Art Direction for Character Designers

An 8-week course on adapting and designing characters for unique productions; learn what it means to be art directed as a professional character designer

Course overview Course overview

Course Overview

Adapt and design unique characters for productions

As character designers, every project we will work on in our careers will have its own unique look. Every movie, TV show, short, & series is designed with a different look and style. One of the biggest challenges in working as a professional character designer is being able to adapt and design for all of these unique looks and productions. This course will focus on the adaptability you must have to work in a variety of different styles and looks. The assignments and lectures are each designed to focus on different art direction concepts for character designers and will require you to focus on your creative and stylistic adaptability. You can think of this class as 8 weeks of freelance and professional production assignments. This class will focus on what it means to be art directed as a professional character designer. (Only available for the Winter Term)

Course Format:   Standard
Lecture Type:   Pre-recorded
Feedback:   Individual recordings
Duration:   8 weeks
Assignment:   Due each week. Expect to spend 8-10 hrs/wk viewing lectures, q&a, and time on assignments.
Q&A:   Once a week
Materials:   Photoshop (any), Wacom tablet or equivalent
Skills level:   Advanced
Prerequisites:   Character Design for Production

Art Direction for Character Designers WHAT YOU’LL LEARN

What you'll learn

The more you know, the better.

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Three of the biggest elements of design are line, shape, and color and in our first lecture, we focus on using all three to create our first designs of the semester. The concept here is trying to find the balance between letting certain details of your character be only described by line, others only by shape, and allowing color to help set the mood and tone of your character’s personality.
In our 2nd lecture, we explore the concept behind owners resembling the pets that they own. This idea can be a really fun way of thinking about similarities between people and animals and finding fun design elements to build off of. We will want to focus on design elements like hair, size, and also thinking about how a similar personality can be portrayed in to different characters.
An abstract shape or piece of line work on its own can be anything you want to imagine. But designing a character around abstract elements can ground that element and make is an abstract interpretation of a character’s features. For example, a squiggly line is just a squiggly line, but if you put it around a character’s mouth, now it’s a beard. This kind of design adaptability is critical in terms of thinking about different ways to vary up your design work.
Designing gross and creepy characters is always fun, but when you have to design the gross to be cute and sweet, while still being gross, you have a real challenge on your hands. As designers, sometimes we have to make contradicting concepts work together, and in this case, we will be focusing on making two different designs different ideas work as one single design concept.
As designers for animated projects, it's very common that at some point in our careers we may design a character that advertises a product. And the more that we can think about why a certain character might be good to advertise a certain type of product, the better our design will play alongside the product it’s advertising.
One of the coolest aspects of movie making is designing a title sequence. It's usually stylistically bolder than the movie, but still shares the same design language. And when a title sequence showcases a stylized version of the main character from the film /TV show, then as designers we have to make sure that the character is recognizable, and the title sequence fits with the design of the film.
In our 7th lecture, we take on the task of bringing life to an object that is not alive. And by this, we don't mean zombies, but think about what an appliance would look like that came to life. What type of character would a fruit or vegetable be? Whatever isn't living, it's your challenge to make it a living, breathing character.
One common element in movies, comics, & TV shows are the rivalries that exist between characters. Good vs. bad, hero vs. villain—there are hundreds of examples in thousands of movies. It's these rivalries between the characters we love that make their stories and personalities stronger. And in many cases, it takes both characters to showcase that contrast which fuels the rivalry. In our final week of art direction for character designers, you are to design a rival for your character from Week 7.

Real heroes don't wear capes - they teach

Nate Wragg was born in Davis, CA in 1983. He took an interest in drawing and painting at an early age. After graduating high school, he studied animation and design at The California Institute of the Arts in Southern California. Since then, Wragg has gone on to work as an illustrator and designer on various projects-including Ratatouille, Toy Story 3 and Puss in Boots. He was one of the primary character designers on the Pixar Feature Toy Story 3. As well as designing characters, Nate was also the Production Designer of Pixar’s short film Your Friend the Rat and has been involved in designing several main title sequences, most notably the animated end titles for Ratatouille. Most recently he was the Production Designer on Captain Underpants.


January 27th!

spring TERM Registration

Feb 11, 2019 - Apr 26, 2019




January 27th!

Pricing & Schedule

Even though our courses are the most affordable for the quality of education.

These Finance Options allow you to focus on your goals instead of the barriers that keep you from reaching them.

Employer Reimbursement

Animation Guild CSATTF

Payment Plan

Companies that hire our students

  • Naughty Dog
  • Luma Pictures
  • Google
  • EA Games
  • DreamWorks Animation
  • Blizzard Entertainment

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