Future of 3D modeling looks organic – why care about polygons?

Future of 3D modeling looks organic, image
3D Modeling programs and devices advance in leaps and bounds. New tools make sculpting accessible and ever more organic. Can artist skip learning the ‘oldschool’ skills and just embrace the new?

3D Tools of the Future are here

Coming up is Motion-based creation with a new device, Leap Motion, think Kinect on stereoids. The developers say it was originally developed with 3D modeling in mind. See some collected videos on the tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQkKyOOyLSs&list=PL867A53645EDDD94C

Playstation 4 developers are showcasing motion-based solution offering freedom for modeling, amongst other applications. See here from 1:50. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KI4nn9uDFGE

Another new device takes the user in to 3D, Virtual Reality that is. Oculus Rift is a revolution in VR-headset-space and built with games in mind. While not meant for 3D modeling I can’t help thinking how it would be to work in a blank, Tron-esque virtual space that you could populate with whatever references or other stuff you need. Combine that with a motion sensor like Leap Motion and wow. http://www.oculusvr.com/

3D scanners are also coming to home users, in time. Surely there would be no approach more organic than the original, clay? Gnomon School blog speculates on those possibilities.
And you don’t have to wait for the dedicated scanners. You can scan objects with Kinect controller. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=of6d7C_ZWwc

All in all technology barrier is getting lower and lower. Which is great.

So if sculpting gets so easy and fun..

Why care about polygons or polygon modeling anymore?

If you do sculpture then you don’t need to.
But otherwise the issues areas are:

  1. Scanned/Sculpted Model is not readily usable for anything else than a sculpture.
  2. Many types of 3D models are best realized with polygon modeling tools.
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1. Sculpture or scanned model is good for a sculpture only – unless you apply modeling skills

sculpt detail
A scanned or sculpted 3D model, by default, does not have construction that makes sense for anything other that what it is – a sculpture. For animation, game or any other practical use the sculpture is too dense and has no useful topology aka directed polygon surface flow. (One COULD pose a sculpted figure in a sculpting program, and sculpt to fix the issues in the new pose, or do all same steps in real clay and scan each pose in to 3D, and then render those poses for stop motion-like animation, but that would be painstaking.)

Too dense model consist of too many polygons and is simply too heavy for game or animation use. Fortunately there are tools to slim it down like Zbrush’s Decimation Master. However it does not fix the topology.

No uv-map means the model is not mapped for texturing. Software like Zbrush allow texturing without an uv-map but it works only in the said software. Zbrush also has great auto-uv-mapping but it is not the same as a map planned and made by a person. Games in particular can demand very creative tricks in this area. And the hook here it is that a person can’t reasonably uv-map something that doesn’t have a decent topology.

It comes down to (good) topology – without it a model..

  1. deforms badly in animation or posing
  2. shades oddly
  3. displaces less well
  4. can’t be sensibly uv-mapped
  5. and is pretty much in every way more difficult to read and work with

For more on some of the above points, please see Why Surface Flow Matters, Modeling For Animation and Testing Models for Animation.

To make good topology one has to understand polygon modeling. And if it is characters than required is some knowledge of anatomy. It is also beneficial to understand how models are rigged and what happens when they animate.

What about automatic topology?
Ideal would be fully automatic and perfect topology creation tool so that artist could focus only on the fun parts, shaping and painting.

There are tools that help a lot. 3D Coat and Zbrush for example offer auto-topology-tools. This 3D Coat video shows the idea well: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vEnwxnNMPk4
However the video sticks to larger elements for a reason. In areas of detail like the face the tools need a lot more guidelines to produce something usable. Again the user needs to understand polygon modeling. Also the ‘automatic’ tools are by definition not as precise as modeling tools (after all the idea is Not to work with polygons). Hence polygon or two out of place may become a pain to remove. Well, until the retopology-tools advance to a level resembling artificial intelligence.

