Monthly Archives: September 2011

What makes a good character?


During the course of last year, via the visual language module, the animation module and reading in my own time, I further developed my perceptions and beliefs about character design. Here I will re-cap summarise and expand upon my current knowledge on the subject…

A good character should be able to appeal to the audience, either in a positive light or an antagonistic one: The character should have impact or leave an impression upon the audience, so that they are easily remembered but hopefully for the right reasons.

Even though they are on different ends of the moral spectrum, both heroes and villains can have character appeal and charm the audience.

If possible, the viewer should be able to identify with the character, or reach them on some emotional level.

 A good character should be visually distinctive or try to set itself apart from the crowd. Ways they can do this is a unique aesthetic or design ( e.g. Abstraction, simplicity, colour, construction.)

Another is their personality, so they may be instantly likeable, maybe heroic, funny, and intelligent, much like a real person.

(On that note, the audience should be prompted to believe that this character exists.)

 A good character should be able to transcend their original medium. For example, a 2D cartoon being rendered into 3D should still be able to hold their appeal. Equally, a comic book character that is then portrayed by an actor in live action should still hold the same set of traits and be true to its roots.

Christian Bale as Batman: embodies the iconic bat symbol in this shot.

(An EXCELLENT example of this is Robert Downey Jr in “Iron Man”. Another is Christian Bale’s incarnation of “Batman.”)

Colour is another important factor. Even though the design of a character should be identifiable through its design, colour can influence the audience’s perception of him before they even speak.

For example, Blue (Stereotypically) signifies goodness, tranquillity, Masculinity and depth… Obviously depending on the shade.

Also, a character should preferably be adaptable and easy to copy in case a team has to undertake their replication (the main example here is animation, but also applies to comics) and the designer should be able to supply a design sheet, complete with turnaround, facial expressions or emotional states and a swatch if necessary.