John K. Stuff- Character Design 2- Primer

I found this post quite interesting as it corresponds directly with my research on creating robots, especially with the process behind the design itself.

Form- Construction

This benefits the animator immensely if the character has an understandable form. Forms have to be considered from all angles to ensure they have the correct flow and work well. Otherwise the design needs to be revisited. This is similar to the robots design being built in CAD and then constantly worked over to create a functional being.


Looking at the giant that Stuff used as an example, it is easy to see it is not a design but different animations combined to create a lumbering character.


The reason that many classic cartoons are so simple? Less details means less time drawing each frame! Also, the more details, the hard time controlling their movement in space.

Can be Moved Easily

If a character is designed with a function in mind, it will be a lot easier from animators to move the character- character design in this respect has a repetitive look throughout history due to the need for seamless movement.

Aesthetic- Pleasing Balance of Shapes

Some artists, like Craig Kellman have a natural affinity for styles and shapes. They have pure design eyes.
Gene Hazelton took a generic cartoon Baby structure and used his good eye for balance to compose the features in a pleasing way. He also drew the details with a nice combination of curves and corners. Pebbles is not really a design. She’s too generic, but Gene applied a lot of style to these drawings to make it look more like it has a design. Gene has designed some very distinct characters though. Here he is pleasing Joe Barbera, who liked conservative shapes.


Pebbles is a great example of a generic character designed by Hazelton to have stylised feature, but still look appealing.

Distinct from other characters- Recognisable

As mentioned before, Stuff talks of how designs are generic- using non-distinct shapes (ovals and circles) or just using a certain design and simplifying it more, making it a standard. This is seen today- think the hooked nosed villain and the arched eye brow of an intelligent, witty character (*cough*cough*Dreamworks).

Stuff used the below examples of model sheets- were the characters are based on class constructions, but the shapes or details vary enough to not become entirely generic.


To make a character distinct- it must entirely contrast to others around it- considering proportions, shapes and details- look at Popeye and Olive.


Personality is one of the hardest and most important element. “Personality is contributed by so many creative people on the team-the voice actors, the storyboard artists, the animators, the director…but the designer can suggest personality just by how the character looks, before you know anything else about him.”

Stuff talked about how he prefers the word of Ed Benedict to say Tom Oreb, as Ed’s work suggests living beings. You can look at his work and immediately tell something about them. Many characters design purely for aesthetic pleasure, but no in character driven cartoons.


It’s hard to think of many animated characters that are super original. Most evolve from previous characters. The more distinct they look, the more “original” they are. If they are generic, or they look just like another character you’ve seen before then they are not very original.

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