2. Many 3D model purposes and styles are best realized with polygon modeling

Second major defence for polygon modeling is that many platforms require low-polygon models which are impossible or too much work to do with the organic future tools. Sculpting can’t compete in low-poly with polygon modeling simply because that is what polygon modeling tools were made for (in the beginning all modeling was low-poly).

Low-poly modeling is also a skill and style(s) of its own and is used in great variety of platforms and media, including many types of games, multimedia, web and visualization to name a few.

Future of 3D is bright

CGmascot head sculpted
While I want to remind people that new tools don’t change modeling altogether, I am still excited by them. The progress is wonderful and very welcome! The work becomes ever more fun. I for one can’t wait to play and create with some of these tools.

BTW I didn’t mention alternatives to polygons in this article, like voxels, as I don’t think they are yet solid enough to compete with polygons in everyday use.
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Low-poly Tips 3 – Game Art Asset optimization

These are 3D art asset modeling, rigging, uv-mapping and texturing tips. And not only for low-poly though it is where they are needed the most. See also other tip collections, the first and second set.

Minimize number of Draw Calls the Asset generates

Draw Calls are for game engine the number of separate objects, materials and textures that are loaded.  The less draw calls the better the game can run. Here are some ways to lower the number:
Multi-object texture optimizing art assets

  • Have each character as one single mesh. Characters that are made from pieces in-game cost in draw calls.
  • Combine separate static meshes to one. If you can have a collection of objects as one object, one file(the meshes can be unconnected), it is better than as several files.  But don’t combine a whole village to one object as the whole thing would get loaded to memory even though you may not need it. This trick is best for moderate collection of objects, say all items inside a shop interior.
  • Use only one material and texture per object. Or even..
  • Have several objects all use same texture and material. This means each has the same uv-map but uses only a portion of the whole – uv-map collects all textures together. See picture. Even though not shown in picture(for clarity) the sections different objects use can well overlap.
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Optimize character rig, use 2 rigs – one for animation and one for export

The less bones your character has the lighter it is to run.  And less resources used for one character means more to use elsewhere – maybe even allowing more characters.

But very few bones makes animating difficult and prevents many motions. Of course we rather animate with the optimum amount – and with control objects as well to make work easier. Sure you can have control object in your game rig and just make sure not to export them to game, but having bones in a rig that you don’t export, like between one bone and another? That is asking for trouble.

Solution is two rigs, one for animation and one for exporting to game. Game-rig is linked to follow animation rig – you animate only with animation-rig and export only with the game-rig.
[clearboth] Character Rig optimization
[clearboth] [one_half]Animation Rig is the rig you build first. It has the bones and control objects you want to animate with. The rig can even have details, like fingers, which you can animate and later decide to use or not(via the game rig). Build your animation rig and then consider what parts of it are essential for moving the character. Every bone in a character only supporting other bones and not really affecting the mesh itself is a bone the game character does not need. So, do you really need the neck-bone if head and chest bone playing together can offer the same result or close enough?

[/one_half] [one_half_last]Game Rig is collection of helper objects(any type, also called nulls), one per every important part of character. The reason to use nulls instead of bones is that creating bones is intended to build hierarcies you don’t need and should not have, here. Create these objects, then align and parent them to follow the relevant bones of Animation Rig. They should relocate to pivot-points of the animation-rig-bones. Then skin your character mesh to these helper objects(nulls). In the end you animate with Animation Rig and the Game Rig follows and deforms the mesh.[/one_half_last] [clearboth]

That was the 3rd set of little tips for improving 3D (game) art assets. Cheers!

Low-poly Tips 2 – Game Art Asset Optimization


These modeling, uv-mapping and texturing tips apply to 3D art asset work for games and similiar media. While they are best matched with low-poly 3D, they are definitely not limited to it. See also the previous collection here and the 3rd one here.

Middle edgeloop optimization & UV-mapping a character

It is common to model an edgeloop running around the middle of a character. It allows mirror copying the torso – you uv-map and texture only half and duplicate to get both halves with same detail (see Low-poly Tips vol. 1 for futher explanation). However there are number of reasons why full middle loop and mirroring everything is often not the best choice.

