Character Design – Creating the Right Character for Your Company
Since joining Design By Day I’ve been lucky enough to work on a lot of projects that have involved character design.
Characters can sometimes be tricky to get right, but I always find them fun to work on and seeing the final characters in action is definitely one of the most rewarding parts of my job.
So what is a character then?
A character is basically a representation of a person or being. The beauty of character design is that this can literally be anything! Two dots that represent eyes placed on a circle, a banana with a mouth or a fully functioning man, women, child or monster, the possibilities are endless!
What are characters used for and how can they help your business or organisation?
Characters are used to tell stories. Since cavemen painted images of people onto cave walls over 35,000 years ago right up until modern day Disney animations we have been using characters in the same way. This makes them the perfect tool to pass on information to viewers.
Characters are friendly, fun and familiar, which makes people not only take notice of them, but enjoy looking at them. And as I mentioned earlier, the beauty of characters is that they are really flexible. They can be used as part of a company’s brand, or to explain a new product, system, process or problem. They are unique and can be designed to represent any person, place or story in a way that is relevant to your business or organisation.
The process – how we design characters
Character design starts much in the same way as any other design work – with a conversation/meeting and then a brief.
Once we fully understand the company, their target audience, their message and the tone of voice needed we start researching. We look at existing characters, colours and styles, then we share them in order to find a relevant and honest direction to take the character design in.
Then its time to open the sketchbook and draw out the rough shapes of an initial character. This may not look anything like the final character, but its good to get initial thoughts down onto paper before moving onto the computer.
Next we take these initial sketches/ideas into Adobe Illustrator. Sometimes we’ll scan in sketches, other times we’ll just look at them while drawing the character directly into Illustrator. A good starting point is the head and face. This can be created using layered geometric shapes on a grid or shapes drawn with the pen tool or it could be a mixture of both.
The character then goes through lots of different changes and development within Adobe Illustrator. Eyes can change shape and size many times on the same character. A nose can be added and then taken away. Skin and hair colour is changed and tweaked until the right colours are found that work well together. The rough initial idea then starts to look a bit more like a fully formed presentable character. At this stage we also get feedback from each other, as the person working on it can sometimes miss obvious things from looking at the same thing for too long. Smaller details of the character are added once we’re happy with how the face and body are looking.
Then its time to share our initial designs with our client and get their thoughts and feedback. We might share 3 different initial characters and scene ideas, although sometimes we already have a clear direction for the character and share just 1.
Usually we will then have some further changes to make to the character. Once everyone is happy with the initial character and it has been signed off we will create any other characters needed in the same style as the original and go through the same feedback and amends process with each of them.
Once all the characters have been signed off they are ready for action!
The characters can then be used in lots of different ways, here’s some examples of how we’ve used them in the past:
As part of a company’s brand – National Elf Service
To communicate a company’s core values – Workstars
To explain a process – Oat Kulture
To explain a problem and raise awareness – M4D
To advise in a fun and engaging way – Young Person’s Safety Briefing