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Ananlysing Character Design

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on 16 September 2015

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Transcript of Ananlysing Character Design


Analysing Character Design:

Design as Narrative, The Reverse Sherlock
and The Wonderful World of Semiotics

Semiotics
Semiotics is the study of meaning-making, the philosophical theory of signs and symbols.

Our brains are pattern finding machines that quickly interpret meaning from the world around us via the things that we see, hear smell etc.

Through semiotics we can examine and gain a better knowledge of the relationship between these things that we sense and the meanings that we ascribe to them.


Stuart Hall argued that representation is an essential part of the process by which meaning is produced and exchanged between members of a culture. It involves the use of language, of signs and images which stand for or represent things.

Saussure, who is known as the ’father of modern linguistics’, analysed the sign into two further elements. The first element, the
signifier
, which is the form such as the actual word, image, photo, etc.; the second element, the
signified
, which is the corresponding concept that is triggered in the observer. Saussure also gave the name of this approach: semiotic approach.

Creating Emotions by Characters Design for Computer Games
F. You, I. Palmer, W. Godfrey, Z.B.Zheng

In Visual Terms

Signifier
The thing we see (shape, colour, posture, clothing etc)

Signified
The meaning that we attribute to it (personality, status, age etc)


Remember:
Though the signifier remains fixed, the Signified is mutable depending on many variables such and cultural context etc.
Meet Flomp and Klang!
(or Klang and Flomp)

But which is which?
shape has a way of communicating universally, because the concept of circular versus triangular shapes originate very much from nature. Rounded shapes tend to be safe, while angular shapes make us cautious. These instinctive reactions are based on the sense of touch and, while this sense is not present in visual art, the viewers tend to apply their real-life experiences onto similar shapes

Shape
Chris Solarski 2012. Drawing Basics and Video Game Art, first edition.
Circles
Curved and circular shapes are considered the friendliest as they have no sharp or dangerous corners. Circular shapes in nature have a tendency of being soft and harmless and evoke likable characters. (Solarski)

Squares
Square-like shapes relate to straight vertical and horizontal lines that communicate strength, stability and confidence. Squares can both be large and daunting or comforting and clumsy. They often depict steadfast characters who are dependable
(Tom Bancroft, 1996. Creating Characters With Personality)

Triangles
Triangles relate to diagonal and strong, angular lines and are the most dynamic of the three shapes. Bad guys and villains are often based upon dominant triangular concepts, as they appear malicious, sinister and communicate with the most aggression
(Bancroft)
Primary Shapes
Colour
The colour palette of a character may tell tell us a lot about them.

How do dull, muted colours make us feel about a character in comparison with bright, vibrant colours?

How about a colourful character in a black and white world?

Can colours carry specific meaning?

How much of this meaning is culturally dependent?
Different colour palettes can give a character a very different meaning or feel.
Context
The relation between the signifier and the signified, which is fixed by our cultural codes, is governed by our society, historical periods, and its environmental world. There is no sign that is permanently fixed.

The signifieds have a very close communication with culture, history and society. Representation is the process by which signs produce meaning. And this meaning, is not fixed, is always changeable, from one culture or history period to another.
F. You, I. Palmer, W. Godfrey, Z.B.Zheng
Macro and Micro Context
The signifier is fixed, while the signified is culturally dependent, relying on a visual shorthand that is shared by many people, but is NOT universal.

Characters exist in relation to each other and to their world.
By careful design we can create our own micro context in which our characters exist. Allowing us to redefine or strengthen what a signifier might mean when compared to those around it.
Klang and Flomp revisited
what if we say one is kind and the other mean?
or one clever and the other stupid?
Protagonist VS Antagonist
In the micro context of a film, characters can be defined by relation to each other. In the case of protagonist and antagonist, they can be thought of as designed in opposition.
Consider the various signifiers in the designs of these two characters. What happens when we contrast them against
one another?
Style: Realism, abstraction and symbolism
Each of these is recognizable as a face, but what does each mean?

How do we feel about them?

Does a more anonymous face, a blank slate create a character that's more easy for an audience to project onto and therefore relate to? If so , where is the cutoff point?

Understanding Comics:The Invisible Art
Scott McCloud 1993
Where does a design sit in the matrix of realism, abstraction and symbolism?

Does this make the other signifiers of the design more easy or more difficult to read?

What does that say about the character?

How does it relate the character to the micro-context of the created world around it?

How do we, the audience view the style of the character in the broader, cultural context?
Meow!
How do we feel about these three cats? What are the character designs telling us?
Stereotypes and breaking "The Rules"
As always, for every trend we find or "rule" we establish, there will be plenty of examples that seem to go against it, at least at first glance.

This is a good thing! If all there was to character design was following a formula, we would end up with a lot of boring characters relying on tired stereotypes.

"By creating interesting plays on common conceptions it is possible to create a character design that is more unique and interesting, which may result in an even more memorable character that leaves a greater impression on the audience."

How Can a Character's Personality be Conveyed Visually, through Shape
Hanna Ekström
Although breaking away from stereotypes can be a very positive thing and is to be encouraged, designers will often take care to add subtle "clues" and nuances (eg signifiers) to their designs.

This is to both make their characters relatable and readable, and to prevent an audience from feeling entirely cheated if something turns out to be other than what they expected.

Through semiotic examination, we can look at these signifiers and analyse the character more thoroughly.
Friendly, round shapes

Soft, fluffy appearance

Open stance, seems honest

What else?
Lotso Huggins Bear
Although rounded, contains many triangular shapes

Colour Purple - Associated with royalty and power. Often used to depict evil

Walking stick is a mallet, a weapon hinting at his dangerous nature.

What else?
Turns out to be a villain!
Design as Narrative
Beyond symbolism, shape and colour theory, a character's design can be packed with a wealth of visual information that tells the audience more about them.

A well rounded character, has a well rounded backstory that includes a sense of history, of place. The 'who' as well as the 'what' of the character.

Designers incorporate visual signifiers of this backstory into their designs.

The audience, whether consciously or unconsciously can decode these signifiers and know, without being told what the character is all about.
And Finally, The Reverse Sherlock!
Sherlock
BBC, Written by Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat
07/2010

(skip 30 seconds)
Sherlock's deductive reasoning relies on drawing conclusions from the signifiers that he gathers via observation.

In a reversal of this process, we can place our own signifiers within character designs to load them with meaning.

Through observation and analysis, we can gain a greater understanding of these signifiers and incorporate them more effectively in our own designs.
Everything Means Something
Case Studies
Consider the dominant shapes
in the character of Carl from Up
Full transcript