Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Character Design Tip #1

You will be more valuable as a character designer if you can design what your client is seeing in their head. In order to be able to do this, before anything else, you need to know what they are seeing, or what they want. I like to ask a slew of questions to figure out what they are looking for. You cannot leave the meeting with the client saying"I'll know it when I see it" This is asking for about 50 revisions and like finding a needle in a haystack. You need to take out the variables and ambiguity out of the conversation, remember scary,cool or appealing can mean different things to different people. Many people are from different cultures or generations so rather than assume, keep on asking questions to get a more tangible answer.

Here's an example of how NOT to do it.

Client: I would like a scary monster.

You: Okay, let me get some sketches done.

I know this is over simplified, but you get the picture. As a designer, the more time you spend in revisions, the less value you get, not to mention the mounting frustration of not being able to hit what the client wants. Don't let the client be wishy washy, make them give you responsible direction, in turn they will see their idea put on paper faster.

This next example takes up more front end time, but it's exponentially faster than doing 10 more revisions on the back end.

Client: I need a scary monster.

You: Humanoid? Amorphous blob? Four legged with razor sharp teeth? Decaying tendriled nightmare?

Client: Hmmm, humanoid, like a flesh eating Zombie.

You: Okay, what stage of Zombification? Just turned 10 minutes ago and is a confused pale skinned human, or a zombie that's been eating off of human brains for 2 weeks in a state of severe decay?

Client: Maybe he's been one for awhile, eating a lot of people.

You: So if that's the case, maybe you want to play him as being an overweight decaying zombie? He may be more scary if he's physically big and intimidating rather than the typical emaciated zombie.

Client: Good point, I hadn't thought of that, sounds good!

Now a lot of the variables have been taken out, you know what to draw and the client himself has a clearer picture of what they want. Through this discussion, you can even prove instrumental to helping them visualize what they want!




Blogger shoham blau said...

yeah, been there done that.
in the end they wanted to go another way...

1:32 AM

Blogger Chad said...

Hey great topic. I often need a refresher in this kind of thinking and it's really great to read about what you know and how to deal with it. Thanks for sharing the wealth man.

Any tips and experience on Pitching or even presenting yourself to potential clients?

7:27 AM

Blogger Djordje Zutkovic said...

Interesting. Im still in school so I dont need to think about this for a good while but its good to keep in mind. Thanks a lot for the tip!


8:32 AM

Blogger eugene commodore said...

Teach on man

3:22 PM

Blogger alero! said...

I had a couple of knuckle head clients that diddnt no what they wanted! and it wasted a great deal of my time! that i said hey get your idea first! then i sketch it out! they wised up finially!! cause if they didnt (shaking fist in the air!!)
you have anymore tips :??

1:28 PM

Blogger Kevin said...

Really good topic Jeff, I have found the same sort of hurdles doing freelance that the client always says I want this _______ and then I have tried to get them to be more specific however they keep saying I trust you go ahead, and then 25 revisions later it is what they actually wanted.

5:29 PM

Blogger francis tsai said...

nice man. i've been in that other spot too many times.

9:24 PM

Blogger francis tsai said...

by the way, nice work! i've been a fan since the "kaboom" days.

9:25 PM

Blogger Nathan said...

Hey Jeff just wanted to say that i thought your character designs on the Jackie Chan series were awesome especially the 7 immortals! Keep up the good work champ!

6:02 PM

Blogger Steve Musgrave said...

Good tips. I've always thought about getting into character design so it's interesting to learn more about it.

6:50 PM

Blogger Xavier2501 said...

Thats some really good advice!! Its so difficult getting vague ideas of what people want to have done. I deal mostly with bands on that.

11:56 AM

Blogger Paul Brown said...

Does anyone by any chance kno where would be a good place to look for an animation internship? Ive tried looking but Ive came up with nothing repeatedly. I guess I just wanted to kno a good place to at least start looking.
Also what tips would you suggest to someone who would be planning to present alot of his own orginal show ideas in the future?

8:12 AM

Blogger PixelCreatures said...

Thank you for doing this Jeff.
Your work is a GREAT source of inspiration.
I can't wait to read the next tip!

9:24 AM

Blogger Teyon said...

Wonderful to read this and it's so true and goes for designing anything. Be it an album cover, character, poster, whatever, if you're working for someone try to get the most information about what they want out of them as you can. It saves you loads of headaches and keeps the client happy.

8:28 PM

Blogger Randy Siplon said...

Jeff, you are definitely an inspiration. I hope to see more posts like this from you in the future. Your insight greatly appreciated. Thanks!

4:39 PM

Blogger Kevin said...

Jeff, wow great advice. Especially when working with "clients" that don't know what they want or are really vague. Pulling things out their heads that they think we already assumed with they had in mind.

3:27 PM

Blogger Milan Rubio said...

Superb advice!
Thanks Jeff.

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