The Guardian reports on an interesting study that suggests police should skip photofit composites and go with exaggerated caricatures of criminals instead.

A study at the University of Central Lancashire found that over-emphasising prominent features on people’s faces made them twice as easy to identify than before… On average, a photofit face was correctly identified 20% of the time, compared with 40% for the caricature, according to a report in this month’s Visual Cognition journal.

That’s really interesting. Getting closer to the truth by warping reality. Point out what’s different, what’s obvious, what’ll really help to identify someone. After all, positive identification — not photorealism — is the ultimate goal.

If the guy has a distinctive chin, play that up in the sketch. If he has distinguishing eyes, highlight them. If he has a unique crook to his lips, draw ‘em so you can’t miss ‘em.

A photorealistic sketch is an exercise in accuracy, but an exaggerated caricature is an exercise in identity. Of course this is just one study, but it’s an interesting look at what really matters to get a job done.