Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Character Design - Jonathan Edwards

This talk was one of the most interesting, motivating and positive talks we had this week. Jonathan has been at this for 20 years, starting out in editorial work, comic books and animation design.

The first major character that Jonathan came up with was completely by accident. It started out as 2 doodles on a page in his sketchbook, which he combined, to create Inspector Cumulus. A 1950s/60s detective, who is made up of a cloud as a head, and a human body.

Jonathan was always interested in having a toy produced. He thought that you had to wait for something to come to you, but they don't; you have to be proactive. So he used this design to make it happen. He had a CGI model of the Inspector Cumulus made, and took it to PlayLounge, where he asked about the possibility of making and selling the toy. They liked the idea, and could see it selling, but suggested he try CrazyLabel, a toy manufacturer in Hong Kong. They were very keen. It took several attempts for the company to get the sculpt right. He wanted the toy to not be realistic; he wanted to keep it how it was drawn; graphic and simple. The next stage was to design the packaging. The toy was released March 2011, with 500 produced in total. Hopton Moss is a new character in this series. Another version is to be released at the San Diego Comic Con this summer, with another 500 being produced. All the characters are to put into a comic book.

After this phase, Jonathan went onto designing t-shirts for a sports brand. Some of these designs included various monster designs. His partner, Louise Evans, said she could make them out of felt. The pair went on to make these monsters, and sold 200 over 18 months, all through one shop in Chester.

Louise was trained as a dress-maker, and so they wanted to make something more bespoke to show off her skills. This was where the monster politician came into play. Jonathan was watching the News one day, and they were showing repeats of the 1982 elections. This is where he came up with the idea for the monster politician.

One day, Louise decided that she would like to make monster versions of the lead singer and his then wife, Brixx Smith, from her and Jonathan's favourite band, The Fall. Louise tweeted this, and by chance, Brixx saw this, and replied to her. The two got talking, and Brixx saw Louise's and Jonathan's work. Brixx owned a boutique in London, called Start. She commissioned some of Jonathan and Louise's work to go in her windows.

Somebody from Selfridge's saw this window display, and was interested in hiring them for their Christmas window display, which was all about 'Adult Play'. They commissioned Jonathan and Louise to come up with a doll's house, with the monster's in each room. The display was up in Selfridge's Oxford Street for 2 months during Christmas 2010.

All of the monster's have back stories, which interconnect with each other, and Jonathan's planning to create a book with all the characters, which also includes a family tree.

The advice that Jonathan gave us was:

  • Get your work on as many places as possible, e.g. blog, website, twitter
  • It's important to have a back story with your character, not just a character
  • When suffering from drawing block, you've got to get through the bad stuff to get to the good stuff. Set a goal of 10 or so drawings a week, and this should get rid of the bad stuff.
  • People either work in lines or shapes; it's important to figure out which you work in, so you can work to your strengths.
Overall, this talk was probably one of the best I attended during this week. He was very positive, and proved that ideas taken from a side hobby, or a whim, can be very successful. I really like the idea of actually making your character in 3D after you have designed it. I especially like the idea of making it out of material and fabric, rather than the plastic toy route, but this is something I could perhaps research into, and see how easy/difficult it is to get into this area. The idea of someone gaining a connection to your character in a book is a great feeling, but the thought that by making your character in 3D, and it being someone's favourite toy is really wonderful to me. The thought that your toy could be a child's all time favourite and would never leave home without it, is really, really inspiring to me. I would love to take this sort of thing into practice in future work.

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