Mirror-uv-mapping everything on a character mirrored makes it look more generic. For visual interest you want variation in at least the texture if not the shape and for this you can’t mirror everything. In a humanoid figure the places seen the most are where you want variation, usually top half of character torso, shoulders and face.

A middle cut running all through your character model means more polygons. There are places where you have to have it, namely the crotch/hips area for humanoids because this area receives lot of stretching – you need to separate the legs. But there are also many places where you don’t need it. See the image for example of middle edgeloop use.

For four (or more)-legged characters like dogs you can often forgo the middle loop at hips, too. Sure the area will bend and break in animation, but if it doesn’t show then does it matter?

Fake roundness with just 4 polygons – optimize asset polycount

A square can be made to look rounded in game. The trick is to use one smoothing group and turn a square so that polygons are not aligned to world axis, rather angular to them. This places the corners closer to where round objects would be and away from where square objects corners were. That and the smoothing group fools your eye. It is mostly the smoothing group – I don’t know the technicalities of this. Just that it works. See same tricks also with character legs.

Of course this only applies to the sides, the 4 polygons we are talking about. Looking at the top and bottom the objects square nature shows, but when you hide them it is another story.

Fake complex shapes with bitmap and alpha channel – optimize polycount

Any object with a mostly flat top, especially shapes like barrel and similiar where top is equally proportioned or larger than parts below it, can have a faked top: a single polygon and the shape of the top mapped on it with bitmap and alpha channel. This can save numerous polygons. However the top with alpha does take space from your UV-map since it needs some size to have enough detail to not blur and reveal its faked nature. So judge for yourself which one is more important with your object: texture/uv-space or lower number of polygons.

Texturing with seamless textures – re-using textures

Re-using textures is a core part of low-poly work. Characters don’t allow that too much, but props such as houses do. Say for a medieval building you might just have a texture with 1/4 stone, 1/4 wood, 1/4 roof, 1/4 window – see image used to texture a well, the idea is the same.

The trick is to place almost every polygon in your uv-map separately so that they grab the maximum texture area – AND also change polygon sizes, rotation and mirroring to add variation to the way it is displayed on your model.

Unlike ‘standard’ uv-mapping, where you map first and texture after, for this you better do the reverse. Make the texture – lay out the different material areas(preferably each tileable). Think what you need and what shapes you need, like longer varied strips of material, and add those bits to your texture. Then uv-map polygon by polygon, or few at a time, to get all you can out of it.

Texturing by re-using textures does become a balancing act: Do you use more uv-space for one particular area or more polygons? Say you have a long continuous wall. To cover it all with a single unique texture would take a large amount of uv-space. On the other hand repeating one seamless texture over and over would require more polygons. So you weight the pros and cons and perhaps go middle way. Usually my take is that few polygons does less harm than needing to use larger textures or more textures.

Remember MipMapping and Antialiasing when texturing – stop texture bleed

When the game creates a MipMap from your texture, or when the texture gets antialiased, it gets blurred. This is a problem at edges of the uv-island in your uv-map. Either the background color of your texture bleeds in or the alpha channel does(usually as black colour). As result the uv-edges become visible on your model in game.
To prevent texture bleeding problem, push the textures themselves well over the uv-seams. Then, when the blurring happens, you still have the correct colors at uv-seams.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mipmapping

Acknowledge uv-area repeating – optimize texturing

If a part of your uv-map goes over the uv-area, it will come out at the opposite end. This is not displayed visually in your program(not in Max or Modo at least), but knowing it you can use it to texture uv-parts that do not fit in your uv-space. Mind you this works only with seamless texture.

Have less seams in UV-map

Models that have their UV-map slipt to numerous parts count as having more vertexes as far as game engine is concerned – each split means more vertexes and so heavier to load. To minimize vertex count you should have your uv-map as continuous as possible – say a character skin could be one big open pelt like an animal skin. Of course uv-mapping and texturing poly-by-poly, like written above on seamless texturing, does the exact opposite.
Do note that going for less UV-seams is a fine-tuning type of optimizing – it is best used in addition to other tricks, where possible, and not to replace them.

