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Creating Characters for Explainer Videos: Tips & Tricks

Mar, 10, 2021
Christina
Senior Account Executive

INTRODUCTION

According to present-day statistics, 86% of businesses use video as a marketing tool. Just 5 years ago, it was only 61%. 

96% of users admit they want to watch explainers to learn more about products or services. Blue Carrot can take on video production and meet the demand

GET THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO EXPLAINER VIDEOS: TYPES, BUDGETS, STYLES

In this article, we’ll cover the role of explainer video characters and the ways to picture them. 

It’s crucial to understand the role your character plays and to make sure it professionally communicates your message to the target audience. Sometimes it serves to spark the desired feelings or motivates the customers to act, but sometimes not.

Interested? – Keep reading!

Summary

  1. The Process of Creating Characters for Explainer Videos
  2. Types of Characters in Explainer Videos
  3. What is the Role of Animated Characters in an Explainer Video?
  4. Tips for Character Designing for Explainer Videos
  5. Explainer Video Character Design Process Step by Step
  6. Our Experience
  7. Conclusion

The Process of Creating Characters for Explainer Videos

If you think about your explainer character at the very start of video production, you should immediately get it out of your head. 

How’s that? – Simple!

This is the question you should answer last of all since the process of crafting a video is complex. Initially, the marketers and the production company should make several more important high-level decisions, which commonly take a couple of months. Only then you can design an explainer video character with their vision and your intentions combined.

Before we go any further, let’s look broadly at the process of video marketing strategy creation.

First, you should define the problematic area in your sales funnel, where the conversion is low. Then, analyze the problem to find out why some part of the audience drops out. Maybe they fail to understand your message or to become emotionally connected, for instance. With the problem figured out, a video concept is revealed (to tell some story, to persuade, to arouse the feeling of pride, to explain how it works, etc.).

You can then proceed to choosing instruments that will help you reveal the concept of your video. This is the point where you will craft your explainer video style and characters. To show drama, you need a couple in love, for example, but if you need to demonstrate how a combustion engine operates, you’d better choose metalware, screws, details, schemes, and icons. A person will not always match this picture.

That is why we continuously emphasize: 

Characters are just instruments that help you tell the story. They are the result of a correct goal setting for the video and in no way an initial choice to start production from. 

Now that you have some idea of the video creation and character choice process, let’s get acquainted with the types of explainer video characters.

Types of Characters in Explainer Videos 

As outlined above, the video style, and consequently explainer video character types, are determined by the type and the purposes of a video, the audience you target and the story you are going to tell. We are going to look closer at the most common examples.

   1.  Character types that are used in character-centric videos. These characters serve to create mood and build a strong connection with the audience:

 

🔹 Cartoony

This type of animated character is informal and is frequently used for entertaining and humorous clips, or when you need to emphasize certain features. They look little like real humans because of their exaggerated features or dimensions and are often drawings of expressive heroes used as participants in some unbelievable situations.

 

🔹 Cartoon Realistic

These characters resemble ordinary people with realistic body dimensions, proportions, and facial features. Though animating such characters may be time-consuming (and consequently budget-consuming), they have the advantage of having a more detailed appearance. Pictured to look like your target audience, they can be used to reach a specific consumer group since the customers connect emotionally with such  imaginary beings.

 

🔹 Photorealistic

Photorealistic characters are mostly pictured in the videos for medical and health services to increase  realism to the situation and bring the characters closer to reality.

   2.  Character types that are usually used for supporting a story flow. They usually play the role of design-element, so mostly they are relatively simple. 

 

🔹 Business Casual – Flat 2D

Having the facial features and body dimensions of a human, these animated characters are as a rule vector-based, making a“friendly yet professional” impression on the audience.

 

🔹 Stylized or Conceptual

These characters are meant to appeal to a wide audience, rather than one specifically defined. They do not look like real people but are more generic characters well-suited for explainers or those used in a variety of demographic groups.

 

🔹 Stick or Iconic

Such representation may be preferred for the explainers where the story is about an abstract system, conceptual idea, or something like this, and “a person” then is just a structural element that you need to refer to, but not an actual “the person”. Such characters are also used when the audience is either  undefined or you don’t want to specify any particular group to address. 

 

🔹 Without Noticeable facial features

Looking corporate, these characters are abstract representations of humans. They lack noticeable facial features and are rarely full length, but can be displayed in head-and-shoulder views or even in icons.

 

🔹 Animal

This style depicts characters like animals or with animal-like features.

 

🔹 Line-Drawn

The characters drawn as outlines but designed into a video can produce quite a strong effect.

 

🔹 Minimal

These characters are humans reduced to simple shapes or lines.

As we have already mentioned, the goal of your explainer, its tone, mood, and content determine the choice of the style and character. When discussing character animation for an explainer video, it’s essential to touch upon their roles in videos. Let’s talk about it a bit.

What is the Role of Animated Characters in an Explainer Video?

There are videos where the storyline centers around a character and others where the characters just help to tell a story. A character is then only a visual image of some message that helps to spur associations and emotions.

The explainer characters are, as a rule, simple, superficial, and without strong emotional connotations. In the examples below, you can see that it’s fully based on characters, but none of them arouse strong emotions.  

This video is built on a sequential whipping up of an emotional background in various situations and changes in the dynamics of their representation.

Again:

A character in an explainer video is often not some independent personality with a specific character or destiny, but rather a design element in the overall composition.

