In this article, we will share our insight about the character industry, the second theme of the ISUX Design Trend Report. Characters are frequently used as a marketing tool because they can provide friendly and positive images by applying them to services or products. As the number of ‘Kidults’ has increased, the character market is expanding a lot recently. In the past, while characters were treated as things for young children, now the culture of consuming character-related products is more focused on the 20-30s. People are eager to buy the limited editions of character items designed by character collaborations.
This research will first share the overall flow of the character market and introduce some recent character branding cases along with notable character collaborations.
每个国家都有各自的文化与情感，他们流行的IP角色也会不同。但当我们浏览这些角色时，我们发现好的角色在世界都受欢迎。 动画、漫画和游戏中这种传统上的IP角色已深受喜爱，如今， 被许多人在通信APP中使用的表情贴纸也备受青睐。 这些在线创造的角色，不仅仅停留于线上，还被应用在各种各样的产品中，与传统的IP角色在线下市场展开竞争。
As all the countries have their own culture and emotions, popular characters in each country can be different. But when we look through the characters that are popular in various countries, we can see that well-branded characters can get global popularity. Traditionally, characters in animation, comics, and games have become popular but nowadays, characters from online messenger stickers are loved by many people regard to the usage of messenger apps. The characters created from online messengers are not only staying online but they are applied to various products and compete with traditional characters in the offline market.
According to the Korea Creative Content Agency, the global character market grew about 180.6 billion dollars in 2018, which increased about 20 percent from 2009 (151 billion dollars).
We’ve found there are 4 characteristics of the character market. First, unique storytelling is very important. Second, it is easier to cross borders and be loved than simple consumer goods, so multicultural sensitivity is important. Third, the license business is very important because it accounts for more than 50% of the total sales. Fourth, there are many cases of ‘One source multi use’ that transforms and expands original content into various forms.
诞生于漫画书、电视和游戏中的传统IP角色流行了很长一段时间，随着Kakao和LINE等通信APP的增加，帮助表达用户情感的表情贴纸也变得越来越流行。此外，随着IP产业的发展，很多公司创造了许多品牌都希望与之合作的，以艺术家为基础的具有独特故事的IP品牌，中国的Molly，韩国的Sticky Monster Lab和Super Fiction是代表性的例子。
Traditionally, characters born in comic books, TVs, and games have been very popular for a long time. But recently, online sticker characters that help express emotions on messengers are becoming more popular as the use of messenger apps such as Kakao and LINE increases. In addition, as the character industry develops, artist-based companies create character brands with unique stories which a lot of brands wants to collaborations with. China’s Molly, Korea’s Sticky Monster Lab and Super Fiction are the representative examples.
If you look at the characteristics of popular characters, there is a unique and easy-to-remember story that is not so different from our everyday life which we can easily sympathize with. Niniz and BT21 characters which were designed recently also have interesting background stories.
As the characters are used as online stickers, witty characters that can convey various emotions are becoming more popular. Rather than simply a cute character, somewhat nerdy and unique characters are popular.
A simple and cute shaped character is popular. A simple looking character is not only cute and pretty in shape, but also can be applied to various products using the basic character shape.
As 3D technology develops, 3D characters with vivid textures are also loved by people. 3D characters with detailed textures can be attractive even for adults.
1) Various animal characters are popular. 2) Characters from other countries are also popular in China.
1) Characters from online stickers in messenger apps are popular. 2) There are many characters family brands rather than an individual character brands.
1) Characters from animation are popular. 2) It is a somewhat in rough form, but funny characters are popular in internet memes.
1）大多具有独特的手绘风格。 2）多数来自游戏和动画。 3）被应用在各种各样的领域中，比如地方政府和交通卡。
1) There are many characters in unique hand drawing style. 2) Many characters are from games and animations. 3) Characters are used in various field of industries such as local governments and transportation cards.
Recently, there are many cases in which character businesses are expanded by collaborating with various industries. And there has been a collaboration with trendy fashion brands, popular artists or products with state-of-the-art technology which tend to expand character’s brand images. From the standpoint of a company or a brand, it is possible to convey a friendly and positive image through a character. We have summarized the noticeable cases of character collaboration.