Make textures details to fit size displayed in-game – optimize textures

The size that the objects appear in game, be it because of optimum camera distance or whatever, defines maximum texture detail you need. Say you have a character face that is 85×85 pixels on screen in game. You need no more than that for it in the texture map. Of course if your game offers free camera, modifiable resolutions and such tools for player, things get more complicated. But even in free camera games there has to an optimum to aim for – what is the size of texture detail at camera distance where the game is Designed to be played at?

This ends second collection of art asset tips, especially useful when working with low-poly 3D assets. I hope some of these come handy in your projects.

Animation Character Creation tutorial update & CGmascot news

Hi everyone. Here’s an update on the tutorial and some CGmascot news.

Animation Character Creation-tutorial update

Creative work is a complicated business, fluid and suspectible to change – and you don’t always know what you’re making until it is done.  In the case of my character tutorial, I have had quite clear a picture in my mind, but the more of it I get done the more new things I find – and the more I understand how big a task I’ve undertaken.   Which is why it isn’t yet done.

I never had any doubts about my capacity to do this, nor any regrets of taking it on, but it has been 4 months now and good part of it more than full time and I’m starting to feel it.  But it has been great, too, and I can see the end.  I hope to have it out by christmas eve. No promises, though. Update: Tutorial is delayed by unknown time due to other work taking my time and later more delays than ‘just’ work. I can’t set a date for release.

Animation Character Creation Tutorial final image
Animation Character Creation Tutorial final image

“Why has it taken so long?”, some may ask.  Well, recording a complete character creation, all of it with no shortcuts, is a lot.   But a far bigger timesink has been my perfectionism and desire to make logical steps out of something that for me normally is an organic freeform process. Especially in modeling I don’t proceed in clear steps – I just go at it until it is done.  Recording that would not be any good as a tutorial.  So what I’ve done is to break my work down and do it again many times over create a logical whole.

So there’s the update, unfortunately not yet a release.   Now something to show you:  Here is the end result image from the tutorial.  Tutorial -shows how to model a full character for animation, starting from nothing, and how to detail it and finally how to render and make this poster.  Click for a larger version.

CGmascot News

The tutorial work is the reason for lack of new articles, but I do have some interesting things to share with you once I’m free from the main project.  By the way if you want updates without having to come and check the site, the best options are to Subscribe by Email or Subscribe to RSS, see links at the top.  I will not spam you.  You will receive brief message when something new is up, and can then decide if the full article is worth checking out.  The news are my plans for CGmascot:

  • I want to write more about animation.  I have planned this before but not followed on.
  • I plan to use more video in the future.  It’s the thing of today and I’m running behind.  But the tutorial has had me making about 20 hours of video, so I’ve had lot of practise lately.
  • The site will get a professional redesign and will, I think, be even more usable.
  • The Mascot Service will soon become more exclusive simply because other work takes my time.  I will be able to take only a few clients.  The service will also receive a new starter package – an even more affordable alternative.

Now you know what’s up.  More tutorial stuff will follow, eventually. In the meantime check out other articles on CGmascot.

Animation Character Creation Tutorial – Software Features Used

Techniques transfer from software to software. For example I have in the past observed work done in one software to learn a technique I can apply in many other software. This video is my (small) way to help others to do the same with this tutorial.

All 3D in the tutorial is done in Luxology Modo (ver.302), but you are not limited to Modo only. This video should help people using other software to check if they have the main features or tools available in their software.

And of course nothing is stopping you from using the tutorial just to learn character modeling, which is by far the most extensive part of this tutorial. Then the software is no issue. Polygon modeling tools used in the tutorial are available in most if not every polygon modeling software out there.


