Creating Compelling Characters: A Guide To Character Design In Video Animation

Many of us can think of at least one animated character that we relate to.

Whether it is a favorite superhero or a character in an explainer video introduction, something about them made us sit up and pay attention (or tie towel capes around our necks and save the world, both are very acceptable responses). 

That’s a clear indicator of good character design right there, and it’s one of the most important elements in video animation. 

The Fundamentals Of Character Design In Video Animation

It’s impossible to overemphasize the critical role of character design in video animation or the influence of characters on storytelling and audience engagement.

Viewers connect with characters’ personalities, emotions, and sometimes even their appearance. It is these elements that connect audiences far and wide with the world on screen. 

Without good character design, it would be difficult (see near enough impossible) to communicate emotions, advance plot lines, or make a lasting impression.

Character design includes an array of elements such as physical appearance, clothing choices, facial expressions, quirks, and colour palettes as parts of a visual language.

It tells wordless stories and helps anchor the video’s visual identity, so it’s important to get it right.

Designing characters for video animation is vastly different from designing for static media or motion graphics.

Animation uses fully developed characters and worlds, is story-driven, and must find a balance between artistry and information.

Motion graphics, on the other hand, tend to be informative, communicate abstract concepts, and usually don’t include characters or textured backgrounds.

Less visually complex, they tend to focus on moving objects, shapes, colours, and background elements.

Audiences might appreciate those elements for adding some visual interest, which in turn will boost engagement, but they’re not likely to feel an emotional connection to a spinning brand logo.

Essential Elements Of Compelling Characters

Designing characters that will make a lasting impression on audiences is a bit like trying to build a LEGO set using much less detailed instructions than you find in the box, which we can all agree is a tricky task.

You know what the basic elements are, but you need to figure out the rest. Character design’s essential elements include non-visual as well as visual characteristics.

It’s important to know who the characters are before designing the visuals for them, as the non-visual characteristics are what the audience really connects with.

These elements include backstories for depth and quirks, personality traits, relationships with other characters, motivations and goals, signature mannerisms that reflect personality, maturity level, values, tone of voice, and style of humour.

When we know who the character is, we can start designing what they look like. 

The visual elements include their physical attributes and wardrobe, shapes and lines, silhouette, proportions and exaggeration, expressions, posture and stance, colour, shading, texture, and scale.

All these elements must align with the character’s non-visual characteristics to create a character that is coherent and relatable.

Put all this together the right way, and you have a potential icon that could send Mickey, Elsa, and the rest of them to Shady Pines.

Design Process And Techniques

Everything we’ve just described and more forms part of the process Perspective Pictures’ animated video design studio uses to design compelling animated characters. 

The process begins with conceptualisation, researching the audience and message, and creating character profiles.

The next step involves creating rough sketches before refining the details of the most promising designs.

When that’s done, we move on to digital rendering, where the refined sketches are transferred to digital format. This involves line art, choosing a colour palette, and adding shading and textures. 

Next come the steps specific to video animation. The techniques in this step include exaggerating features and movements, stylising by incorporating unique elements aligned with the brand identity, and considering motion to ensure expressiveness and fluidity.

Last but not least, we put the final touches on the character, checking for consistency and using stakeholder feedback to perfect it. 

The result? An animated character that resonates with audiences and leaves a lasting impression.