However, when we introduce a personality that has his own identity (it more often happens in promo videos, not explainers), it can help in several ways. As a rule, characters serve the purposes of:

Generating Empathy and Emotions

Animated characters can develop a strong connection with the viewer if they manage to generate empathy towards the story. Thus, it can become your key to make a bond with the target audience. Make your viewers experience the feeling similar to that a character is experiencing (love, fear, happiness, sorrow, anxiety, etc.) and you will emotionally involve them in the story, making them also ready to solve the problems as a personage does. This type of identification works best to meet some of your marketing goals!

Audience Identification 

When targeting customers, you can create a bond with your audience by making your characters look like your audience either in terms of specific characteristics and features or attitudes. It will allow you to create a video product appealing to the viewers, and also generate interest and trust in your product or service.

Improving Conversions

Naturally, the primary objective of any marketing campaign is increasing conversions, and explainer videos are proven to be an effective tool for the purpose. Recent research revealed that including a video on a landing page can boost the conversion rate by up to 80%. Why not use this to the benefit of your business in 2021?

Tips for Character Designing for Explainer Videos 

As we mentioned above, the design of an explainer video character begins by setting goals, choosing the style, and creating a concept of the video. A character then naturally comes out as a result of these choices. 

We can be open with you, can’t we? Nobody designs explainer video characters with much consideration, because they are mainly defined by a general video style and just serve as instruments to help you tell the story. 

This especially concerns cases where characters do play a major role (often – promo videos). We’ll provide you with some tips on what influences the success of characters in your video. The major factors are – messages, images, and style.

How does this all influence the choice of a character?

🤔 How character image is chosen?

To make your video engaging, avoid straightforward images, but rather look for abstract yet bright characters. To depict a person piled with something, you can simply draw a person and a pile of papers. However, using some imagination, you can easily transform this pile into a severe tornado that whirls around the city and pulls in everything in its way. 

If you want to tell your audience about an email plugin that reminds them about birthdays and prevents sending emails to the wrong addresses, you can recall Caesar, who wrote letters and made such a mistake. Tell the story of this mistake and its consequences.

🧐 What are Stylistics?

Stylistics are a set of visual rules that best conveys the required message. Depending on the task set, a designer selects the tools: shapes (round/soft, sharp/triangular, square/flat, etc),level of detail (minimalism, super detailed), colors, etc.

Credits: Julija K., Miyuli

The stylistics of a character is determined by the general visual style of the clip you create, and the shape and appearance of each character depending on their function in the story.

 “All The Animation Styles | Adventure Time”

😎 Do Trends Matter?

Trends are visual rules that are most common, most interesting, most appealing, and most desired by modern viewers. The images develop and what was super-interesting some time ago, becomes dull or even bad taste over time. That’s why if the company wants to stay relevant and interesting to the audience, especially its sensitive groups, it must constantly update the graphics of its sites, pictures, videos, etc.

So, the explainer video characters are designed with trends, stylistics, and video concepts chosen in mind. 

Read this article to get an insight into the process of character development.

Explainer Video Character Design Process Step by Step

A short outline of the process of character development: first plan how you are going to use the video and the characters in it. Decide if they are unique or will appear in your other content, and what message they should convey. 

The next important step is to understand your target audience  – is it a child or an adult? A businessman or a housewife? A stay-at-home mom or an office employee? The list goes on. By understanding your customer persona, you’ll narrow your styles.

Inspiration matters! Ss soon as you’ve gained some understanding of what your character should be, research other cartoons, movies, anime, CGI, etc. Looking through the books, period art, and fashion shows, as well as listening to music, and watching nature may also help you find your eureka moment faster. 

Once you’ve got it, make the basic sketch to capture the essence of the character and then add the features, exaggerate, improve, play with lines and colors, consider the color theory, and put your character in context.

Artist: Vitalik S., Blue Carrot team

Visualize the movements, posture, line of action, and silhouette, then consider accessories to add the finishing touch and to give your character a splash of personality.

A generic character used in every other video is usually unable to tell your brand’s unique story, but  you can still make the image unique. Your characters represent your business, so it would add value if they reflect your values, specifics, and who you are in general. 

Our Experience

As a company with over 6 years in animation production for video marketing, and more than 300 cases in our portfolio, we can assure you that explainers are aimed at marketing goals. The character in such a video is often not a point of focus, but rather a design element.

All the pictures and videos shown in this article are taken from our portfolio, and you can find more cases there.

GET THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO EXPLAINER VIDEOS: TYPES, BUDGETS, STYLES

The example mentioned above about a tornado is taken from our animated promo video Please Save

Meet Caesar in our story for Blundermail. 

Get acquainted with our mascot as well and learn the history of its creation.

You can see that Blue Carrot has dealt with various tasks and cases, and we can assure you every character ever created solved its challenging task a hundred and ten percent because we always knew whether the character was a mere design element, or if it had a more important role in the story. The importance of animated personages in an explainer video is great, however, it’s determined by the right understanding of their overall role in the story.

We should also underline that the goal most companies pursue – to personalize their brands – cannot necessarily be reached through animated characters. The key aspects here are the situations we picture in the frame, no matter whether direct or indirect images are used. 

Doubt it?—Just look at this video and see that it’s as appealing as if you met real people.

Conclusion

If you want to market your brand effectively, it’s reasonable to invest in video, which is already expected to constitute 80% of the overall Internet traffic in 2021. Now that you know the process and the key factors to make both your explainer video and its characters engaging and appealing to your target audience, you can come to Blue Carrot with an idea, and we’ll make a unique and memorable video product to make your brand stand out! 

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