality traits. ( need for speed, care for the enviorment, saving money, travel capabilities, storage capacity, seating)

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