This is a collaboration of Korea’s street brand Covernat and Ryan, which is one of the most popular character of Kakao Friends. A character collaboration can easily become cute but since they only applied Ryan which has with no expression on his face, it matched well with Covernat’s unique street brand image.
Anti Socal Social Club曾经将他们灵活的logo应用在各式短语或品牌名称中。这次联名，他们把标志性的logo与BT21的角色，品牌名称还有缺乏萌性、略显笨拙的logo相融合，很好地协调了ASSC独特的品牌风格。
Anti Socal Social Club has used their flexible logo applying various phrases or brand names. In this collaboration, they applied their logo with the BT21 character, brand name and logo which is not too cute or awkward and harmonized well with the ASSC’s unique brand style.
这是Nike在2019年Airmax day与Super Fiction的一次联名。用户可以创建角色彩票并使用散列的标签将其上传到Instagram上。Super fiction的角色特征在Nike上得到很好的应用，使用SNS的活动吸引了相当多的年轻消费者。
This is a campaign that Nike collaborated with Super Fiction on 2019 Airmax day. The user can create a character lottery ticket taste and can upload it on the instagram with a hash tag. The character identity of the Super fiction was applied well on Nike, and the campaign using SNS attracted the young consumers.
时尚品牌Uniqlo推出了由潮流艺术家KAWS 与儿童电视节目SESAME STREET 合作的KAWS X SESAME STREET UT系列。UT (优衣库T-Shirt)是一款独特的T恤，它选择和应用了许多潮流文化概念，如音乐、艺术、电影和动画等。
Global fashion brand Uniqlo has launched the KAWS X SESAME STREET UT collection, which is a collaboration between global pop artist KAWS and a popular children’s TV program SESAME STREET. UT (UNIQLO T-Shirt) is a unique T-shirt applying the pop culture concept such as music, art, film and animation which Uniqlo has selected.
A well known street fashion brand Bape, which is famous for their gorilla character logo and patterns, has done a collaboration to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Snoopy. Bape applied their unique camo pattern with the Snoopy characters and applied to various products.
韩国领先的化妆品品牌Etude House与迪士尼可爱的猪角色Piglet合作庆祝2019金猪年。“Happy with Piglet Collection”是提供可爱包装和各种各样产品的限量版，可以打造带来新年好运的可爱妆容。
Korea’s leading cosmetics brand Etude House collaborated with Disney’s lovely pig character Piglet to celebrate the golden pig year of 2019. ‘Happy with Piglet Collection’ is a limited edition, offering a cute package and various products that can create a lovely makeup which will bring good luck to the new year.
随着K-beauty市场的发展，VT Cosmetics将BT21和BTS作为其品牌的主要模型。他们在包装设计中使用BT21 的形象，还在最近开了一家快闪店。
As K-beauty market grew, VT Cosmetics applied BT21 and BTS as the main models for their brand. They used BT21 characters in package designs and recently opened a pop-up store.
The fashion magazine Esquire described Ryan as a real selves and applied him as their cover model. They designed the cover by compositing the 3D Ryan with a real background which make the character feel more like a real model.
这是Super Fiction和全球时尚品牌Maison Kitsune的合作项目。他们设计了一个玩具形象，以此反映Maison Kitsun的狐狸特征。这只具有狐狸形象的大雕塑正在韩国第一家Maison Kitsune的商店门前展出。
This was a collaboration project of Super Fiction and global fashion brand Maison Kitsune. They designed a toy figure reflecting the identity of fox character of Maison Kitsune. In front of the first Maison Kitsune store in Korea, a large sculpture of this fox is being exhibited.
LINE Friends had a very unique collaboration with Helvetica, the font that represents Swiss modernism. This collaboration has got attention from the design industry and also gave consumers a fresh impression since it was the first collaboration between un-materialized font and a character brand.
