Draw, Draw and Draw!
You have to keep drawing! Even if it’s not going well and you find you just can't draw. Maybe you're having one of ‘those’ days. That's ok. Take a break. Leave your desk and get some fresh air. Have a bite to eat or a nice cool beer. Relax.
Then get back to your desk. Change from a pencil to a ball point pen if you have to, draw! As seen below! I believe you have to draw and draw and then some, if you are going to uncover the gem you're after.
I like using a ball point pen as it makes you focus on creation rather than refinement. I’m looking for the rough beats which I’ll get plenty of time to tweak and refine later.
Early sketches for the Data Executive
Here I thought I would save time. I jumped straight into illustrator without really thinking, this is what I came up with. Very mediocre, slightly lifeless icon style. The character still had comedic value but it was missing a vital ingredient. My advice is simple: Avoid doing this- work on paper and then scan it in when you are happy.
Back to research
I looked back at my research. I focused on some Italian characters that seemed to suit. I finally found a great celebrity to loosely base my character around and I went from there.
Now we enter the refinement phase. As you can see above my sketching is a bit ropey and raw due to them still being in the working out stage. Once you are happy with your sketch idea; get feedback! Get as many people as possible to look at it and comment. I let work colleagues look through my final 6 character sketches. They would make passing statements, good and bad. Pick up on comments like: ‘I don't trust that guy’, ‘Is she a ninja?’, ‘he looks like a knight’, chances are these opinions will reflect the masses thoughts too.
If you can: adapt or, at least, consider what would happen if you turned the janitor into a knight? It can give character added dimensions. Not everyone has to like your character, just as long as they recognise what it’s supposed to represent then your job is done. Don't take offence if people say "it’s rubbish" or "that could be done better". But do question them, ask for specifics so you can refine it and adapt. Equally, be mindful and question "is their criticism founded and worth pursuing". Also wise to remember; you won’t please everyone you ask. People will see different things and want different tweaks. Don’t try to please them all. Take the ideas that resonate most with what you are trying to achieve, otherwise you’ll end up with something designed by a committee: vanilla and lifeless.