Today I am very happy to discuss with you a topic that is very dear to my heart. This is the topic of character design.
Character design is the art of creating compelling characters with emotions, feelings and that tell a story.
Personally I love character design because it allows you to hint at a wonderful world of mystery, joy, and adventure with just the shapes you use on said design.
You might be wondering what that means, here’s a simple example to better illustrate this idea.
Say you have two shapes in front of you, one is curvy in nature, something close to an oval, while the other is much sharper, think of a surprise balloon in a comic.
Now you have to name these shapes, and you only have two names. Boombla and Kaktuck.
Now the question is, which shape is Boombla, and which shape is Kaktuck?
9 times out of 10. Boombla will be the curvy shape, and Kaktuck will be the more aggressive sharper shape.
This is because the brain associates shapes with emotions. You might be more inclined to think that Boombla while only a shape is actually a nicer fellow, a more loyal, happier friend. Whilst Kaktuck might reserve adjectives like evil, angry, hard. It’s all in the shape.
Take for example these two characters created by MabsArts for their “Naked In the Garden Collection.” (https://society6.com/mabelma/collection/naked-in-the-garden)
While both are essentially the same thematic, each character is very unique in regards to the feelings and emotions they portray. “Sleeping Flower” is more supple, curvier, if one would guess how her personality is one might say: “shy, innocent, timid.” This is due to her more simple shapes, line work and covered body parts. In the other hand you have the “Golden Flower” this regal character looks remarkable with her sharper features, golden main of hair, and, uncovered breasts. This character would without a doubt seduce you, and bring your world upside down. Like a queen she lays there in the flowers.
It’s a beautiful display of anatomy, body shapes and emotion. A true delight to the senses.
Not only is this present in our designs, you can see the language of shapes in all sorts of designs, from the incredibly famous Mickey Mouse ears to the always pizza sliced Pac-man. Shape is the first milestone any character design needs to tackle before allowing the gates of creativity to open wide. Next time you are designing or just enjoying a good animated movie. Try and figure out what the shape of the character says about the character, and how it helps tell their story.
It doesn’t end here, you can even see this in life action movies, take for example Danny DeVito playing the Penguin in the Tim Burton, 1989 Batman film. If Danny DeVito had been a 6ft hunk of muscle, the penguin would just look ridiculous, but it’s his body shaped coupled with his wonderful acting that makes this rendition of the penguin one of the best ones.
Let us know how you use Shape Language when you design down in the comment section below.
We hope you enjoy this issue of the MabsArts blog. Join us tomorrow for another great read.