Kakao Friends的Apeach与书法艺术家Kelly Park合作东京商店的开业。Kakao Friends经营的’Studio Kakao Friends’与来自世界各地且在不同领域的创作者合作。第一个合作者就是韩国的书法艺术家Kelly Park，Apeach粉红可爱的角色特征与Kelly Park强劲时尚的书法结合在一起，创造出独特而时尚的产品。
Kakao Friends had a collaboration between calligraphy artist Kelly Park and Apeach to open Kakao Friends Tokyo store. Kakao Friends Tokyo runs ‘Studio Kakao Friends’, which collaborate with creators from various fields around the world. The first project was with Korean calligraphy artist Kelly Park. Apeach’s lovely pink identity and Kelly Park’s powerful and stylish calligraphy were combined and created trendy and unique products.
日本露营品牌Snowpeak与LINE Friends的一次联名。Snowpeak以其在野营装备行业的精细技艺而闻名，同时也以优秀的设计质量和热爱自然的精神而著称。它尝试将LINE Friends热情友好的的品牌基调运用到产品中，这种运用是出色的。
This is a collaboration between Japan’s camping brand Snowpeak and LINE Friends. Snowpeak is well known for their craftsmanship in the camping equipment industry and also famous for excellent design quality and nature-loving spirit. Snowpeak tried to apply the warm and friendly brand tone of LINE Friends into the their products which was outstanding.
LINE Friends与法国文具品牌Rhodia的合作，Rhodia是一个深受艺术家与设计师喜爱的品牌。LINE Friends可爱的角色形象被很好地应用在Rhodia充满奢华与艺术感的品牌形象当中。
This is collaboration between LINE Friends and french stationary brand Rhodia, which is a especially loved by artists and designers. This is a case that LINE Friends’ lovely character image was well applied to Rhodia’s luxury and artistic brand image.
Kakao Friends 江南旗舰店在三楼开设了第二家咖啡馆与四重奏面包店，并发布了两者合作的菜单与商品。除咖啡的所有包装之外， Kakao Friends的角色也被应用于面包之中，给四重奏品牌带来趣味性与机智性。
Café and bakery Quartet opened their second shop on the third floor of the Kakao Friends Gangnam flagship store and released the collaboration menu and goods. In addition to all the packages used in the cafe, the bakery also applied Kakao Friends’ characters, which gave the fun and wit to the Quartet brand.
This is a collaboration between Tencent ISUX’s new character ‘PUPU’ and Naixue, a popular fruit tea brand in China. It is introduced along with the PUPU Fantasy Travel exhibition and is being sold at Naixue stores throughout Shenzhen, China.
Brown与Bang＆Olufsen的合作项目，Bang＆Olufsen是丹麦一家生产昂贵音频设备的公司。 Brown的象征颜色和面部被限制性地用在最小设计中，以此保持Bang & Olufsen高端的品牌形象。
This is a collaboration project between Brown and Bang & Olufsen, a Danish company that manufactures expensive audio devices. Brown’s symbolic color and face were restrictively applied to the minimal design of Bang & Olufsen to maintain their high-end brand image.
基于“Super Me（SUPER MI）”的概念，小米和Line Friends展开合作。这个版本使用了Brown的故事，它遇到小米后获得超级力量并成为“超级Brown”。小米和LINE Friends将继续会有更多的合作方式。
This is a collaboration between Xiaomi and Line Friends which is based on Xiaomi’s “Super Me (SUPER MI) concept. This edition applies the story of Brown, who has gained superpowers and became ‘Super Brown’ after he met Xiami. Xiaomi and LINE Friends will continue to have various collaboration.
Clova Friends是由LINE Friends的母公司Naver制作的AI扬声器品牌。他们用Brown和Sally两个Line Friends 的角色设计了一款可爱而友好的人工智能音箱。很多AI扬声器都倾向使用可爱的角色，因为这些角色可以让人们对设备感觉更友好，并且有情感上的接触。最近，他们与哆啦A梦和小黄人合作设计了一些特别版，这些版本都很受欢迎。
Clova Friends is an AI speaker brand made by LINE Friends’ mother company, Naver. Using the LINE Friends character Brown and Sally, they designed a cute and friendly artificial intelligence speaker. A lot of cute characters are tend to be applied to AI speakers since characters can make people feel more friendly to the device and have emotional access to it. Recently, they have designed some special editions through collaboration with Doraemon and Minions which were very popular.
