Sun. Jan 22nd, 2023

Product design

Below are a set of criteria to consider (i.e. document) when you design a product. Although this list is primarily aimed at animation and video, some of it still applies to graphic design (e.g. backgrounds and drawing attention away from important areas).


In an animation, the characters are likely to be the most complex elements, and therefore starting with these is beneficial in terms of overall styling. When designing characters for a graphic or an animation, there are many considerations. Rather than list them all here, a summary follows, and you can read much more detail with examples here.

  • Start with a rough sketch – don’t waste time trying to create a final character right away
  • Keep it simple
  • If you are going to animate the character(s), make sure they can be drawn and viewed from different angles
  • Look for inspiration
  • Accessorising a character is an easy way to convey status/emotion

Background images

Once you have details of your character, you will want to design the backgrounds. Normally you would expect the style to remain consistent. With that out of the way, carefully consider:

  • The background should not be too busy. You don’t want the viewer’s attention drawn away from the foreground for no reason
  • Pick colours and luminosity carefully. Especially in an animation, there could be times where the hue or luminosity of the foreground and background are so similar that they merge together. A good example of avoiding this is using an outline around text, so that if the background and text colour are similar, the outline still separates the two.


In an animation, you probably will want to include sound to bring the final product to life. Sound will consist of:

  • Background music – not all animations have it, so don’t feel obliged to include it. If your intended design does not lend itself to including ambient effects, you should consider adding music to prevent it from seeming ‘dull’, unless you have a specific reason for silence.
  • Ambient sounds – you only need to mute the TV to realise how important ambient sounds are to the realism of a program or animation. Ambient sounds are those such as crowd noise, traffic, wind, water, animals etc.
  • Speech – with some notable exceptions (look at Pixar’s animated shorts) it is usual to have either speech, subtitles or both in a product. Always consider accessibility in your design – if a viewer if deaf, how will they understand the message?
  • Sound effects – environmental effects include things like reverb (that church-like quality to sound where it becomes ‘wet’ and lingers, giving locations a sense of size), echo, pitch shift and so on.
  • Post-processing – this flattens the dynamic range (the difference between the quietest and loudest parts) of an audio piece. It’s purpose is two-fold. Firstly, it stops the user getting unpleasant shocks if they turn the volume up high for a quiet passage when the volume later increases, and secondly, it increases the apparent ‘loudness’ of the piece to the user. This is achieved by carefully increasing the volume in the quieter parts, and reducing the volume in louder parts.


As part of the design, if you have characters that will be speaking, whether out loud or in print, you need to write the dialog for those characters. Knowing that you have the correct dialog (you can get user feedback) before you begin animation or trying to match sound to a sequence will save huge amounts of time further on in the process.


How long is the animation? What, broadly, is going to happen at each stage? Try to equate this section to the use of clapper boards: the director will have a good idea of:

  • What order the scenes will be
  • Roughly how long they will be
  • General gist of the scene

It is not a detailed, second-by-second account. It is an overview. You can represent this in a table or by using a timeline. The purpose of this exercise is to ensure that the scenes all have enough time allocated to them, and that the overall product length is acceptable.

Dope sheets

A dope sheet is a director’s tool to give indications of how different elements should be shot. Read more here.