Many months of preparing

First I researched for years and years and began this blog, then I wrote for more than six months, prof-read and prepared illustrations, which kept me so busy that there was little time for this blog. But now it is all finally coming together: right now the graphic designer is creating the layout- and this spring my book will be published. Keep and eye out it is coming soon 😉


This is the first version of the cover page.


Example of a homemade illustration for the book. A member of the target group – the hipster designer type.


Preparing illustrations.

I have hand-drawn a large part of the illustrations myself. A surprisingly big challenge in the preparations for this book has been asking for permissions to use real brands characters in the book. Many big brands have said no, but fortunately some said yes.





The view from here


My growing collection of brand characters populating the windowsill.

I am right now in a phase where I need to decide on different things regarding the scope and outcome of my project.

For example:


Is the outcome of the project a book? Yes, I think so, but:



What kind of book?

How many pages? Is it a textbook intended for education, is it a designbook for connoisseurs?

Will anyone publish it? How do I find a publishing company? Can we publish ourselves?

Who is the target audience?


I imagine to create a kind of cookbook for designers, marketing people and brands – where they can find inspiration, guidelines, and arguments on why to have a brand character.

I imagine it to be richly illustrated but also to have depth and serious theoretical content.

I imagine it to be about 200-300 pages long.


I am a grain of sand

A grain of sand to the mountain of knowledge


If all the knowledge in the world is equivalent to a mountain – say like Mount Fuji (why Fuji? well because I have been to see it earlier this year, and because it is so beautiful and big – but I must admit not even among the 100 biggest mountains in the world) – my contribution can be compared to a grain of sand.


Grains of sand under a microrscope

But that is not bad at all if you zoom in on the beauty and uniqueness of grains of sand.

The other day my reasearch colleagues and I attended a small workshop on academic research methods: literature review and constructing research questions, where we were presented to that picturesque metaphor.


Writing my research question on the board – before having feedback.

And in the proces of formulating my research question that reflects my project, I have come to this point in my process:

Which steps must

a guide to designing brand characters

consist of?

So this is the question my project is aiming at answering.


Is it childish?

Often when I explain about my research project I meet the reaction, that brand characters are for kids. Ie.: That it is not serious business, that respectable brands do not have a character etc.

No one can really imagine Mærsk having a jolly character. Or am I mistaken?


And of course there could be many ways to humanize af viusual identity


One of the aspects of brand character design I am investigating is the question:

Is it suitable or relevant for all types of brands to have a character?

When I take an overview of the landscape of brand characters it seems as if the majority of brand characters belongs to brands related to hedonistic products: ie. food, entertainment, leisure activities.

I also see a tendency that many brands apparantly have kids as their target group when designing and using their character. And that is also supported by research that show that children are more likely to anthropomophize. So children may be more susceptible to brand characters in general. And they may also be more hedonistic.


But as one of the masters of character design (Walt Disney) remarks here, there is a child in all of us.

Examples of brand characters targeted a grown-up audience:


Wine label by Brosmind for Vintae


Yojiya – japanese cosmetics company and coffee shop


GLS pakkeshop


Osprey Brewing Company

Do you trust him? – characters and positive brand attitudes


(‘Happy WAON’ – character for the japanese electronic money service Waon)

In my study of brand characters it is important for me to investigate what difference having a brand character makes for a brand. With my project I would like to be able to answer questions like:

Why is it relevant to have a brand character?

What is the effect of having a brand character?

To find  these answers I am reading studies on the matter. And several studies in the field of advertising and marketing is researching and testing hypothesis’ related to my questions.

For example this article by R W Niedrich called: Spokes-Characters: Creating Character Trust and Positive Brand Attitudes (Journal of Advertising 2004)

Characters appear to benefit brands by establishing brand identity and favorable brand associations

p. 25

And since everybody longs for consumers to perceive their brand in a positive way and to form a strong relation between consumer and brand, it is interesting reading.


What Niedrich concludes after testing 140 people’s relation to brand characters is that an emotional connection and trust is influences by certain characteristics:

A character is an expert

When consumers percieve a character to be an expert – ie. making product claims and repeatedly showing to possess knowledge about the product – the brand character is trustworthy.


Nostalgia is decisive – we long for the past

A nostalgic feeling in the consumer towards a brand character builds trust.


Relevance is of lesser importance when it comes to trust

On the other hand research showed that relevance between the character and it’s brand is of lesser concern. So a connection between the quality and characteristics of the brand does not necessarily affects trust.


New costumers are more affected by brand characters

The more experienced you as a consumer are with a brand the lesser effect the band character has on your attitudes towards the brand. And  – of course – the more importance nostalgia has on the relation.

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 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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