You also watch the video in HD at Vimeo
Music: Parametaphoriquement by GMZ

That’s one more bit of tutorial info and preview stuff for you. Expect more, at least a trailer, in the future. And if this topic was new to you, please start from the teaser. Comments, questions and such are welcome.

Animation Character Creation Tutorial – Modeling Tools

Here is  a look into the modeling tools and technique used in coming Animation Character Creation Tutorial.  The tools I use are very standard fare, hardly new to anyone who has done polygon modeling, which is all good – the goal is to keep it easy and fun. The method is the interesting bit. Techinique shown in the video is something I’ve talked about before, too.

Even if this is all familiar to you already, you can watch the video as a brief example of what my video tutorials may be like.  This video is an early(and very very small) part of the final tutorial.


Click Vimeo-link in the video to watch it in HD at Vimeo.

Music:  Eighteen Pieces by Soda and Sevenhundredbeats by Duncan Beattie.

The tutorial develops well and more info will come.

Animation Character Creation Tutorial – Character Story

Previously I introduced the coming tutorial and shoved a timelapse of base head modelingThis one is about the character design, about character backstory.  This was supposed to be a video as well, but I’m having trouble with my computer – can’t do video edit just now.
Giving your character history is part of character design and a good place to start.  You need to know WHO the character is to make an animation with him/her.  The following is a bit of story for the tutorial character.

Our character, I call him Curt, was an orphan and grew in time of unrest – grew to violence.  And just when Curt became an adult the unrest became a war.

War needed strong men capable of violence, and Curt was a perfect fit.  He was mayhem on the battlefield, a bloody champion.

However since he never was much of a thinking man and was most useful as a human weapon, he was used as such and was never rewarded for his dedication.

Eventually, after many years fighting and death, the war ended.

Suddenly there was no more work for Curt.  Also unlike many other champions he was not knighted or rewarded in any way.  He was just a man with lots of blood on his hands and a problem to his superiors.  He was told it was better he left.

For long years Curt traveled, took odd jobs and slowly took stock of the bloody work he had done.  He began to drink his sorrows away.


Then, in a border city in the middle of nowhere, where Curt’s war record was unknown, he finally had a bit of luck.  He was hired as a guard – was a man of uniform again.  It was something he knew how to do.

This is where our backstory ends and visual character design begins.  Thanks to thinking up a story I know better how he acts and thinks.  I know he wants to do his job well and perhaps someday redeem his past.  Maybe the animation, if I were to do one with this character, could be about that.
I know, I know – this is no revelation, just a simple point I wanted to make.  Character design should  include a story and I think making one up is a lots of fun (even one as dark as the story above).

Animation Character Creation Tutorial – Teaser

This has been requested enought times, so here I go, finally. This project is loads of fun to work on and really time consuming too. I hope you’ll like it as much as I do.

You can also watch it in HD at vimeo.

Tutorial Details (in short)

Contents

Covers a bit on character design, then goes deep to modeling a character for animation, uv-mapping, sculpting, texturing and finally quick posing and to a promotional render. On the way I tell you why I do things the way I do.  Tutorial video duration will most likely be 10+ hours.  The base head & eye-modeling alone is around 1 hour 40 minutes.

Software used

Luxology Modo (for 3d) and Adobe Photoshop (2d). However no part of the tutorial needs just those two softwares – you can use any similiar software to get the job done. I will list 3D-tools used(such as bevel) in the tutorial details, so you can see what your software can do and what, if any, you need to employ another software for. And instead of Photoshop you can use any capable bitmap painting/editing software.

Aimed for / Level of difficulty

Anyone who knows how to operate a 3D-software. I’m not explaining very basics – software manual and generic tutorials can tell you that. However I do go over what tools we will use and where.

Format

Tutorial will be in HD720P video, quicktime-files, and with a menu to easily access them.

Delivery

Tutorial will be available from a reputable online vendor as a download or on a dvd.

Cost

The price won’t be low but not scary either and the value for money will be high.

Future plans

Tutorial is planned as the first in a series that goes from design all the way to animated short film production and finish.

