During my time studying at Concept Design Academy, the great designer Carlo Arellano taught me the importance of being provocative. This doesn’t necessarily mean using gore or sexuality in each of your designs. It can simply mean making your audience slightly uncomfortable; perhaps surprise them with an unexpected contrast.
For instance, instead of the classic dragon, why not make yours a refined scholar? How about a robot with a code of honour? Furthermore, giving your characters a weakness will make them more memorable: a phobia, an obsession, a physical handicap. You can turn these into interesting assets in your designs.