Material Exploration: Character Design

After the design meeting on the 07/03/2018, I had received some feedback regarding my brief. One word of advice was that it would be good to create a set of characters or a mascot that can be an identifiable factor of my campaign. For the rest of the week I pondered as to what I could make that would be unique but still represent an awareness for plastic in the ocean.

In my previous material exploration, I drew marine animals as they are seen in reality. As I looked back upon my contextual research, I remembered Gilles Cenazandotti. Screen Shot 2018-03-28 at 11.22.29 AMHe uses various found objects, predominantly ocean plastic and turns them into sculptural works of art. They are in the form of endangered animal species; an ironic reflection upon the way in which man-made materials have become invasive to the natural world.

His work has inspired me to create a set of characters that are a hybrid of both natural animal and plastic fusion. I am also using Lize Meddings to influence a minimalistic cartoon-like stylisation. I’ve also googled images of marine animals entangled in plastic waste as inspiration for making hybrid body forms.

Anthony also had a chat to me and suggested to make characters that represented the results of consuming plastic. He told me to look at the successful campaign called “Dumb Way’s to Die”, which used cartoon characters to demonstrate many creative and silly ways to kick the bucket. The layout of the video left people curious throughout the viewing experience as to what it was all for – the video then presents their overall message at the end to be safe around trains and rail crossings (Global Digital, n.d.). The cleaver design and presentation of the campaign was able to hook in a younger audience and keep them entertained to view the message at the end.

Screen Shot 2018-03-29 at 3.27.30 PM.png

From here, I googled phrases like ‘plastic items’ and ‘plastic bottles’ and began to draw some concepts of creatures that were a fusion of animal body parts and popular plastic items such as utensils, toothbrushes and coffee cup lids. My first concepts below are as follows:

Initial Character Concepts

An abstract rubbish monster with a spoon and toothbrush for arms. Plastic bottles protrude out of its head. The next is a bowling pin with octopus’ arms. A jellyfish has become stuck in a bucket, which is now his head. A balloon has transformed into a round whale. My last creature was an idea from rock pools; he is a round rock with a starfish on his face. He wears a coffee lid as his hat and has utensils for hands.

After examining my rough concepts, I began to think of how I could refine my characters. In the image above I have refined the design of my characters or developed a new creation from them.

Character Improvements

I drew my rubbish monster with a water bottle body and a straw for a hand instead of a spoon.  I changed the look of my whale to simplify the features on it. I made the jellyfish have more rounded tentacles as well as a feature tentacle with wavy fronds. The handle of the bucket is also thinner so as not to detract from the tentacles. My rock pool creature inspired me to make a creature with a shell on its head. It holds a plastic bag and sand shovel.

After presenting my characters in a design meeting, I went away and analysed which creatures work best and why. I think that the rubbish monsters and bowling pin creature are too abstract. They do not represent the notion of plastic in the ocean as well as the creatures with a clear connotation to marine life such as the whale and jellyfish.

Character Analysis

Therefore, I continued to develop even more characters, this time focusing on creating creatures with a clear connotation to a real marine animal – yet still fused into a plastic object. The idea was to think outside of the box and create creatures that were quirky and cute but represent a more serious side to the story. Their bodies are still recognisable as an animal but a component of them has been changed due to the plastic they have eaten in their marine environment.

Character developments

The animals that I turned into hybrids were a hammerhead shark, bottlenose dolphin, hermit crab, turtle, seahorse, polar bear, penguin and a walrus. I thought it would be a good idea to use animals from a variety of places globally, as well as animals that are popular and easily identifiable. From here, I selected my favourite creatures and made a sketch up of the final group of characters. They are now known as the “Plastic Fantastics” – this is now also the name of my campaign.

Character finals.png

The next step will be to incorporate colour into my creatures. This will play an important part in the presentation and style of my campaign. I’d like to explore using my marbled textures as a point of colour in the creatures or as backgrounds. If I don’t find it working out, I am going to explore using analogous colour palettes instead.

Reference list:

The best of Global Digital Marketing. (n.d.). Case Study: Metro Trains’ Dumb Ways to Die. Retrieved from:


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