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Do You See the Kind of Shape I'm In?

Banes at 12:00AM, Sept. 24, 2015

I've never consciously designed characters this way, but I recently remembered hearing about this notion some time ago, on the dvd special features for an animated something-or-other.
Characters derived from basic shapes can give a very strong impression of their basic personality type. This can help the audience feel a certain way about the character before the creation does anything. In my opinion, there's something to it!


A character designed around circles has a soft, or at least likable and approachable feel. It's a good way to design a protagonist in certain settings. Examples would be our own kawaiidaigakusei's avatar, The Peanuts and South Park kids, and various manga and anime protagonists and romantic heroes and heroines.


A character designed around a square or rectangle is either a stoic, dependable hero, or tough, sturdy and strong. A powerhouse! See Superman (at least in his animated iterations), Wreck-It Ralph, The Hulk, and the Tazmanian Devil. Of course, SpongeBob Squarepants is a rectangle, but I'm not sure if his personality fits properly…


The triangle is an interesting one. This is often a scheming villain, or if not, a hero we are not entirely comfortable with. Maybe an anti-hero or a somewhat unpredictable character. Check out many Disney villains: Jafar from Aladdin, the Queen from Snow White, Batman, and Pinky from Pinky TA.

There is a visual philosophy to character design, and I think it's worth looking into. I'll research this a little more and let you know how it…shapes up?

Have a good one!




kawaiidaigakusei at 9:41AM, Sept. 25, 2015

I remember the commentary for Lilo and Stitch mentioned the art style was a departure from typical Disney character designs and used rounder body shapes and facial features. There is a scene in the movie Shame where Carey Mulligan is arguing with Michael Fassbender. The soft curves of her cheeks and the roundness of her face are contrasted against the angles and sharp, masculine jawline of her brother. Women's figures are usually more hourglass and men have the upside down trapezoid body shape like Bravo mentioned.

bravo1102 at 1:57AM, Sept. 25, 2015

A lot of this is subconscious. As for being totally reliant on culture the square and triangle do carry over into manga and anime. How much is diffusion from the West and how much goes back into Asian forms is subject to debate. Consider the difference in perception of a character that is a triangle versus one that is a trapezoid. A trapezoid gives the broad shoulders, narrow waist and hips of the classic male profile. And a trapezoidal head is angular strength with a touch of danger but still reassuring like the square? Just saying because in drawing the male profile one usually uses trapezoids.

cdmalcolm1 at 4:45PM, Sept. 24, 2015

I honestly never thought of shapes to design characters but I do believe a form of a personality has a look or a shape to it. I mostly think that a series of personalities begins to form a look, which I guess is giving me ideas for working model of a character's look. I also believe the creator's ideas for look plays a major roll in the overall look and shape of most of their creations. Like a creator might be in the look of drawing slim designs and create versions of that slim slinder look. If you look at any creator's comic here, you will begin to see the shapes they prefer to use.

Niccea at 3:44PM, Sept. 24, 2015

I think it was Aladdin. I remember hearing that too.

Banes at 2:25PM, Sept. 24, 2015

Thanks you guys! Tupapayon, good question! i dont know. i guess associations coming from the natural world would be stronger, transcending cultural considerations.

tupapayon at 7:44AM, Sept. 24, 2015

Excellent post... I just wonder how much of this is cultural and social influence in our interpretation of shapes, and how much is a natural reaction... for instance, a triangle might evoke some sense of danger because it reminds us of sharp teeth and claws... but, yes, it's worth a look...

HippieVan at 7:42AM, Sept. 24, 2015

What about mushroom-shaped characters? :P Seriously though, really interesting! I'll have to keep this in mind. Thinking about it now, I think I've done this slightly subconsciously in the comic I'm working on now. The main character, the hero, is quite round (her head is very heart-shaped, like kawaii's drawings!) and her boyfriend, who is forced to be her advocate while she's away (it's very much a reversed Odyssey situation) is very square.

KimLuster at 5:42AM, Sept. 24, 2015

Wow Excellent stuff!! Those shapes really do convey personality!! I must say I've never consciously used this but I will certainly keep it in mind now! really good artwork!!

kawaiidaigakusei at 1:37AM, Sept. 24, 2015

Whoo hoo! I got a mention. What can I say? I love heart shaped faces with a pointy chin because it reminds me of my photographs as a little kid when I was at my photogenic prime.

Gunwallace at 12:46AM, Sept. 24, 2015

Great post. And, characters based around a ellipse have a certain gravity to them, while those based on the pentagon gain a military bearing. Characters built on parallelograms look shifty, while using a kite shape as a base can make the character design soar. Of course, if you use fractals for your character you end up cross-eyed and insane.

Ozoneocean at 12:10AM, Sept. 24, 2015

That's really interesting Banes, top notch artwork too!

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