Recently I was watching various animations and looking at character work done by other artists. It inspired me into a fit of design sketching. I have often found that somewhere down the line I might need to design a character for something I'm working on so keeping sketchbooks that have these types of design sketches come in handy.
When viewing the work of others I find that I am most drawn to designs that are easy to animate. What I'm talking about are designs for full animation. Sure just about anything can be animated these days using cut-out techniques in software like Flash and ToonBoom but personally I like to do complete frame by frame hand-drawn animation and designs that work well for that technique is what I am attracted to.
I'm not always successful in all of my designs but I find that there might be part of a sketch I like and it might inspire another design. For example take this sketch of the bird. As I began doing the body I realized I didn't like it and didn't finish it. I do however like the head and could adapt it to another body. I've written before on this blog about appealing shapes and that tends to be the key to the designs I like. Sometimes I will find a shape I like and experiment using it on different characters.
Take a look at the head shape of these two characters. Though they are similar types of characters I found a shape I liked and experimented with using it on different characters. The one on the right is more extreme than the left one but both are still based upon the same shape.
Another design element I look for is difference in size of various parts of a character. That helps keep the design appealing and makes it easier to read. Extremes in size contrasts of various parts of a character is something I experiment with. Sometimes, as in the bear below, it works best to not make the parts very extreme. that often is found in the cute cuddly type of characters.
So the next time you are watching some animation you like or seeing another artist work observe their approach to using shapes and contrasts of elements.