The three basic shapes of character design

The three basic shapes of character design

Your character’s basic shape will always be its most prominent feature (Tillman, 2011). Tom Bancroft (2006) describes the basic shapes through the following symbolism:

Circles: evoke appealing, good characters. Typically used for cute, friendly types. Babies, cute animals, cute girls, sexy women.

Squares: dependable, solid, play the heavy. Bouncers, superheroes.

Triangles : villains, sinister, suspicious types.

By Benita Kvinlaug. All rights reserved.

By Benita Kvinlaug. All rights reserved.

For my studio project, I want to follow up on the research I did for my dissertation. My thesis was that by adding a variety of body shapes in heroines and idolized female characters, the media could help lay a foundation for an diverse body image, rather than a limited one. Based on this, I want to design my three female characters through divergent body shapes. I’m starting this by assigning them each a basic shape.

basic shapes colour selected

 

Lumi is given the circle for two reasons:

  1. I want her to be soft, and appear to be easily crushable (even though she’s not).
  2. My design concept involves an ‘ever-present eye’ kind of look, where I need something circular to be in center of the frame.

Thus, assigning the circle to Lumi seems like the perfect fit.

Viola is the 1970’s philosophy student, with a hint of darkness in her. This is not a darkness she creates and sends out, but one that haunts her. She feels guilty for not managing to save Lumi from being blinded at the time their land was conquered, thus blames herself. She’s also silent. Not quiet, but thoughtful. She speaks clearly when she wants to, but she prefers staying in the land of thoughts.

Will is a tomboy. I want her to look strong, stout, and solid. The square is perfect for her. It also presents a funny asset: the square presents stability, and Will desperately wants to be stabil, she wants to be a sea captain like her father. -But, she is a dynamic soul, slightly clumsy and forgetful, and tends to make a mess rather than to clear something up.

Posture sketch: showing  the calm Viola next to the restless Will. By Benita Kvinlaug. All rights reserved.

Posture sketch: showing the calm Viola next to the restless Will. By Benita Kvinlaug. All rights reserved.

Body sketches: trying to work out the characters main body structures. I want them to resemble one another, but differ in width and distribution of angles.

Body sketches: trying to work out the characters main body structures. I want them to resemble one another, but differ in width and body type.