Animated Character Design – The ‘Simple’ Truth


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Animated character design can be a tricky business. As with most things in life, you’ll know that the general rule of thumb is ‘keep it simple’, and in the case of animated character design it’s no different. However, in the development of commercial characters that are required to speak to a specific audience, development of what seems simple will usually have a good deal of thought put into it.

With our just-launched animation work for the Assembly for Wales, we were given a brief that gave a strict target demographic to appeal to. It was clear from the start that the characters we developed would ideally need to be non-gender and non-ethnicity specific.  They also needed to be able to convey the importance of voting in the 2016 Assembly elections in a fun, accessible, informal and inclusive way. The characters also had to work successfully across all media, from large screens down to smart phones.

These kind of restrictions are pretty standard for most projects, and also very important. The success of a character is only realised if it connects with its target audience. A tight brief with a specific audience in mind shouldn’t stifle creatively. On the contrary, it means that as designers and animators, we need to think even more creatively to answer the brief, to ensure that the right message is heading for the right audience.

As with any craft, there are always rules that will help guide us through the process. Knowing the audience is important, as is knowing where the animation  will appear. Making an animated character design distinctive is also crucial. But essential to most animation projects, (and definitely in the case of our assembly animations) personality is key. How a character responds in different situations, in their facial expressions and body language is what brings them to life. However ‘boiled down’ and stylised a character is, they can still be injected with appropriate charisma that will connect with the viewer.

As I’ve said in previous articles, carefully considered and well thought out character design pays dividends. A simple character that is able to reflect a wide range of emotions can appeal to a broad audience and can work in any situation. It means they can convey any message, which means they can be deployed over a series of animations, have a longer shelf life and become a strong part of your marketing armoury.

Many of the animations we develop have a potentially complex message to deliver. The more a character is equipped to succinctly express that message, through personality, emotion, expression and gesture wrapped in a simple package, the more appealing, memorable and successful a campaign will be.

If you want further advice on developing animated characters as part of your next marketing campaign then simply get in touch with me at dave@savageandgray.co.uk

Character Design
English and Welsh Language
HD Animation

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