August 2015

Seeing faces – part I

A very basic part of my project is concerning the face as an important subject or motif for us human beings. We are sort of programmed to see, recognize and read faces. We communicate with our faces… In alot of ways.


It all starts when we are born and the distance our eyes can focus is the distance to our mothers face when breastfeeding.


My claim is that one of the reasons why characters are important and popular are because they appeal to us in a fundamental way. Understanding faces is a part of our survival.

So we are drawn to faces:


Elsie the cow – is the brand mascot of Borden Dairy Company developed in 1936.

Sometimes we see them in unexspected places:



And the latest example of our obsession with faces is this coffee cup lid:



Seen on Bored Panda

This is of course a korean invention.

So kiss your coffee :-*


Being in limbo


According to Google the definition of limbo is the place where unbaptized childing live, but it is also a more general term defining:

an uncertain period of awaiting a decision or resolution; an intermediate state or condition.

And that is a precise description of the phase of my reseach project right now, where I’m still searching, reseaching and trying to narrow the scope of my project down to it’s essentials, finding the core of the project. And that is a stage full of freedom and opportunitues but also an uncertain phase to be in;

There is very much to read and learn, people to meet. learn from and discuss with. So many angles, possibilities and ways to travel. But time is not endless, so I must reduce and cut away aspects. But how to find out what to choose?


My project is right now approximately equivalent to the size of the sun. But needs to be downsized to earth dimensions.


But not all is uncertain right now, I DO know that:   I want to create a guide (maybe a book, teaching material, a case study etc.) about desgining characters in a branding context.

Additional info: Limbo is also a video game featuring a nameless boy wandering in a dark and dreamy landscape overcoming different challenges while looking for his missing sister.



Off course limbo is also a dance… Here featuring a very nice character 😉


Character Trademarks


A book filled with pictures and examples of mainly american characters. And a little bit of text on character design.

Arguments for why a character survives:

‘characters have the ability to evoke emotional resposes, to stick in your memories in a way that no abstract logo can’ p.7

I am asking myself if that counts for all characters (propably not) and what distinguish a good character?

‘They instill confidence in products and evoke in the mind of the consumer those all-important thoughts of trust, integrity and honesty. Faith in corporations may be shaky, but our belief in these symbols persists’

But how do they do that? Just by being a character?

On anthropomorphism:

‘Objects given human qualities … are referred to as anthropomorphic forms. Their human-like qualities make them more accessible, or appealing to the viewer’

Meet Mr. Product


A book by: Warren Dotz and Masud Husain

I am currently researching on why a brand (and/or a product? – can it be both – my collegue is asking me that question, so I am thinking about that distinction) should have a character designed for them. When is it relevant? What considerations comes before going into the design fase?

In that regard Meet mr. Product is an overview of a long list of examples of characters in american advertising the last 100 years (but centered around the marketing boom in the 1960’s – called the golden age of ad-characters) and they are grouped in categories: food, drinks, kid’s stuff, dining, technology, home, automotive + personal & leisure.

So the book gives an overview of characters that stayed with us (and the ones that was forgotten or abandoned) – and the reason for them to be able to stand the test of time is interesting.

Give a product a face, arms, and legs, and suddenly it becomes more appealing and emotionally accessible – more human. p. 14

At the same time I am also looking at how characters are designed?

And sometimes (but seldom) it can seem a bit without cohence:

Like for example John Deere and the reason for their deer logo: ‘obviously, is a simple play on the inventor’s name’ – so yes that is one approach: I am called Deere lets put a deer in our logo allthough our products have very little to do with deer.


How should a character behave?

I just read a funny (but I guess not a very scientific) article (The Inner Doughboy – Ruth Shalit) about the code of conduct many famous brand mascots (or spokes-characters) have. There are strickt rules to how for example some of the classic american mascots like Ronald McDonald, Green Giant, Mr Peanut and Doughboy (representing the grain brand Pillbury that are selling baking products) can behave. They are restricted by long guidelines about their look, behavior and gestures.

And asked about how their personalty they are always described as being nice and friendly.


So Doughboy is only portraied as a helper a teacher or a friend. He is poppin’ fresh.


Green Giant can never come out of his green valley, where he grows his healthy vegetables.


Ronald McDonald is kid’s fun magical friend.


Mr Peanut is single. He is a cosmopolitan guy. He is too busy to be settling down.

But isn’t that also a little boring, maybe even cheasy. What about the statement that: ‘The best characters are the ones who are flawed or internally conflicted’

Who are the characters under the surface?





Being japanese in Paris

When I ask myself what is typical french or parisian seen from a visual point of view – my background in art history  supplies me with images and different genres of architectural styles that pops up in my head.

For me classic parisian style is a collage of stuff like:




Sofisticated elegance might be words that sums it up.



One of the elegant places in Paris is the department store Printemps. which among other things is famous for its art nouveau ornaments and glass domed ceiling in the centre of the building. Printemps turned 150 years in March and to celebrate that occation a mascot was designed.

Meet Rose. She is designed by the japanese 3D character designer Hiroshi Yoshii



Yoshii has a big family of characters in his portfolio and his style is a good example of the impact from japanese manga and kawaii style in character design.


What is interesting in relation to my project is that Rose is as an example of the influence of japanese visual culture in a western context for example in the use of characters in branding.

Printemps going kawaii – that is worth noting!



Lucas Zanotto: Having a face – project

Anthropomorphism: the propensity to attribute human characteristics to objects. Seeing the human in non-human forms.

Anthropomorphism is a concept important at the very core of my project. Because why should we care about adding a character to our brand if it din’t have an impact on us and on our relation to the brand and the visual identity.

So why are we using brand mascots and characters: ’The primary benefit of spokes character advertising is thought to be the emotional connection that the character builds between the brand and the consumer’

Its all about emotions.

Human attributes that embody objects and animals:  intelligence, belief, desire, intension, goals, plans, psychological states, powers and will

Lucas Zanotto for example puts two disposable plates (where he paints black circles on) on objects that he encounters in nature – and suddenly the object is alive and relates to us.

Character design and branding

Character design – what is that?

A character is a person. A person in a story. For example in a novel, a film or an animation. But a character can also be someone taking a leading role in the story about a brand. One of the classic examples (and one of the oldest ones) is  the Michelin man.


I am in the start-up phase of my research project about character design and branding and is currently looking for prior research and people who works in this area to coorporate with. And I’m looking at a ton of characters. Taking notes. A drawing a bit for inspiration.



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