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A Character Development Story Brought with Love: Part 2

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Introduction

Hello, I am Sugimoto from the Creative Office. This article is the second part in our two-part series introducing the creation of our mascot character design. Our first post detailed our journey since we received the request to its conceptualization.

Firstly, every employee is a part of the path we have been working on. Secondly, the mascot character project (referred to as “the PJ” from now on) has chosen its selection based on KINTO's vision and brand personality, as well as future developments and branding, rather than simply focusing on popularity. Thirdly, a survey was conducted among all employees, utilizing character concepts volunteered by employees. The purpose of the poll was to discuss the popularity of ideas that revolved around the motif of “clouds”, which is also where KINTO’s corporate name came from.

direction

Specifically, the following characters were the most popular. The left one, for its ability to shape-shift at will, while in the case of the right one, its charm was that it’s a cloud transformed into a car. By the way, as a manager, I feel relieved that both ideas from the Creative Office were selected.

character1

These two proposals gained popularity.

Bringing Life to a Cloud Motif

1. Not all deliverables should be handled in-house!

Based on the above two proposals, next up was illustrating. People often assume that all designers can take pictures, make videos, and even draw illustrations. I frequently get questions like, "Since there is no money to outsource, can we do this in-house?" or "Can't you just use AI to make it quickly?" Among our in-house designers, of course, there are team members who are good at illustrating. However, what is important here is to discern when to delegate certain tasks to specialists, like in the Japanese expression to "leave mochi-making to mochi shops". We are breathing life into a character here! We need to make a distinction between a well-drawn illustration and an illustration that brings it to life. As a creator myself, I strongly believe that the most respectful approach is to seek input from specialists in illustration and character design when aiming to create something of quality. I would say that this is an example of deliverables that cannot and should not be done in-house.

2. Then what should we do? Outsourcing illustration

Luckily, despite having budget, the business side of the PJ team was filled with team members who genuinely respected the creation process. They did not simply say, "designers can draw illustrations too so they should do it" and instead, they worked hard to increase the production budget for the illustrations. We decided to rely on Steve* Inc., a creative company that specializes in branding and planning design for different companies, products, and communities. They worked with us to create a story that brought the character to life while staying close to the concept that PJ wanted to uphold.

What we, the Creative Office, requested Steve* Inc.was a character that even adults would want to have, for example when made into merchandise. We requested a tone that is cute, adorable, while also appealing to adults.

Based on our request, they provided three proposals for characters with a cloud motif. A: The Mysterious Creature K, B: Haguregumo, and C: Kumorisu (the squirrel-cloud). With expressions that made the viewer want to protect them, they all appeared to be watching from above—indeed, Steve* Inc. did a great job! All the PJ members listened to the presentation with excitement. Next, we conducted a survey asking all employees to share the good points and their concerns about each of the proposals. By conducting this survey and judging from multiple perspectives, we were able to delve deeper beyond just the appearance and gain insights into the character's potential issues.

survey

As a result of the survey, we decided on proposal A, "The Mystery Creature K"!

"Mysterious Creature K": I’m Sure You’ll Ask, “Is This Really Its Name”?

Wouldn't it be interesting to take advantage of this impactful name and proceed with promotions that left a sense of "mystery" in the name and its existence? This is why the meetings with marketing and social media staff became also very exciting.

baseidea1
baseidea

Now that the form was decided, the next step was to polish it up. Additionally, it was renamed, written in hiragana, to enhance readability and familiarity.

The "Mysterious Creature K" Starts to Take Shape!

I think that the somewhat absentminded look on "Mysterious Creature K" is also pretty good. However, we continued to refine its form and facial features to ensure it will be beloved for years to come.

Specific examples:

  1. We wanted to give it a closer form to the alphabet "K" (as some suggested that at a quick glance, it might not be immediately recognizable as such).
  2. We wanted to give it a little more of a cloud-like appearance (as it initially resembled hand soap bubbles or marshmallows).
  3. We wanted to slightly adjust the balance between the eyes and the body, considering the cloud motif. (A bit more of a sense of balance, like the early illustrations of Steve* Inc., where the clouds look bigger.)
  4. We wanted to create a little more difference between the white parts of eyes and the "cloud" of the 3D version of K's eyes (only the black parts were visible, so we wanted to adjust the edge lines and shadows to make them look a little more like 2D K's eyes and keep the cuteness. We also thought that a matte texture might be more suitable.)
  5. We wanted to add more brand colors to the 3D version of K (on the black parts of the eyes, body shadows, etc.)

brushup

In addition to the 2D illustrations, we decided to make 3D ones as well to ensure they seamlessly integrate with vehicle images.

And what about the fluffiness? While it may work well in illustrations, how will it translate into a costume? What color should the eyes be? Should the character have no mouth and remain silent, refraining from engaging in sales talk? These were all things we considered as we developed the character's personality and characteristics.

kumobii_character

And this is its current form and expression!
kumobii

Its naming campaign was launched in July 2023 and received a total of 932 submissions. Among them, we grouped the options based on different criteria (see Part 1) to determine the best name.

  1. Kumo no Kinton
  2. Kumobii
  3. Mysterious Creature K
  4. K

Although both "Kumo no Kinton" and "Kumobii" were popular among our customers (KINTO subscribers in Japan), "Kumobii" emerged as the most popular choice among the target generation of teens to 30-year-olds, and internal voting confirmed its first-place ranking. Hence, we opted for the name "Kumobii." The name Kumobii is derived from the combination of "Kumo (cloud)" and "mobility," which is very KINTO-like, and the PJ members were satisfied with this name.

This is how "Kumobii" was born. I believe that there will be more opportunities for its exposure in company promotions from now on. We're excited for you to see the promotions!

Check out the unique features of "Kumobii"!

▼ Click here for the story of Kumobii ▼

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