Vivek Rai was sending me by email a pretty cool picture from a school task he had about creating characters. He asked me some tips about: How to generate ideas to create Character design?

Vivek question animation character design story board.png

Vivek Rai – Initial research of character design for a school project

The whole idea is to make interesting features pop out. How?

We need a story.

A good story gives his characters specific role and personality for each of them.
This is where we get all our inspiration from to “translate” them visually.

You can find a great book about How to write stories like PIXAR.

Pixar storytelling book

This is not a coincidence that Disney, Pixars, Marvels… use animals attributes to their movies.

To create a hero, you need find ways to illustrate his personnality visually.
And it happened that we can find a lot of inspiration in nature.

For example:
A vilain could be inspired from an alligator. His features are sharp, thick skin, dangerous…
However, an innocent personality could be found in an innofensive animal like a puppy.

TIP: Try to apply this to product design!
What expression, personnality would you like to give to your product creation? How it will influence its attributes?

I share with you the full response I have sent to Vivek below. I hope it will be also useful to you too ! 🙂


If your ideas looks “too simple”,
your proposals may be too common and need to be spiced up!

A great way to do it is to attribute ONE MAIN ATTRIBUTE for each character you create.
Think of the Incredible family from Disney/Pixar.
Each member has its own features.
  • The dad is strong, proud and a lovely daddy.
    His physical features: He has a big chest, he’s huge, his face is squarish but also chubby.
  • The mom is responsible and wish having a normal life for the family.
    She’s the only one who has a more common body- even though her super power of elasticity is very cool. She’s slim though and has hips.
  • The daughter is shy.
    She’s slim hiding behind her black hair and her power is invisibility! So she can hide whenever she doesn’t feel confortable.
  • Dash, the little brother is fast, hyperactive, love sports, love competition, he’s spontaneous…!
    His small and his main power is speed! Like the mouse Speedy Gonzales.
the incredibles character design research from pixar
For each attribute you give, stick to them.
So everything will make sense, and the story will be easy to understand for your audience.
If there is anything you wanna add just because it looks cool, you have to think twice about it. If it doesn’t bring value or make sense to the story. Remove it. It mlight be noise. Remember that : “Less is more.” 🙂
My tip is: Before drawing anything. Ask and find the MAIN attribute first. Think of your character personality. What was his past story? Where does he come from? What does he dream of ?
When you are ready,  start drawing many doodles exploring different alternatives !


An other TIP for your HERO to be even more lovable: Think of his WEAKNESS!
Any hero is lovable because he has a weak point. No one is perfect. So people can relate more to the hero.
Before Spider-Man was created, every super hero was perfect. They were invincible, and had “no problems”. Till one day, Stan Lee bring in the idea of Spider-man, a teenager getting bullied at school.
It was a rocket success! Since, heroes get closer to humans emotionnally.
We somehow feel a reflection of us to them.

Heroes are no perfect!

The qualities of a hero are as much important as their weakness.
Judy Hoops, the rabbit of Zootopia wants to become Police officer but she’s weak and small!
However she’s smart, courageous, ressourceful, and has a strong sense of justice.
zootopia rabbit expression a


It’s a rat that has a super sense of smell and he can cook!
So his dream is working in a 3 star restaurant!!
Nobody believe in him.
And they use his super sense to detect poisonous food.
Super extreme, and super catching story.
Everybody will wonder. How is that possible?
So we wanna see all the obstacles he’s gonna meet.
Because he’s not perfect, he’s adorable, and will live plenty of unpredictable situations!
Ratatouille character design.png
A great characters has a goal, a passion, a strong belief that will face obstacles along the story despite of its weakness.
To learn further, I recommend you to discover and buy your favourite artbooks from the closest book shop from the cinema corner. You can see more on the article about the artbooks here.
Hope it helps!
PS : All art and design domains are related.
Even though your major may be product design, open your field of discovery to architecture, animation, video games, movies… and so on. Inspiration can come from anywhere.


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