Character Design: What It Is and Why It’s Important

By Michael Jones

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Picture Mickey Mouse, Batman, and Homer Simpson. It’s easy, right? That’s because they’re just a few examples of character designs that are instantly recognizable worldwide. Keep reading below as we answer the questions of what character design is and why it’s important.

What Is Character Design?

Character design is the process of brainstorming, sketching, outlining, and drawing fictionalized persons or non-human beings, often from scratch. Designers imbue these beings with unique personalities and characteristics, such as their physical appearances, speech patterns, movements, and personalities. They do much of this work in professional industries using model sheets, which help the designers workshop each character’s visual appearance and features together with other designers. Once the designs are complete, they should be distinctly identifiable to anyone viewing the characters.

Model Sheets

In creative arts, a model sheet is a document that helps designers standardize the look, positions, and motions of characters in animations, comics, and video games. Model sheets are also called character studies, character sheets, or character boards. They help various artists working on a project maintain a feeling of consistency in the posture, facial expressions, and body language of characters from one scene to the next. For example, one artist can use a model sheet to reference what a character looks like when running. In contrast, a different artist might reference the model sheet for a scene where that character smiles in a conversation.

Why Is Character Design Important?

It’s easy to imagine how someone like Homer Simpson talks, how he would move in different settings, and what he might look like when he’s mad or sad. The ability to picture characters as real beings results from excellent character design, which breathes life into fictionalized portrayals of humans and non-human beings. No matter how imaginative or grounded a character might be, successful ones generally have personalities, visual characteristics, or other key attributes that people can instantly recognize. These characters can then exist in a broad range of media and even move from video games to cartoons, animated films to comic books, and more.

Who Creates Character Designs?

A character designer is a person who creates characters for visual arts mediums, such as movies, television shows, comics, and video games. These could be entirely original characters they’ve developed themselves. Alternatively, designers might work off a snippet of an idea or a script from a studio. They’re skilled at translating a character’s personality and physical characteristics into an expressive drawing and giving them distinctive, recognizable traits.

Hopefully, this guide has helped you learn more about what character design is and why it’s important. If you’re interested in learning the skills to become a character designer, MoGraph Mentor offers an animation foundation course that can help teach you the necessary fundamentals. We’re here to help you translate your ideas into reality.


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