Elements Of Effective Character Design

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The purpose of this dissertation is to explore what elements make up an effective character design. I have looked and various ideas including: shape and silhouette and how to subvert these ideas. I have looked at Kentaro Miura’s “Berserk” as the main inspiration for my first question. I have also set 2 other questions that I am able to access and use multiple academic sources to answer. These questions will aid me in gaining a wider understanding of character design conventions and with this understanding, be able to apply these conventions to my own designs.


Character design is a procedure that aims at picturing and personifying a character in a narration. Different ways are visualising the personality of a character through writing. There is a need to emphasise developing a perfect character (Bear, 2017). The design of a role depends on specific features of the storyline. In many cases, character design displays only the likable image of the character even without revealing the identity of a persona to the audience (Tatalovic, 2009, p. 2). To develop a character from animations, designers will manage all information commencing with the subjective ideas, visual styles, references, visual elements as well as logistical aspects to be included.

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The ability to attain knowledge and expertise in the field of art requires not only talent but also repeated practice. The study hypotheses that there are vital elements which play a central role in designing characters effectively. The research questions will focus on the importance of factors in creating characters. The biggest aspirations of this research are to determine the effectiveness of character design in illustrating comics and animations.

Research Design

Graphic design offers an in-depth analysis of various elements in character design which are essential in the application in new comics and animations. Some of these aspects include personality, shape, and silhouette.

Research Questions

The specific research questions in this study include:

  1. How does “Berserk” subvert expectations and visual stereotypes in the design of the protagonist and antagonist?
  2. How do the specific elements affect the personality of a character? 
  3. What are some of the attributes of visual needs which should be considered for a character to fit in a particular style?


In order to accomplish my aim for the first question I will be looking at the protagonist, “Guts”, and antagonist, “Griffith”, of “Berserk” and analyse their designs and why they don’t conform to the usual expectations in character design. For the remaining 2 questions I will be doing research on literature related to character design by academics. The research project will involve qualitative methods. Sources which will be used will be sourced from available literature on similar topics through the internet. The additional use of primary sources which are mainly subject knowledge from the classrooms. The research will also delve into more delicate details of the literature related to character design from different authors.

Further, classroom knowledge will be applied to tackle this topic in detail. The projects expectations are to outline various useful elements for character design including silhouette and shape, which are specific in the ways they affect the personality of characters.

In the evaluation of existing information, there are other features of general designs which can also be brought to light. The general information will be linked to elements of character design, their effectiveness, and application in the process. To review the literature, for pointing out and establishing factors that contribute to character design, a constructive approach will be used.

Literature Review

This section aims to review the related information exploring character design. It is vital for analysing various references supporting character design. (Bear, 2017) The concept of art is also of considerable interest in this level. Several articles have been published for analysing the process of character design. There are sources which highlight why character tend to vary from one another in terms of design and activity (Tatalovic, 2009, p. 2). The characters are subjected to roles which are envisioned from a script. The ability of a character to feature on a comic or anime series depends on their features, such as shape, their personality, and even silhouette. The shape of an individual plays a very critical role in the feelings of a character. In this regard, designers are tasked with part of finding the most suitable shapes for a style (Tatalovic, 2009, p. 2). For example, the use of circular shapes appears less threatening and friendly, while squares, on the other hand, make characters feel a sense of stability (Frager and Fadiman, 2015). The initial impression of a shape can be subject to changes. In essence, shapes are considered necessary in the role of a character.

Designers need to identify a unique character from an array of options in their list that already exist. Ibister (2016) details the work of a designer, to begin with silhouetting. The silhouetting process allows a designer to make unreal characters for comparison with the already existing great characters (Bear, 2017). The implication of silhouetting in the starting process of design is the speed involved in setting up the process. An introduction is essential in the work of character design (Isbister, 2016). Bancroft (2016) however suggests that silhouetting process lacks the coloring, and can be carried out against a dark background the process also identifies characters who are unique from the rest of the groups, by analysing the color scales. 

The choice of silhouetting involved should have exciting features which can be easily identified by the whole audience. Mattesi (2018) illustrates personality, on the other hand, is predicted by the character’s appearance. The characters’ personalities should be related to different visual aspects, such as color, shape, etc. Mattesi (2018) further notes that comics rely on involving bold colors or bright to represent the characters before they can even speak. Chapman, (2010) asserts that a similar technique is used in animation in visualising the personality of the character based on their roles. The way the characters speak, interact, move or relate with each other is vital in showing the real personality of the character which is essential on how an audience remembers them. 

Critical Analysis

Character design is influenced by diverse elements which have effective character designs which are dependent on the other. There is a need for a designer to have an infinite understanding of their characters, role, and references before onset a process of design. The art of creating comics and animations requires experience. While there are confident, there is which express talent, and there is a need to involve the hands of qualified directors Mattesi (2018). The process begins by carefully scrutinising individuals who have the prerequisites to act in the capacity of actors. They are assessed based on the attitudes towards specific colors or shapes which are pivotal in the initial stages of developing and designing characters. The research also develops an analytical approach towards the various steps involved in creating characters for comic series and how relevant they can be.

Silhouetting is one of the initial stages which goes way over to determine how viable a project would become. In conducting this research, therefore, it is crucial to study these values and their abilities to influence the project. The study of personalities of an individual can also determine their efficiency in delivering the required comics and animations. A script is detailed writing of the storyline which can be used as a referencing tool. It contains the features or requirements of characters and how their actions influence one another to come up with a flowing switch of events. It is vital to use an array of colors to depict the nature of an individual. It can be used to describe aggressiveness or empathy depending on the thematic analysis of the scene. In short, these three stages of character development and design constitute action in a comic or animation series.


Therefore, the paper will focus on identifying elements contributing to effective character design. In conducting a proper analysis in light of the literature review, character analysis, and designing techniques, the research questions will be answered thoroughly. The nature of element combination gives the necessary information on what is required to bring out the best. The paper will also provide a breakdown of the essentials for giving an audience the best in terms of visualisation and shaping of the whole design. In this, it can be visualised how shape, personality and silhouette have been explained as elements and how they aid in character design.


  1. Bear, J. K,. 2017. ​Color Symbolism for Graphic Artists​. Thoughts.
  2. Bancroft, Tom 2016. Creating Characters with Personality, first edition. Watson- Gustily Publications, New York.
  3. Chapman, C., 2010. Color theory for designers, part1: the meaning of color. ​Smashing Magazine.
  4. Frager, R. & Fadiman, F., 2015. ​Carl Jung. Excerpt from personality and personal​ growth (6thed.).Sofia University, s.a.
  5. Mattesi, Michael., 2018. ​Force: character design from life drawing, first edition​. Focal Press.
  6. Burlington Isbister, K.. 2016. ​Better game characters by design. a psychological approach​. San Francisco: Elsevier Inc.
  7. Tatalovic, M., 2009. Science comics as tools for science education and communication: a brief, exploratory study. ​Journal of Science Communication​, ​8​(4), p.A02.


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