This icon set is based on characters from the Cartoon Network miniseries Over the Garden Wall. All the characters in the show are very distinctive and stylized, so it seemed like the perfect candidate for this project. One concern early on was that the characters are already very stylized as presented in the show, so I wanted to find a visual style which wasn’t too similar to the show itself. I also didn’t want to render the icons too much, and only include a few select features which would help differentiate each character, but still create unity within the set.
Early on in the sketching process, I experimented with frontal vs profile, and pretty quickly decided to stick with frontal. During the rest of the process, I ended up experimenting with three main questions: 1) Round heads or square heads? 2) Both head and body, or just head? 3) How many features? Should the characters have noses/eyes/arms/etc., or only some combination of them? After getting some feedback, I decided to go with square heads, just the noses where applicable/possible, and small bodies with no arms.
When I got critique on my drafts, there was no issue with my stylistic direction. Most of it was about specific details, which I always appreciate. One recurring note was being especially careful about tangents and areas of convergence between paths, such as on the icon of Beatrice (the bird), where the gray of her body was meeting with the blue of her wing and the red accent on her belly. All the colors converged in exactly the same point, which caused some visual tension. There was also tension caused by the placement of the spots on the side of Mr. President (the frog) being too close to where the legs met the body. I just needed to move some elements away from those areas of convergence to open up some space. The last thing I fixed was Wirt’s pointy hat; dimensionally, it didn’t look like his head was actually inside it, so I altered the rim around where it meets his head so that some would pass in front of his head and some in back, to make it look like it was inside.
I’m pretty happy with how I met my objectives. To address the issue of not wanting to be too similar to the original show, the biggest help was choosing to use square heads instead of round. The show uses a lot of round shapes in its character design, so the square heads instantly made my style choice distinct from the show’s, and established a unified template to build off of for each character. To keep the features simple, I decided to use just the nose where possible. Some characters had to break this rule, such as the beast, who doesn’t have a nose, so I used his eyes instead. In any instance where I broke the “noses only” rule, I tried to do it in a way that was most representative of that character, such as Enoch (the pumpkin) and Sara (the skeleton), whose eyes are a big part of their image as characters.