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?

13 replies on “What is Mascot Design?”

Hi Shirlene,
and thank you for the message.

How to go get a mascot is to find someone to design it for you. There are services online focusing on just that. Just google it. Considering how slowly I replied you probably have already. Most of these services are for drawn mascots. You submit your ideas and wishes and order a design made, then choose from versions leading to final, then order more images of the final mascot as you need them. You get full or limited rights to the design and images, depending on service provider. For some the business model is to keep up front cost to client low but cost more later via royalties. Marketing agencies also offer these services with most services you can think of attached and at expanded cost.

My Mascot Service was mascots except they were digital 3D characters, things that could move as well – you could order animations as well as pictures. The cost was higher at front than with drawn mascots, but it offered more possibilities as to what to do with the character, full usage rights, constant animation movie quality and production cost came down after start. Anyway my service is no longer available.

If digital 3D mascots are what you want then I’d suggest a local company from your country – someone you can meet and really discuss what it would be, a small animation studio perhaps. I see no sense hiring a middle man(like an advertising agency) as they almost always outsource such specialist work anyway.

Good luck. I’ll also email this reply to you.

I am clear what mascot is but I want the help, I have an assignment there to great the company with the mascot and I am stuck. please give me an example of what am I going to start.

Hello and thanks for asking but I’m not sure if I can help beyond the advice I’ve written here. If you are a designer/artist commissioned to make a mascot, you should have some idea already. In the end whatever others advice it is up to you do the creative part.

What I can do is give you some questions you can find answers for that may help your project.

  • Are the company’s products aimed for kids, teenagers, adults or for later ages? Male or female? Little children may like colorful friendly figures that are ‘easy to read’. Teenagers may like ‘coolness’ and stereotypes and so on it goes. Look to your own past, ask friends and try to get what the product buying people prefer.
  • How does the company present itself? Are they low-key or flashy, old fashioned or ‘hip’ and/or modern? Solid and stable or fast moving and agile? Safe or dangerous? You should see what they are about.
  • Who or what profession, job, represents best what the company does? This is often an easy choice for a mascot – make it represent a worker from the company.
  • What adjectives should apply to the mascot? 3 most important ones?

Feels like I’m just repeating or saying in other words what I already wrote above in the article.

Other than finding things about the company to help your design look to company’s competitors, what are they doing? What would stand out from the crowd(that is if the company wants that)? And make sure to research animals and what adjectives they are commonly connected with. You can find clear examples from animated movies, cartoons and especially old fairy tales, children’s books. And look up how masters of cartoon design their characters. Google should help there.

I hope that helps. It is really all up to you.

Thank you sir for giving us such a valuable information to us. I am a communication design student and this article helped a lot for my research on Mascot characters and their Design.

Yes, it is always good to post references. Sorry I did not.
In short this article relies on classic cartoon character design(a long practised and well researched topic) because cartoon characters is what most mascots are. You can find concepts such as ‘appeal’ when reading about cartoon/comics character design. Rest is my take on how to use such a character, a mascot, to represent a company/other entity.

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