PICTOPLASMA: The 1st Conference on Contemporary Character Design and Art will take place in Berlin, Germany from October 28-30, 2004. The idea for the conference is intriguing and the website lists an impressive line-up of speakers, but the event also exemplifies a key problem of contemporary character design. A common trait that runs through a startling majority of the sample artwork posted on the conference site is the noticeable absence of personality in the designs. Too many artists today seem overly focused on discovering a graphic solution to characters, in other words the “design” aspect of the equation, while completely neglecting the “character” portion which dictates that the graphics should communicate personality and emotion. The end product is designs that succeed as iconic imagery, perfectly suitable for being printed onto T-shirts and adapted into toys, but unsuccessful as character designs that are meant to engage and entertain audiences.
The very best character designs in animation and comics – to name a few, Grim Natwick’s design of Betty Boop, Elzie Segar’s Popeye, John Hubley’s Mr. Magoo, Marc Davis’ Cruella de Vil and Ed Benedict’s conception of Fred Flintstone – equally consider both aesthetics and personality and successfully integrate them into a whole, resulting in dynamic combinations of shapes that emote. It is doubtful that this topic will be addressed in much detail at the upcoming event, but the very fact that there’s enough interest in character design to generate an entire conference devoted to the subject is a hopeful sign for the future.
(Thanks to Raiinboy for the link)