Superhero week has come and gone in a flash. Thanks to everyone who followed along with me and thanks to those of you who came and found me on Instagram. You guys are total rocks stars. Today I wanted to take a look at what the process looks like when developing characters for an actual client. Sure it’s fun to draw whatever comes to mind but what happens when you’re doing it for a real live client? Lets take a look at the process.
Step one sketches:
Concept sketches. Step one is always sketches. My client is Chewy.com.I’ve worked with them for many years. We designed a set of characters together to help them market their online services. The main character Mr. Chewy is a lovable dog character who is sort of the guy in charge. He’s had lots of different adventures from vacationing on the sunny Florida cost to sled rides in the frozen north. Once he even ran for President of the United States of America.
The assignment for Mr. Chewy this time was to become a superhero. Does this guy get around or what? Anyhow I discuss the project with the creative director and we’re uncertain if we’re looking for an action pose or a hero pose. I throw out a couple of quick sketches of each.
Step two tighten up:
The superhero pose is the winner. So it’s time to tighten up on the sketch. Because I know this character so well and I’ve drawn him so often I find tightening up the sketch in Illustrator is the cleanest fastest way to go.
Step 3 color:
The tight sketch is approved. Time to move onto color. In my head I’ve thinking this guy is definitely a red, yellow white kind of superhero. Kind of a Flash/Shazam color scheme. So I find my colors and submit my art. The client however was thinking more of a blue red yellow combo like Superman. Superman is arguably a much more popular and recognizable figure so I switch things up and resubmit. We don’t want to do a direct ripoff of the color scheme so we change the combo up a little. To help the artwork pop we keep Chewy mostly in red and yellow and add a little blue for accents. High fives all the way around! Job well done.
Designing a character whether it be a cartoon mascot or a logo always starts with lots of sketches. Here’s a look at the process I used to design the Mr.Chewy cartoon mascot for on-line pet food giant Chewy.com.
The assignment was to develop a mascot to represent Chewy.com. The main character would be Mr. Chewy, a dog, who would most likely have a side kick and several friends. Since we determined Mr. Chewy to be a dog I naturally thought a cat would make a fun side kick. The direction for this project was very open and allowed me a great deal of creative freedom. Knowing I had a lot of room to experiment I quickly grabbed my sketchbook and got to work.
Putting together sketches helps me think and come up with lots of ideas. I like to try as many different directions as I can before narrowing the focus. Eventually something will grab my interest and I begin to refine. I take an idea far enough so I can easily discuss it with my client and then begin on another new directions. I repeat the process several times until I have exhausted all my ideas. Once I’m done I pick out my winners to share with my client. This is always my favorite part of the project. Sharing sketches allows us to see possibilities and get even more creative.
Developing a mascot or logo character is an evolutionary process.
Discussing direction early in the process allows us to think things through. Knowing how and where the character will be used will make a big difference in the design. Does he need to hold an object, or does he walk on all fours? Will he appear on a website, the side of a bus, a business card or all of the above? Paying attention to this kind of stuff early in developmental helps us avoid pitfalls later on. The last thing you want is a character who has to be redesigned because he can’t do the things you want him to.
Once the initial sketches are submitted I review them with the client. Sometimes a character jumps right off the page, sometimes it’s a combination of a couple of different directions… sometimes nothing sticks at all. In this case we found a few characters we liked but the Mr.Chewy character wasn’t right. So it’s back to the drawing board but I’m not worried because after our conversation I now have a clearer idea where we need to be headed. My client and I are on the same page and we’re both having fun. We have lots of new ideas for this character. We’ve had a blast talking about possibilities and we’ve added a few new characters to the line up. I can’t wait to get back to my drawing board and explore some of the new directions we talked about.
We have a winner. One of the sketches catches my clients eye. He asks for a few changes but overall he’s thrilled with the direction we’re headed and is excited to see more. I refine and tighten my sketches up then resubmit. The client gives me approval and lets me know the tight sketch is right on the money. Time to finalize.
My client has a great sense of humor and we joke about all the fun we will have with our new Mr. Chewy character. Our discussion opens the door to working up the additional characters.
The new characters are a hit
They will all be featured on the website in an upcoming online campaign. We’ve had a great time developing them all and laughing about the fun scenarios we will be placing them in. It’s always cool to see a project come together like this.
Since I began working with Chewy.com they have grown from a small start-up to a household name… practically overnight. Mr. Chewy has appeared in all kinds of ads from greeting cards to a Facebook marketing campaign. It’s been amazing to see how successful this company has become in such a short amount of time. If you Google the Mr.Chewy character you can find him just about everywhere and thanks to the good folks at Chewy.com he is loved and well received by all their customers.
If you’d like to hire Bob for your next project you can contact him directly at 919-809-6178 or through his rep Deborah Wolfe LTD at 215-232-6666.
This cartoon logo is based on a real life character. I’m not really much of a caricature artist but when this project came along I couldn’t resist. I took one look at the reference photo and I knew we were going to have some fun. This is my favorite of several versions done of this logo.
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