Grimace shows you what emotions look like. Facial expressions are the universal language through which we communicate how we feel. They are understood worldwide and hardwired into our brains from birth. With Grimace, you can see how emotions and facial expressions are linked.

The design of the face is kept simple for a reason; it allows you to focus on the key features that make a difference. We leave out as much as we can so you can see the emotion as clearly as possible.

We'd love to hear from you. Tell us what you think about Grimace: hello@grimace-project.net


Oliver Spindler – Technical Lead

Oliver works as a web developer in Berlin, DE.

oliverspindler.com |

Thomas Fadrus – Visual Lead

Thomas runs a boutique web design studio in Vienna, AT.

fadr.at |


Grimace began life as a research project at Vienna University of Technology, Institute for Design and Assessment of Technology, under supervision of Peter Purgathofer. The project's goal was to find a non-verbal representation of emotions that can be integrated into interactive systems.

Our supervisor pointed us to the book Making Comics by Scott McCloud, a manual for artists on how to draw comics. In chapter 2, McCloud shows how to draw facial expressions and how they are intrinsically linked with our emotions.

The project's result was the Grimace Flash component. We created a demo page and a download bundle that allowed other developers and researchers to use Grimace in their own work free of charge.

Since the initial release, we received a lot of feedback. Looking at the responses, we realised that the demo page itself was proving useful to lots of people. We started to look for a better way to bring Grimace to a wider audience and decided to create an iOS version.

Emotion model

The nature of emotions is an ongoing scholarly debate. Over the years, many different explanations have been put forward, resulting in various emotion models. Most models are based on one of two major approaches. In the dimensional approach, emotions are described by a small number of independent dimensions – usually two or three. For instance, you can represent emotions along dimensions like “pleasure”, “arousal” or “intensity”. The categorical approach, on the other hand, assumes a finite number of basic, discrete emotions, each of which serving a particular purpose.

We use a categorical model in which there are six basic emotions:

Each of these emotions results in specific facial expressions we can all recognise. Furthermore, we can also feel more complex emotions, which are mixtures of two or more basic emotions in varying intensities. All of this will be reflected in the facial expression.

Further reading

Download the documentation of the original research project. It covers the theory and goes into detail on the technical implementation. The final chapter of Oliver's master's thesis is also dedicated to Grimace. Prior to the original release, Thomas conducted an online study which tested how well users could interpret the emotions displayed by Grimace.

Read the book that made Grimace possible: Scott McCloud – Making Comics.

Learn more about how to draw and observe facial expressions: Gary Faigin – The Artist's Complete Guide to Facial Expression.


Thank you to everybody who supported us in the development of Grimace.

We are especially endebted to Scott McCloud for his support, feedback and encouragement throughout the process.