TRENDS IN CHAR­AC­TER DE­SIGN

Lars Denicke and Peter Thaler, co-founders of Pic­to­plasma, re­veal four ex­cit­ing new di­rec­tions in con­tem­po­rary char­ac­ter de­sign

Computer Arts - - Con­tents -

The co-founders of Pic­to­plasma re­veal the lat­est trends in char­ac­ter de­sign, in­clud­ing the reimag­in­ing of faces in re­sponse to selfie culture

More so than ever be­fore, char­ac­ters do not be­long to their cre­ators. As they be­come charged with our pro­jec­tion, imag­i­na­tion, fan­tasy and long­ing, they gain a vir­tual iden­tity or life of their own, mak­ing them in­de­pen­dent from their cre­ators. This has ar­guably al­ways been true, but in times of an om­nipresent in­ter­net, the speed of their dif­fu­sion has in­creased. Char­ac­ters now act as au­ton­o­mous agents, roam­ing freely across me­dia, spread­ing like wild­fire across so­cial net­works and at­tach­ing them­selves to other arte­facts be­yond our con­trol. Once our cre­ations are re­leased into the void, we seem to have to let them go. The re­cent Pic­to­plasma Con­fer­ence ex­plored this trend; its theme was Char­ac­ter Upload – and the open­ing ti­tles and the talks ex­plored the chal­lenges for artis­tic cre­ation and au­thor­ship de­sign­ers face in our age of ex­treme vi­ral cir­cu­la­tion.

One ex­am­ple em­body­ing these is­sues is Sean Char­matz’s Se­cret World of Stuff. Char­matz cre­ates char­ac­ters by us­ing Pho­to­shop to add sim­ple lines to his photos of found ob­jects, such as egg boxes, pizza, leaves and bin bags. He has a huge fol­low­ing on In­sta­gram and his work is of­ten shared without proper credit – a big is­sue for artists to­day. The rea­son for his vi­ral suc­cess prob­a­bly lies less in the char­ac­ter de­sign it­self, but in the work’s abil­ity to tell sim­ple short sto­ries in one im­age. There are silly sto­ries, but also images re­lated to friend­ship, fam­ily, death or lone­li­ness. This em­pha­sis on sto­ry­telling is present in many fields, from brand­ing to in­ter­face de­sign, and makes this an ex­cit­ing time for de­sign­ers and their char­ac­ters.

An­other char­ac­ter that has taken on a life of its own is Edel Ro­driguez’s illustration of Don­ald Trump, which has been fea­tured on many mag­a­zine cov­ers, from Time to Der Spiegel, and has been ap­pro­pri­ated by many at po­lit­i­cal demon­stra­tions. Ro­driguez has made this Trump icon his sig­na­ture, con­stantly re­com­bin­ing the colours and el­e­ments, and his vi­ral work draws on other trends in illustration, with an es­chew­ing of re­al­is­tic de­pic­tions in favour of ty­po­graphic and sym­bolic ab­strac­tions.

Con­tem­po­rary char­ac­ter de­sign is both ex­cit­ing and ever-evolv­ing. As tech­nol­ogy ad­vances and be­comes ever more com­plex, de­sign­ers are us­ing these ad­vances to go in the op­po­site di­rec­tion – play­ing with their char­ac­ters in ways that are per­haps sim­pler and more child-like than in the past. New tech­nolo­gies are shap­ing the way char­ac­ters are cre­ated, and the way they in­ter­act with au­di­ences, and as we be­come in­creas­ingly ob­sessed with our own im­age, tweak­ing the way our own ‘char­ac­ter’ or self is por­trayed on­line, artists are reimag­in­ing faces and ex­pres­sions in in­no­va­tive ways.

Read on to dis­cover more about how mod­ern life is shap­ing char­ac­ter de­sign, and some­times, vice versa.

JU­LIAN GLAN­DER

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