Character Design


The course aims to give fundamental theoretical and practical knowledge of figure/character development for various visual narrative media, including games.

Character design externalises or visualises internal and/or invisible qualities of figures within narrative contexts. From these traits, the reader/ viewer/gamer/etc. builds her/his expectations in regard to the story's development or games options.
The development from stereotypical figure to individual character consolidates or disrupts given expectations.

The course offers introductions to various media and their properties, including relevant aspects of psychology of media, focus on forms of storytelling and portrayal of figures. Theoretical work interlinks with experimental development of figures for various media to develop a systematic approach to character design.

Admission requirements

General entry requirements + English B.

For Swedish Upper Secondary Grades merit rating will be calculated according to Områdesbehörighet 6/A6


credits 32% final grades 34% national university aptitude test 34%


Syllabus for students autumn 2019, autumn 2018

Course Code:
KK142A revision 3
Level of specialisation
Main fields of study:
No main fields
Date of ratification:
15 May 2018
Decision-making body:
Faculty of Culture and Society
Enforcement date:
03 September 2018
Replaces Syllabus ratified:
15 June 2012

Entry requirements

General entry requirements + English B.

Specialisation and progression relative to the degree regulations

The course can normally be included as a part of a general degree at basic level.


The course is divided into three parts:
1. Storytelling, figure constellations. Text analysis for character design and useful creative writing methods. Properties of medial canals and elements of their storytelling. Basics of copyrights and other relevant media laws. (7,5 credits)
2. Individual project in character design for one specific medium (chosen in dialogue with supervisor). (4 credits)
3. Film/drama/literary/media theory, and graphic storytelling. (3,5 credits)

Part 1 contains a short introduction to the basics of storytelling in media, starting with technical aspects, forms of narration, and artistic practice. This part of the course offers practical and theoretical issues. Students analyse and reflect on results reached and put them into relation to the course's literature/reading obligations. Characters/figures and visual material are produced experimenting with tools, styles, and medial canals. This part of the course develops practical competences of character design, narrating, layout of individual aspects of figures/characters, digitalisation, production. Results are presented in seminars.

Part 2 is dedicated to one individual project that has to be developed for usage in a previously agreed on performance or publication in a mass-medium (e.g. comic, film or game). The topic and medium are chosen by the student in dialogue with her/his supervisor. The project-work is done independently, with limited supervision. It is used for further analysis and development in the final paper.

Part 3 runs parallel to the entire course and consists of lectures, group-discussions, and written/drawn/built exercises. Theory is integrated in the practical elements and the students continuously describe their reflections and analyses in oral or/and written form. The whole course completes with a written reflection on the practical development of a set of figures/characters for a specific narrative use (usually: comic, film, play, or game).

Learning outcomes

After completing the course, the student should:
# display knowledge on storytelling in general and in individual media (1)
# display knowledge on storytelling traditions and stereotypes (2)
# display knowledge on the role and importance of visual storytelling in contemporary media landscapes. (3)
# display knowledge on publication of characters/figures and their copyrights implications (4)
# display knowledge of forms of character design and their application (5)

After completing the course, the student should:
# demonstrate ability to develop figures/characters for comics and/or storyboards, for film, games or other visual narrative media (6)
# demonstrate ability to critically assess and analyse their own and others' work in word and writing (7)

After completing the course, the student should:
# display ability to reflect on limitations and possibilities in the visualisation of character and its development (8)
# display ability to reflect and judge figures/character designs of their own and by others in relation to content, form, and choice of expression in word and writing (9).

Learning activities

The course depends on the students' activity and learning. Teaching forms used during the course are lectures, seminars, workshops, excursions or study visits, group work and individual projects under supervision.


Written assignment 4 credits: learning outcomes 1-4

Oral Presentation 3,5 credits: learning outcomes 5-8

Individual Project 4 credits: learning outcomes 6-7

Final Report 3,5 credits: learning outcomes 9

Grading system

Excellent (A), Very Good (B), Good (C), Satisfactory (D), Pass (E) or Fail (U).

Course literature and other teaching materials

Reading material for the course consists of the books and articles listed below. Some papers can be added.
Mandatory reading:
Collection of articles, not more than 300 pages; including amongst others:
  • Cuddon, J.A.: "character, the" in: Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory; 135 ff. (and other lemmata)
  • Gombrich, Ernst: Art and Illusion. [Chapter on carricature] London: Phaidon.
  • Grant, Ewan C.: "Human Facial Expression" in: Man, New Series, Vol. 4, No. 4 (Dec., 1969), pp. 525-536.
Trevor-Roper, Hugh: "The Invention of Tradition: The Highland tradition of Scotland." In: Hobsbawm, Eric; Ranger, Terence: The Invention of Tradition. Cambridge: Canto, 15-41.

Salen, Katie; Zimmerman, Eric (ed's): The Game Design Reader. A Rules of Play Anthology. MIT Press. (chapters on "The Game Design Process", "Player and Character", "Games and Narrative")

Optional reading:
Bourdieu, Pierre: Distinction: a Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste. Harvard University Press.

Eder, Jens; Jannidis, Fotis; Schneider, Ralf (eds.): Characters in Fictional Worlds. Berlin, New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2010.

Field, Syd: Screenplay, the foundation of screenwriting. New York: Dell.

Francis, Penny: Puppetry. A Reader in Theatre Practice. Palgrave 2012.

Goffman, Erving: The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. New York: Doubleday.

Isbister, Katherine: Better Game Characters by Design: A Psychological Approach. Morgan Kaufmann.

Kress; Gunther; van Leeuwen, Theo: Reading Images: the grammar of visual design. London: Routledge.

McCrone, David; Morris, Angela; Kiely, Richard: "Scottish Heritage. Commercialising the Culture." In: McCrone, David; Morris, Angela; Kiely, Richard: Scotland - the Brand. Edinburgh University Press, 49-72.

Millerson, Gerald: Lighting for Television and Film. Focal Press.

Paris, Bernard J.: "Imagined Human Beings: A Psychological Approach to Character and Conflict in Literature"

Posner, Dassia N.; Claudia Orenstein; John Bell (eds.): The Routledge Companion to Puppetry and Material Performance. Routledge, 2015.

Rose, Gillian: Visual Methodologies. London et al: Sage.

Course evaluation

Written evaluation at the end of the course.


The education is provided by the Faculty of Culture and Society at the School of Arts and Communication.

Further information

Studentservice, K3 - Malmö universitet,