30 Jul A Very Fly Design! (Part 1)
It has been some time since the premiere of Fly, my latest project of a young Windfox girl. You may recall that I mentioned that I would go into further details explaining the design elements and choices made between me and artist Mirae Yi, as well as some of the challenges and changes we faced along the way.
Well today, you’re in luck! In the next series of posts, we’re going to take a detailed look at Fly. There are many topics to discuss but I’m going to try and break down everything we’ve done from start to finish. Who knows! Perhaps you or someone else might be inspired by it, or it could serve as learning material for the interested! With all that said, let’s get started!
As with all art, inspiration and ideas can come from anywhere. Some time ago, A couple of pieces from different mediums from games to animation had caught my attention such as “Ori and the Blind Forest”, “Cuphead”, characters like Mickey Mouse, and even Hello Kitty, all for various reasons. But what inspired me the most about all of these characters and what influenced Fly’s design heavily were how easy they are to remember. Of course, a lot of that comes from years of expert marketing and brand loyalty, but I’d argue that a lot of that also comes from great character design.
A primary goal I had was to create something that has a wide appeal to a younger audience and what I noticed was that less complexity in the design makes the visual easy to understand.
Youth orientated character design suggests that rounder features and easy to see simple shapes (circles and squares) make distinguishing the character easier since, at a younger age, those primary shapes are easy to understand.
Elaborate designs are spectacular, but the downside is that they can serve as unnecessary distractions sometimes detracting from the characters themselves.
Another trick that I’ve learned is that the easier you can identify just the silhouette of the character, the easier the character is to remember. You would be lying if you could not easily identify Sonic’s iconic quills, Mario’s chubby design and hat, or even Stich’s stout size and unique arms and ears. Color choice also matters swaying more to primary colors, but we’ll discuss that some other time.
Considering I’m a 90’s kid, much of the character’s and mascots we remember are also animals (again, we can thank clever marketing and early childhood learning for this)…or rather anthropomorphic animals, and of varying degrees. Tony the Tiger, the Trix Rabbit, Ninja Turtles, etc. I have a soft spot for GOOD animal-based character designs like these and I wanted to do something similar.
Finally, I wanted to bring some aspect of African American culture into the design, having also been influenced by Black character designs in “The Boondocks” and “Afro Samurai”. I just wasn’t sure how I wanted to do that at this point.
So to sum up, my checklist sort of looked like this. I wanted:
- Something youthful and youth-driven
- Simpler yet inviting/interesting character design
- Possibly animal-based
- Some aspect that heralds back to African American culture
It should be noted that a complex design doesn’t always make a better design. Sometime’s less is more and sometimes more is less. Simpler initial character designs give the world around them a reason to exist. Rather, we see the journey around the character as an extension of the character rather than having the character themselves carry so much information and making them an “always center” focal point. We’ve seen this work many many times.
Initial Design and first Drafts
So with the ideas drawn up, I could finally start looking at formulating a design for Fly. It just so happened, I remembered another little game that I was inspired by in both character design and game mechanics, Klonoa.
There’s a lot to love about Klonnoa’s design…even though we’re not exactly sure what Klonoa is; A rabbit? A dog? A cat? Who knows. But remembering how Konoa moves, the undoubted cuteness of the character, and keeping certain aspects of what will be the future game design in mind, I knew from there I wanted to take an animal style approach.
But what animal?
I did some research into many different animals; various dogs, badgers, even Squirrel etc. But one animal that stuck out that interestingly enough satisfies the “African” requirement was the Fennec Fox!
Ohh my god yes!
I had absolutely no idea that these little rascals come from Africa, specifically, the Sahara of North Africa! They’re also found on the Sinai Peninsula, South East Israel, and the Arabian desert (congratulations, you learned something else today ^_^).
So after searching through a large plethora of portfolio’s, I finally settled on Mirae for the character design and not long after, we FINALLY started our first draft!
At the same time however, we also ran into our first major problem!
In the next post, I’ll break down phase one of our design process leading up to the next major revision.