So some of it is gut feel? What seems right for each character?
Zenon: Well at times, but many decisions are defined by what’s been done before. For example society has already attached certain traits to certain shapes and sizes. Tall, short, fat, thin. Distinctive shapes based on personality traits.
We’ll take into account psychological shape associations, such as square shapes can mean strong, sturdy and stubborn. Round characters are seen as cute and unthreatening, or even trustworthy. Pointy and triangular can sometimes indicate a villain that’s sinister and evil. Again, these rules can be tweaked.
Ian: And we will exaggerate to make the character’s defining features do a lot of the work. The most obvious are facial expressions but poses can be just as expressive.
We also use signifiers and accessories. A combination of clothes, props, hairstyles, gender, race, body type and facial expression all contribute to the development of the character’s story, traits and background. They are extensions of their personality.
So you’re developing a unique character through these choices?
Ian: Well yeah, uniqueness is key to crafting an iconic character. Each needs their point of difference to be memorable and recognisable. We make each distinctive. This is when you can break the rules and go against the norm.
Borobi could have had a round, friendly head. He could have had soft, fluffy ears. But then he’d look like every other koala. We looked at his ear shape and pattern to give him a defining look. Also his hands and feet are unique. We incorporated his story here.
You’ve used this method of design to make some pretty recognisable characters.
Zenon: Thanks, yes we love it. Creating these characters is some of the most fun we have. We form a real connection with each of them along the way and when others ‘get them’ we get a real kick out of it.
Explore the guy’s work here: