You’ve decided your video marketing strategy could benefit from an animated marketing video. Great idea! Now you have a few decisions to make. One of the biggest is about your characters. Who are they? What do they look like? How do you make sure they resonate with your audience?
Animated character design can take a great idea from good to instantly relatable. We’ll help you narrow down your search for the perfect animated video star with this quick and simple guide to animated character design for business videos.
Animation gives you many styles to choose from—whiteboard animation, traditional 2D, sleek 3D, CGI, and text and motion graphics, to name a few. In almost all of these animation styles, your animated characters will be the center of attention. You want a character that tells your story, aligns with your brand, and resonates with your customers. That might sound like a lot for one imaginary person to achieve, but they can do it if you make some thoughtful choices from the beginning.
Questions to Guide Animated Character Design
To start designing your animated character, keep your audience in mind. You want a character that will appeal to your customers or clients. They should fit in with your other marketing efforts and amplify your message. Start your character design process by asking yourself three important questions:
1. What is the overall tone of your brand?
A warm, friendly brand might want a character that looks like your next-door neighbor. A goofy, fun brand might design something a little sillier (like a talking building or a purple bat wearing sunglasses.) On the other hand, an authoritative and knowledgeable brand might want a character that’s a little more straight-laced. Your animated character should convey a tone that complements your other branding and marketing efforts.
2. Are you looking for realism or whimsy?
One of the wonderful things about animation is the freedom to create. When it comes to character design, you’re limited only by your imagination. But whatever character you come up with should feel like a natural extension of your brand.
3. Should your character represent an idea or your ideal customer?
A character that looks like your ideal customer is easy to relate to. It invites viewers to cast themselves as the hero of the story. On the other hand, if your audience is broad and you don’t want to exclude anyone, you might want to create a character who is a little more abstract.
One of the benefits of animation is that anything can be your lead character: a cat, a can of beans, even a house. This video for Repipe shows how non-human characters can help get your message across.
3 Styles of Animated Character Design
Answering the three questions above should have gotten you thinking in the right direction. Now, let’s look at three popular character styles that might fit your video. Keep in mind that these styles aren’t the limit of what animation can do. Think of them as templates that you can customize as much as you need to.
Iconic Animated Character Design
Simple & Universal
Iconic animated characters are simple. That doesn’t mean they’re boring. You can convey a lot of emotion and story with a simple shape. You might use them when you want characters with universal appeal. If you’re looking for a character without gender, race, or age, the iconic character style might be the right choice for you.
Iconic animated character designs remove distractions and keep the focus firmly on your message. In the device tutorial below, the details of the character’s face and clothing don’t matter. What does matter is how the character engages with the product.
Iconic character design is often a great choice for B2B videos and information-heavy voiceover videos. Sometimes, the best characters blend into the background. Iconic characters get your message across without hogging the spotlight.
Editorial-Style Animated Character Design
Clean & Professional
Editorial-style animated characters look more like real people. They’re drawn proportionally and move through space in predictable ways. These characters are cleanly drawn with more complexity than iconic characters.
Editorial animated characters can help you represent people of different races, genders, and ages. For a video like the one below, which takes you around the world, realistic character design helps add to the sense of place.
If you’re conveying a serious message, you might want to stick to editorial characters. In the video below, notice how the details of hair, clothing, and shading help to underline the importance of the health and safety message.
Cartoon-Style Animated Character Design
Energetic & Fun
Many brands want characters who are a little more fun and playful. That’s often why they chose animation in the first place. Cartoony animated characters convey a lot of energy and motion. Vibrant and expressive, they tend to dominate the screen and lead the story. When drawn with distortion, their actions can be as big as your ideas.
You can use cartoon-style animated characters to entertain viewers even when the information you’re sharing is a little bit dry. Imagine watching a video about International Swaps and Derivatives definitions that doesn’t feature a crown-wearing book.
Cartoon-style character design can be loose and classic or robust and modern. The final look really depends on the mood and tone you’re trying to convey. In our Kite brand video, we used cartoon-style characters to evoke a mood of creativity and awe while presenting a series of realistic scenes.
Animated Character Design: Design the Star of Your Story
Characters tell the story of your video. They can be bold and vibrant, stylized and subdued, or simple and iconic. No matter which style you use, remember that your characters are the face of your brand. They should always fit your brand style and your message.
At IdeaRocket, many of our animators, illustrators, and designers have worked in children’s television, comic books, or theater. We draw on these influences to design animated characters that fit your brand and launch your message into orbit. Contact us today to start creating your characters.