That’s it for now.  More will come, at least a trailer, before the tutorial releases.

What would you like to have in such a tutorial?  Please feel free to write comments and questions below.
Update: Tutorial is delayed for unknown time -a LONG time- due to other work taking my time. I rather not set a date for release and miss it again. If you want to make sure you don’t miss the release without coming back here to check over and over, subscribe to site RSS feed or Email Updates.

How to keep Modeling fun?

I’ve written bits about polygon flow and modeling for animation and a comparison of a model built for animation with another that’s not. What about modeling technique? What do you use?  Have you weighted the pros and cons?  Note that this is only about polygon modeling, not about nurbs or sculpting.

I think modeling should be fun. To be fun it needs to be fast and without fear of making mistakes, of getting stuck.  Fun modeling is safe.

First way of making things easier would be designing with a pen. Polygons can’t beat drawing in planning. Second,  having the option of displacements and normal maps I would do very fine detail with those – not with polygons.

In modeling the fly in my soup has been keeping polygons 4-sided and relocating  ‘poles’, aka points where 5 or more edges meet, to where I want them. I have spent endless hours on these two things.

Why 4-sided aka quads? Quad polygons are something many programs prefer and also what displaces(i.e. sculpted detail coming out via displacement map) and deforms(animation) in the most relieable way.

And why move poles?  Areas with poles don’t deform well in animation and may produce render artifacts.  Push them where they are unnoticeable, to places that don’t deform much.

So, fun modeling would be a process that keeps polygons as quads and lets you control pole placement.  And ideally it would all happen without having to think about it.

Modeling methods

1. edge-out / detail-out / poly-by-poly method

Modeling technique: detail out / edge out / poly by polyStarts from a quad polygon or a strip of such polys, and extends more quads out from their edges. Often in this style you start from detail areas such as the eyes or mouth and then draw polygons to connect them. Everything stays as quads by default as long as you know where the extended polygon strips should go and connect. Same goes with the poles – you need to know where and how to place them. This style requires a design drawing to follow.  Also it takes some skill to either have the polygon flow setup in your head or to plan ahead of time and draw it on the design drawing.
pros: polygons stay as quads, not much clean-up work, good for details and fast to build when you know what you’re doing
cons: need to know what works where and what connects to what beforehand

One very nice example of poly-by-poly modeling is base mesh creation for this Yeti.

2. detail-in / box-modeling / sub-division modeling

Modeling - box modelingBeginning is a box or other base shape in your 3D software, which you shape to overall figure and start to carve detail in. You work more with polygons than edges.

This style is often connected to subdivision modeling, where you model just like above but view the subdivided version of your model instead (or on the side) of your actual work-model. The work-model stays as low-poly(easier to animate) while the final rendered result is the subdivision-surface.
pros: can go ‘freeform’ – model with little planning, can conceptualisize still in mid-process, easy to start with, easy to do major changes, fast workflow when done right
cons: detailing is more difficult than with no. 1, can be hard to keep polys as quads unless done ‘right’, can get difficult to direct the edgeloops when you are dealing with overall shape rather than just the loops themselves

Some tutorials:
Wiro’s tutorials
Southern’s Minotaur series

Which to use? You can use both.  Box-modeling is best for big things, poly-by-poly does well in detailing.

Fun modeling

This solution is all box-modeling: a way that keeps to quads and allows moving poles around.

Limit tools to the following (in addition to standard move, rotate and scale). This pretty much ensures you create only quads.  Tie the commands to hot-keys for speedy workflow.

Modeling - bevelbevel/extrude
modeling -collapsecollapse
modeling - merge polysmerge (to clean after collapse)
modeling - turn polygonturn polygons
Modeling - bevel groupCreate areas and edgeloops by beveling a group of polygons. This creates loops around and keeps quads. Go as far as you can with bevel – it is the easiest tool to use. See around the mouth and nose-loop beveling in the image.
Modeling - add polygon with bevels and collapseAdd one polygon. Select 2 or 3 polys, bevel and collapse. Remove the offending edges/merge polygons and you have one new polygon.
Modeling - remove polygon with polygon turn and mergeRemove one polygon. Turn 2 polygons like shown and merge to remove one polygon.
Turn polygon/edge (or similiar tool) to direct polygon flow. This is also how you can move poles around (to where they do the least harm) and in some cases even remove them.  See ‘Remove polygon’ above how the geometry changes.