Kakao Friends和由Kakao Games提供服务的，热门PC游戏Battle Ground的合作。 Kakao Friends设计了一个在游戏中穿得像角色的Ryan玩偶，是Battle Ground游戏迷们喜欢的少数项目。
A collaboration of the popular PC game Battle Ground, which is being serviced by Kakao Games. Kakao Friends designed a Ryan doll who dressed like a character in the game and also few items that fans of Battle Ground game would love.
Supercell公司制作的著名游戏《皇室战争》与Kakao Friends一起做了一款小游戏，在这款游戏里，皇室战争和Kakao Friends的角色被重新设计。
Supercell’s famous game Clash Royale and Kakao Friends made a snack game together in which the characters of Clash Royale were redesigned with Kakao Friends characters.
使用迪士尼 IP的手游正在陆续发布。 Sundaytoz已经发布了一款名为《Disney Pop》的移动休闲益智游戏。
Mobile games using Walt Disney’s IP are being released one after another. Sundaytoz has released ‘Disney Pop’ which is a mobile casual puzzle game.
As various characters are created, there are a lot of attempts to make each characters distinctive from other brands since character business is getting more and more competitive. We have summarized the most prominent cases of character branding and also organized the characteristics of character-related businesses.
Recently, there were few cases to design a character resembling a star or develop new characters by participating in an idol star for the making character concept. The fans of the star naturally become a fan of the character so the character brand can easily get the popularity. By using a star in the brand strategy, it can also help to give a story to the character which makes the brand more interesting. Recently, the BT21 character is very popular which was developed by LINE Friends with the world-renowned K-pop artist group BTS.
LINE Friends根据BTS成员所画的草图创建了一个角色品牌，并利用BTS的全球粉丝来提升这几个角色的人气。一年多来，BTS成员参与了从角色的初始草图、整体设计到角色个性和背景故事的所有过程。随着这些过程在制作电影里曝光，尽管还没有发布，BT21就收到了国内外粉丝的爆炸性响应。截至2019年1月，BT21在SNS的粉丝数量已达到1600万。匡威和 Antisocial Social Clubs等时尚品牌与BT21合作的产品在发布1-2小时后便全部售罄。
LINE Friends created a character brand based on the sketches of BTS members, and this BT21 characters were able to use the worldwide fandom of BTS to enhance the popularity. Over a year, BTS members participated in all the processes from initial sketch of the character to the overall design, character personality and the background story. As the process was revealed in a making film, BT21 received explosive responses from domestic and foreign fans even before its launch. The number of SNS followers for BT21 already reached 16 million on January of 2019. The fashion brands such as Converse and Antisocial Social Clubs collaborated with BT21 characters and those products were sold-out 1-2 hours after their release.
Roy 6角色由LINE Friends与中国新一代偶像王源共同创造。王源与LINE Friends一起参与了角色的开发并首次在中国推出。 Roy6的主题曲《Will you》大受欢迎，一经推出便在中国主要音乐排行榜上名列第一。
Roy 6 character was created by LINE Friends with China’s next-generation idol 王源 Roy Wang. Roy Wang participated in the character development with LINE Friends and first launched the Roy6 in China. The campaign song of Roy6 ‘Will you’ was a big hit that it took the first place on the main music charts of China right after it was released.
这是LINE Friends用人气综艺节目《Running Man》制作的3D动画，每个角色都是根据节目中的真人明星而设计。基于节目的高人气，动画在全世界也广受欢迎。另外，他们还用这个3D动画角色制作了一款手游。
This is a 3D animation that LINE Friends made with the ‘Running Man’, an TV entertainment program which is very popular. Each of the characters were designed based on the real stars in the program. Based on the popularity of the program, animation has also become popular all over the world. In addition, a mobile game was also made with this 3D animation characters.
A character made by YG Entertainment, Korea’s leading agency that produces a lot of stars. Krunk can be easily seen in music videos and events or advertisements related to YG, with the concept of being a star singer. And various goods and figures of Krunk which is for promotion of YG artists are also popular.
Popular characters are also tend to be loved globally, so character brands try to promote their characters by opening offline shops or holding events in overseas. We have researched the cases that have recently succeeded in globalization of the character brand.
