I want to take a moment to talk about stick figures – the ubiquitous human figure, the great equalizer in portraiture art – the lines and dots. Anyone who can draw relatively straight lines and a circle can construct one – which opens up a world of possibilities.

[see: xkcd – a great webcomic which utilizes stick figures to convey thoughts about the world.]


Contributed by Steven Ellis, super-genius

I was curious about the origin of the stick figure so I did a little research and I uncovered a fascinating lecture someone already presented on the topic, so I thought I’d save some time explaining and just share the link, because he tells it better than I can:

If you want to see the slideshow from his lecture, it’s also here:

It seems that stick figures have been in use long before the 1900s, however, for instance here’s on the left you can see a photograph of a human figure etched into stone at Fort Ancient in Jackson County, Ohio, thought to be prehistoric in origin.


The symbol is an expression of human existence throughout history, from cave-painting, to hieroglyphics, to male and female restroom indicators, to friendly emoticons, the stick figure is the quintessential human presence in the canvas of a story.


  • What are some other instantly recognizable universal symbols?
  • What does the stick figure represent? Does it exclude anyone?
  • If you wanted to create a universal method of discourse, what images might you use and why?
  • What does the stick figure include in its representation of the human body? What does it omit? What sort of ideology does this selective portrayal exhibit?

Leave a reply below!




Furthermore, if you’re up for an adventure:



One thought on “:)-|-{

  1. This is pretty interesting! I’ve never even considered the origin of the stick figure. I always just assumed that it was something that people did because they wanted to rapidly convey the message of a person.

    Part of me feels like the guy on the video might be over-thinking it a bit (as well as the scientists from back in the day). Having said that, it is a pretty neat insight into the communication of the world.

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