Proposal Submissions! Prototypes! High Impact! World Class! Deadlines! Illustrations! Engaging Characters!… I’m sure you have been handed a similar brief for a task. Though the brief might not necessarily come in that order, some just start with the deadline!
We often find ourselves in situations where things get complex with little time and much to deliver. This article covers the task of developing high impact “Character Illustrations” quickly with a process that requires few or no iterations and produces excellent results.
Any Character design starts with defining the character’s personality traits, age, gender, occupation, ethnicity, etc. which form the foundation of the character’s appearance, clothes, pose, actions, surroundings, everything. The designers start with the above data to make a few quick sketches and after a couple of iterations and line work renderings have the character ready to play his part in the story.
People move through life with various feelings, actions, and poses and your characters need to be illustrated in a similar way.
But how do you illustrate feelings and emotions without investing a large amount of time and effort? And adding on to this challenge, what if these character poses and emotions were not just “nice to have” but an integral part of the learning experience?
Recently, our own media team had this same challenge while working on a simulation for a sales training prototype. The scenario is a salesman talking with a skeptic client. The simulation has branched scenarios with various dialogues between the client and salesman, with each client response adapted to the category of response from the salesman, be it a “Good Response, Ok response, or Poor response”.
Body Language, illustrated in characters, is used to teach two things to the user:
1. How to use their own body language while interacting with a client.
2. How to decipher a client’s body language while interacting.
How We Do Character Illustrations – 3 Steps
Step 1: Create a Pose Mapping Sheet
The starting point is the branched dialogue sheet, complete with categorized responses and communication steps. We then prepare a pose mapping sheet to assign body language cues to each piece of dialog. The assigned pose depends upon the type of response from the learner and the level of communication in the conversation. This step takes some time but is critical for creating a responsive character.
Reaction to GOOD Response
4.1 It could certainly help… I’d like to know that you’ve got experience generating results for businesses like mine. OPTIMISM 1
4.2 I’m looking forward to seeing that information. OPTIMISM 1
4.3 That’s a possibility, I guess. ANTICIPATION 3
4.4 That might help. ANTICIPATION 3
4.5 That may be true. ANTICIPATION 3
4.6 You could at least start there. ANTICIPATION 3
4.7 That makes better sense. ANTICIPATION 3
Reaction to JUST OK Response
2.1. I’m not sure that is relevant… or if you could help us in any way. APPREHENSION 1
2.2 I don’t usually have a lot of time. APPREHENSION 2
3.2 I’m not sure yet. APPREHENSION 3
Reaction to NOT GOOD Response
1. Everyone says that and I have a hard time believing it. ANNOYED 1
2.1 I’m not sure I’m ready to do that yet. APPREHENSION 2
2.2 I’m not sure why you DID contact me! ANNOYED 2
2.3 I’ve heard that plenty of times before. ANNOYED 3
Step 2: Capture Poses in Photographs
Use a person within your organization to model each pose and emotion required for your pose mapping sheet. Try to use a similar set and attire for accuracy. In the example below, I modeled the different responses we needed for the sales training prototype.
Step 3: Illustrate Your Character Based Upon Your Photos
With the reference for each pose captured in the prior step, have your illustrators draw similar poses for you character. The character may have their own personality but the details and body language should follow the photographs.
Body language cues were added in the illustrations. The results were great and communicated the mood of the situation in the scenario.
Character Illustrations Are Integral to the Learning Experience
“Body Language” plays an important part in any illustrated scenario and if done right can take the experience of an illustrated work to a higher level. Incorporating it requires sharp observation skills, so banking on memory to get it right under tight deadlines is a recipe for disaster. The above method can be a quick way of getting the “Body Language” right in any illustration, even where work is handled by multiple illustrators.
In the above example, how well we train the salesman to understand physical cues will directly impact sales performance. Character Illustrations are not a nice to have added feature, they are essential for creating an effective learning experience.
To read more on simulation-based training see our post on Simulations: Mimicking the 70%.