Kakao Friends opened a character brand shop in Omotesando, Tokyo, with the theme of Apeach. The Apeach character released in Japan is different from the original character which was modified to suit the unique sensibility of Japan. People can experience the character brand through various desserts and large sculptures of Apeach character in Apeach Omotesando shop. Based on its popularity in Japan, Apeach was selected as a main character of Tokyo Tourism Corporation.
Kakao Friends最近在上海开了一家快闪店，这是他们在中国业务的开始。这家快闪店的概念是“第一次中国之旅”，他们在周围放了一个巨型角色形象供人们拍照。中国是有巨大商业潜力的国家之一，因此Kakao Friends也期待在中国市场会有所成就。
Recently, Kakao Friends opened a pop-up store in Shanghai which was a start for their business in China. This pop-up store had a concept of a ‘first trip to China’ that they placed big character figures around for people to have photos with it. China is one of the country where there is a big potential in character business so Kakao Friends will be also looking forward for their success in China market.
LINE Friends去年在泰国开了一个名为“LINE Village”的小型主题公园。当人们参观这个世界上的第一个室内景点时，可以看到实际尺寸的角色和在23个不同主题的房间里享受。 LINE Friends商店不仅是一个销售商品的地方，也是可以让人们享受乐趣并拥有全新体验。今年他们也准备在上海开设另一个主题公园。
Line Friends opened a small theme park called “LINE Village” in Thailand last year using their chaaracters.When people visit this world’s first indoor attraction,they can see in real size characters and enjoy 23 rooms with different theme.The LINNE Friends store is a place not just for selling goods,but a place where people can have fun and have a new experience .They are also ready to open another theme park in Shanghai this year.
The characters that have been popular in the early days can also feel bored with repeated images after a certain period of time. Some character brands try to change the styles or collaborate with other brand to give fresh feeling, but they also develop a new version of characters that can expand the character story which will revitalize the character brand.
Kakao Friends设计了一个婴儿版的角色家族“Kakao Little Friends” ，它们与原始角色并没有太大区别，形象却更柔和而温暖。此版本被应用于Kakao Friends的各种产品，尤其是与儿童相关的产品。
Kakao Friends designed a baby version character family ‘Kakao Little Friends’ which is not much different from the original characters, but has more soft and warm image. This version is applied to various products of Kakao Friends and especially goes well with the children related products.
Various characters were newly designed for BT21, conveying the concept of designing the family and friends of BT21. These various character versions were also loved by BTS fans.
By collecting character figures, consumers can possess their favorite characters in the most complete form. The value of a well-made figures is increasing rapidly as the number of Kidults are growing. A lot of special editions are designed and people love collecting them. Following this trend, character brands make their characters in to a toy figure, allowing people to feel more affection for their characters by possessing it.
Bearbrick is a collectable toy designed and produced by the Japanese company MediCom Toy. They design various editions through collaboration with famous brands and artists in bear-shaped figures which become their signatures, and they are loved by the collectors for a long time.
Molly is a character created by Hong Kong designer Kenny Wang, and is produced as a toy figure through collaboration with various brands. This grumpy but cute-looking girl character has a lot of fans around the world, and they are enthusiastic about Molly’s limited edition.
Super Fiction makes a lot of high quality figures of their characters and also designs a large size of sculptures as an art piece.
Avofriends is a character brand designed by a small studio in Korea, and it is recently getting popular in China and Hong Kong. They had a collaboration with one of the electronic payment system in Korea, Lpay which used Avofriends for their promotion.
By opening a character exhibitions in offline, it can make people understand more deeply about the character brand. And since people like to take photos in an interesting places to share on their SNS, a lot of character brands tend to open an exhibition to promote their characters and let people take photos with their favorite characters.
Celebrating their 25th anniversary, street brand Bape opened a large collaboration exhibition in Tokyo. 10 artists customized baby Milo characters which was placed in the exhibition and various brand collaboration products were introduced.
