Character Design Case Study
In 2014 Alibaba was considering a big push into western markets. They had one specific branding concern for which they sought our help. The “Taogongzai” 淘公仔 mascot for their Taobao brand required a redesign as they were concerned that their existing character was “too Chinese.”
The inspiration behind the existing design was extremely simple; the head was an upside-down speech balloon and the rest was just cuteness. We quickly came up with a viable solution. We aimed to do away with the orange marshmallow blob while bringing the new mascot into harmony with the existing brand elements. The approach we took was to use the visual language of the Taobao logo and incorporate it into the mascot character, giving the overall brand more unity. The new character design would make use of wedge shapes with rounded angles just as the Taobao logo does.
Alibaba also requested that we come up with an effective, lightweight backstory. The existing character lacked such a backstory, and Alibaba thought this could provide opportunity to create additional branding elements for later use in promotional campaigns. In the end they essentially came up with one themselves and we illustrated it for them. New Gongzai is a magical fairy of the forest with a backpack similar to Doraemon’s which holds his various magical and science fiction accessories.