I created these characters for USA Funds' animated Student Loan Repayment Video while employed there as a media developer. The project called for two characters: a student loan counselor and a student loan borrower facing repayment of their loans.
In designing the characters, I faced two major challenges. First, the intended audience was between the ages of 20 and 60 and scattered across the country. The only common thread was each would begin repayment of their student loans within six months. Creating characters such a broad demographic could relate to would be difficult.
Second, USA Funds had no guidelines and few examples for the use of animation in promoting the company's products. This meant there was little to no direction on what style would past muster with corporate communications.
In the first round I presented an ultra-simplified style similar to the Timeline of Default animation I had created a year previous. In addition to matching the company's conservative branding I also believed the gender, age and race neutral characters might have a better chance of connecting with our broad audience.
To my surprise corporate communications reacted negatively. They did not like the "clipart" style. This freed to provide alternative designs with more individual personality.
I developed two new and distinct looks. The goal of each was to create a style that felt adult. The last thing I wanted was for the audience to feel I was talking down to them.
Corporate communications feedback to the second round designs was much more positive. Style A was preferred, but there were certain aspects of Style B that were folded into the final concept.
Before executing the third and final round, I solicited thoughts from a focus group comprised of the student loan counselors. I wanted their input because one character represented them and the second represented the borrowers they interacted with on a daily basis. I gathered their thoughts on the age, gender, ethnicity, clothing, and hair styles of both characters.
Taking the feedback both corporate communications and the focus group into consideration, I went to work on the final character designs. The third time was the charm and I soon had communication's approval. I then moved on to storyboards and the animation itself. You can view the video and storyboards in the project Student Loan Repayment Video.