The past ten years have been a boom time for “the character” and “character based art”. As with any trend there comes a time when what was once unique becomes formulaic and blase’.
Characters these days can generally be divided into two categories.
1. The Sanrio style: big heads on tiny bodies, which makes every character look like a baby.
2. Any inanimate object festooned with little stick arms and legs, tiny dot eyes, and a finger nail clipping smile.
Both of these conventions certainly have proven themselves throughout advertising history, and that is why they are the most prevalent features of characters these days. Not only do they have “retro cachet” but they are easy to create and most importantly… THEY WORK!
Their power lies in their cuteness. You can put any object on top of a tiny pudgy body, or in front of those little arms and legs and we want to bring these characters home and tickle them. They’ve been used to sell just about everything from unhealthy food products, to cleaning supplies, and even machine parts. I have used both conventions in some of my projects.
Characters need to have personalities and say more than just, “I’m cute” or “I ‘m cool”. Especially now that characters have evolved from simple pitchmen into a category of artistic expression.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been cooking up a new batch of characters and making a conscious effort to push them in new directions. I’ve been focusing on creating and playing with shapes and features that don’t come with a ton of associative baggage. This has been really exciting and challenging. I’ve been taking a photographers ” You need to take a roll of film to get one good shot” approach in this early sketching phase, just putting as much down as possible, not editing, and going in many different directions.
We’ll see where this all goes.