Recently I was hired by the good folks at Ketchum Communications to create a character for Kikkoman soy sauce. They were printing a brochure and wanted to include a fun cartoon mascot. They asked me to take a bottle of Kikkoman and add a face, an apron, and a chef’s hat.
It was the standard “take our product and add a face” method of character design. It’s a common approach to creating a mascot (i.e. the M&M’s guys, the Chips Ahoy cookie, the Kmart Blue Light guy, etc.) Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
At first glance this kind of assignment doesn’t give a character designer much to work with. The juicier jobs involve designing a character related to the product (i.e. Keebler Elves, Energizer Bunny, Serta Mattress Sheep, etc.), not the product itself. There is a lot more freedom to experiment visually. When the character is the product you are much more limited. An M&M has to look like an M&M, a light bulb has to look like a light bulb. If a character designer isn’t careful, such product-with-a-face characters risk appearing dull and unoriginal. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way.Read More