Some of you may describe this as Taron-style modeling. It is very much the same, but I don’t often model with subdivision on. My end result is frequently for games where subdivision sorface is not an option (yet), so I stick to regular polygons.

That’s it. Box-modeling with certain tools used in certain manner gives just quads. This is a way to stop worrying, just relax and have fun. Of course the style is not completely trouble free, can get confusing with polygon turning, but still highly recommended.  If you still end up with a triangle somewhere, if it does no harm there then leave it in.  I’m not an advocate for Quads only – I just like to keep mostly to quads.

BTW the above method is also shown in brief in the latter half of this video: Animation Character Creation Tutorial – Modeling Tools and Method.  I will go futher into the workflow logic of it later.

What type of modeling feels natural to you?  What do you think of the ‘fun modeling’ style?

What is Mascot Design?

What makes characters mascots?  How does one design a mascot?  Since I work with these creatures I feel I should write a bit about them.

What is a mascot?

In short a mascot is a representative figure, a symbol and a communication tool for somebody/some organization.  At its best the mascot personifies their values, communicates effectively and helps them stand out from the crowd.  I go over this in more detail here.

I talk about company mascots to keep this simple.  Same things apply to mascots for others, so feel free to replace “company” with something/somebody else.

Note also that I’m writing about mascots designed as company symbols, not about mascots designed for campaigns or for products.  A well designed company mascot does lend itself to campaigns and merchandising, but things don’t work so well the other way around.  There are exceptions, Mickey Mouse being a prime example – Mickey  became an icon for Disney though he wasn’t planned as such.

How to design a mascot?

A mascot is essentially a well designed cartoon character with strong connection to the company it represents.  The following elaborates on qualities of a good mascot – things to aim for.

  • Connection to company profession and values.  Simplest thing is to have character do the job the company is best known for.  Then give the mascot personality, style and way of doing things that reflect the best things the company stands for.  Colour palette-connection would help as well.
  • Background story.  Giving a mascot a story makes all future decisions easier as we know WHO he/she/it is.  Personal goals and story give mascot things to do, provides material for campaings and overall offers mascot some beliveability.
  • Appeal.  A live-action actor has charisma, animated character has appeal.  With people charisma means a lot more than just ‘cute’ or ‘handsome’, and so it is with cartoon characters, too.  There appeal stands for simplicity, pleasing design and charm/magnetism.  Why these give appeal?  Simple is both easier to read and communicates better than complex.  Pleasing design means good forms and it doesn’t always mean they are pretty, more like well drawn and stylised.  What visual style is effective varies from character to character, but one overall solid trick is exaggeration in dimensions and characteristics.  Finally we have charm or personal magnetism;  It is, in my opinion, the ability to communicate with emotion (usually something positive).
  • Style for target audience.  Cute mascots attract the female and young children audience. Cool (and sexy) is a bigger hit with males.  Consideration here should of course be about your company image, what represents it better?
  • Props and accessories add to the design and are way to say more about the mascot.

Above points are about design, but note that your character doesn’t become a mascot without Active and Consistent use.  Company mascot has to be out there to become known.  Use it in all suitable mediums, but be consistent – don’t let the tool or the campaing define who you mascot is.  An example of what not to do:  A company uses a random mascot with no personality, have no story to go with it and tend to change the mascot a lot between campaings.  Then mascot serves mainly as eye-candy – it may help the campaings stand out from others, but really this is the least you can do with a mascot.

There you have my take on the subject in brief.  I may get back on the subject later (especially if requested).  What would you add to the list?  It is hardly complete.  Have you got a story to share about a mascot success or failure?