Ian Lynam’s “Valley of the Cute”

The vocabulary list is here
The printable PDF is here

Ian is a designer and instructor who I met while living in Tokyo, Japan. He is also a great writer. In one of his latest books “Visual Strategies for the Apocalypse,” he describes an assignment that teaches basic vector skills in Adobe Illustrator by creating a cute character, like Mifi, Garfield, or Hello Kitty. Japan, with its manga culture, has an adorable mascot for everything. Even the police station has one, called “pipoman”, the sound of the siren (see below).
Ian also talks about how commercial brands like Hello Kitty or the over-rated artist Takashi Murakami have become hugely popular, without even much of a background story to it. “They did this by drilling deep into the visual core and by analyzing the visual principles that appeal to mass audiences.”

Assignment 1

As a practice, he suggests to disassemble popular characters and examine their structure and cute points.
Click through this gallery to see a few of his examples dissected:

 

Next, here is a video tutorial with Italian illustrator Simone Legno, also living in Tokyo.

– Watch him build a character. (log-in with your NewSchool ID, or if that doesn’t work use this dropbox link) Watch at least clips 3-7 as a tutorial

– Sketch a simple character with a pencil (let’s have very few, and very basic, and graphic shapes)

– Then take a picture with your phone and bring the sketch and photo to class tomorrow. You’re done for today, Buona notte!

In class: Upload the photo into the computer to re-draw it in Adobe Illustrator. I will show you the basic tools to do that.
Eventually, we want to use this character to make a sticker or use it on the t-shirt design.

 

Assignment 2

Ian will take it one step further: “the Return to the Valley of the Cute”,
Mascots for the Apocalypse, as I understand it.

1. Come up with 3 seemingly disconnected phenomena that you like or dislike, but have strong feelings about

2. Sketch shapes that represent each phenomenon into some character, body part or accessory and redraw them in Illustrator. black outlines only, not fill, not brushes or pixels

3. Combine them into a cute zombie mascot

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