The Importance of Not Settling

Just wanted to quickly run through a character design I've been working on in my spare time and touch on the importance of never "settling" on a design you're content with.

It's key to leave your art for a couple days and take a fresh look at it. Here's what I mean ...

This little guy's name is Norman. He and I have a LOOOONG history. He was even the subject of my BFA show back in college. But lately I've been trying to tailor him more for video games. Long story short, after I developed Norman into the guy on the left up there, I was pretty content with myself. He had the more squat proportions of the kind of character I was trying to capture and I was satisfied with his overall design.

Then I gave it a couple weeks ...

I came back to Norman, ready to start animating him. I thought of all the cool animations I was going to make to amplify his personality and really make him a relatable, dynamic, eventual-hero type ..... but the Norman I came back to seemed SO stale now! I knew I needed to make some changes before I could move any further with this little dude.

Here's a bulleted list of the changes I made and why:

  • his hair - while I liked the Dennis the Menace vibe his hair had, I was not a fan of how much it covered up his brow. Since the brows are a MAJOR tool in conveying a character's emotion, I decided he needed a new 'do. (If you didn't catch it, his new hair is totally inspired by hatless Mario ... just amplified.)
  • his face - all of the features on his face were just reading as too "safe" ... and by that I mean that nothing was really exaggerated too much. Now granted, I didn't want a crazy stylized design for this character, but I didn't want him to feel so vanilla. So I made his muzzle a smidge longer and flattened it out a bit, I made his eyes a tiny bit larger, rounded out his previously oval-ish pupils, gave him a wider, more expressive mouth, and puffed his cheeks out a little. All of the tweaks I made to his face were SUPER minimal, but the altogether difference resulted in exactly the facelift he needed.
  • his ears - decided to have a bit of fun with his ears as well, making them larger to give him a goofier, more awkward appearance.
  • his arms - I made them just a LITTLE longer because they were throwing his proportions off a tad
  • his legs - I felt that his eventual animations would be a little more fun if he had some nice big "beanbag" feet to match his "beanbag" forearms/hands. It also helps keep your eyes on more important features since his legs are basically cylinders and all of the other shapes are a bit more dynamic. Now I can see him animating a bit more like a sackboy with most of his weight at the bottom of his body.
  • his markings/colours - this was a big change, and one I'm really happy with. He was looking a bit too much like a teddy bear, so I decided to play up some distinct markings that would make him a more ambiguous species. So I blended his original markings with red panda / firefox markings to give him a fresher, more unique look.

So yeah - SUPER happy with how this little guy's design has finally turned out. He's fresher, but still retains all of the appeal his original design had. And that's why it pays to never "settle" when it comes to design ... be it character design, environment design, even graphic design. Walk away from your work and come back to it with fresh eyes. Think about your intent for the design and make sure you've done everything you can to set yourself up for executing on the intent. That is what concept work is all about, after all. =)