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Posted by on Mar 14, 2018 in Tell Me Why | 0 comments

What Are Identikit and Photofit?

What Are Identikit and Photofit?

The identikit system of building up a picture of someone sought by the police was developed in the United States of America in 1960 by Hugh MacDonald. It consists of transparent sheets on which are drawn different shapes of faces, eyebrows, noses, mouths and other physical features. These are interchangeable and can be put together according to witnesses’ descriptions, thus presenting in one picture their impressions of a wanted person’s appearance.

Identikit was, in due course, replaced by a later system called Photofit which uses photographs instead of linear drawings. Photofit was invented by Jacques Penry, a facial topographer who had been researching the subject since 1938, before Identikit was developed. Penry used photographs of facial features, which gave a better image of the suspect’s face, rather than the line drawings of Identikit.


Both systems are based on ideas similar to those developed in 1879 by Alphonse Bertillon, a French criminologist. Bertillon’s system, which was used in many countries until the turn of the century, was founded on three basic principles: that the precise measurements of certain parts of the body can readily be obtained; that these measurements remain constant in a fully grown person; and that no two human beings have exactly the same measurements.

Although most of Bertillon’s work involved accurate measurements of the body, an important feature was the portrait parle’ or descriptive portrait. This was a system of sectional photography introduced to replace the hap-hazard methods of the time. As technology and computer systems developed further, the current system in use is E-FIT, launched in October 1988, and now developed and marketed by Aspley Ltd. It allows an operator to draw on a library of features stored within the computer, and then alter features, using special software, to match a witness’s description.

In the last two decades, a number of computer based facial composite systems have been introduced; amongst the most widely used systems are SketchCop FACETTE Face Design System Software, “Identi-Kit 2000”, FACES, E-FIT and PortraitPad. In the U.S. the FBI maintains that hand-drawing is its preferred method for constructing a facial composite. Many other police agencies, however, use software, since suitable artistic talent is often not available.

Content for this question contributed by John Merion, resident of Milliken, Weld County, Colorado, USA