全球角色品牌LINE Friends在上海的东方明珠塔推出了一个名为“I am Sally”的展览。这是LINE Friends的首次单独角色展览，它在Sally生日当天开幕，周末有超过6万名当地粉丝和游客参观。展览放置的4.6米高的大型Sally尤为特别地吸引了人们的注意，里面还设计了各式各样Sally主题的展览摊位和快闪店。
The global character brand LINE Friends opened the exhibition ‘I am Sally’ at the Shanghai landmark Oriental Pearl Tower in China. This first solo character exhibition of LINE Friends was opened on the birthday of Sally, and more than 60,000 local fans and tourists visited over the weekend. In particular, 4.6 meter tall mega Sally placed in the exhibition attracted attention and various exhibition booths and pop-up stores on Sally’s theme were designed.
Momo Planet opened an art exhibition in China with their newly designed graphic posters which delivers different image from their original character brand.
As we know, a lot of character brands try to expand their business by collaborating with various brands. But in recent years, companies who owns their IP have started different businesses with their original field, especially in F&B business.
Kakao Friends推出了一款以Ryan为主要模型的独特零食品牌’Sunday cheezzzball’。从Ryan喜欢奶酪球的背景故事开始，Kakao Friends将Sunday cheezzzball的销售网扩展到线下。以“给日常忙碌而孤独的人们提供治愈式零食”为概念，他们还设计了一个快闪店。
Kakao Friends launched ‘Sunday cheezzzball’, a unique snack brand which used Ryan as the main model. Started with a background story that Ryan loves cheese ball, Kakao Friends expanded its distribution network to offline with their own snack brand ‘Sunday Cheese Ball’. They also designed a pop-up store with the concept of ‘A healing snack for people who feel somewhat lonely in the busy daily life’.
此外，基于奶酪球的主题，Kakao Friends正准备在首尔南山塔开设第一个VR冒险乐园。人们可以享受VR的吸引力，同时也可以享用各种与Sunday Cheezzzball相关的食品，饮料和商品。
In addition, based on this cheese ball theme, Kakao Friends are preparing to open the first VR adventure park in Namsan N tower in Seoul. People can enjoy VR attraction as well as various food, drinks and goods applying Sunday Cheezzzball story.
LINE Friends在香港国际机场开了第一家Brown and Friends主题餐厅BITE＆BITE with LINE Friends。这个基于LINE Friends的餐饮品牌旨在通过LINE Friends的角色提供最佳口味和愉快体验。 LINE Friends一直在推出各种流行饮料和零食产品，并通过在韩国和中国经营“BROUND”等咖啡馆继续扩大其餐饮业务。
LINE Friends’ first ‘Brown and Friends’ theme restaurant ‘BITE & BITE with LINE Friends’ was opened in Hong Kong International Airport. LINE Friends’ partnership based F&B business brand was designed to provide the best taste and enjoyable experience with LINE Friends characters. LINE Friends has been introducing a various of popular beverages and snack products, and has continued to expand its F&B business capabilities by operating cafés such as ‘BROUND’ in Korea and China.
韩国网络漫画平台Naver Webtoon，用人气漫画《Yumi’s cell》的部分故事做了一款Babi 小吃，这是一款出现在webtoon上的产品，它尝试在口味上与有着30多年历史的传统炒年糕保持一致。《Yumi’s cells》在故事中用描述炒年糕哲学和绝佳美味的方式来吸引读者，目前，这款炒年糕正在网上商店出售，为了Yumi’s cells的粉丝， Babi餐车已在全国各地巡游了6个月。
Naver Webtoon has made ‘Babi Snack’ which was part of the story in the popular webtoon ‘Yumi’s cell’. ‘Babi Snack’ is a product that tried to make the same taste with the 30-year-old traditional tteokbokki that appears in the webtoon. Yumi’s cells attracted readers with their philosophy of tteokbokki and its excellent taste description in the story. Currently, they are selling this tteokbokki in the online store and Barbie food trucks have traveled throughout the country for six months for their fans.
Now the character is no longer a thing that appears in children’s movies or animation. There are high-quality characters that can be treated even as an art, and many Kidults with purchasing power are enthusiastic about it.
The 3D technology or VR allows the characters to be expressed in a high quality, and it is possible to show the characters more vivid and realistic. We are looking forward to the growth of the character industry which is rapidly developing and changing.
Thank you for reading to the end, and the next report about avatar design trend will be coming soon.