Experiences

Developing the Guess What! characters

Marek Jagucki

Earlier this year, we ran a series of posts from behind the scenes on our new course Guess What! Today, we’ve one last post in the series, from someone who contributed very strongly to the look and feel of the course – illustrator Marek Jagucki! Marek tells the story of how the characters from Guess What! ended up with their distinctive look.

As an illustrator it is interesting (and often cringe-inducing) to look back and observe the evolution of my drawing style over the years. Usually it’s a steady progression with the odd experiment thrown in but Guess What! was possibly the most dramatic shift in my style in recent memory.

My original approach to the characters (above) was very typical of the work I was producing at the time, cartoony with black outlines, flat colours and simple shading. I was given a nice, clear brief describing their main features and I was quite happy with my initial designs, though in retrospect the eyes were a bit googly. I thought, for a robot, iPal was particularly cute. The comments at this stage were to make David and Olivia’s hair less old-fashioned (a bit alarming as David’s hairstyle was based on my son’s!), a few clothing adjustments and to change iPal’s eyes to be more robotic. However the main request was to make the colouring and shading more 3D.

I replaced the flat colour with gradients, beefed up the shading and added highlights. The figures now had more depth and their characteristics were finalised but the style still wasn’t quite right. It wasn’t 3D enough. The layered shading looked a bit odd plus the eyes were still too googly! Time for round three.

Take two

Take two


Cambridge had recently used actual 3D-modelled illustration and the aim was to emulate that a bit but in a 2D cartoony way. Out went the googly eyes in favour of a slightly more ‘realistic’ look. I’d already developed a drawing style that didn’t use keylines however it still employed simple flat shading. Taking this as a starting point I softened the shading using a blur effect and used two or three layers to fully round out the shapes.

This however created a bit of a technical issue for me. My drawings are all vector based, created in Adobe Illustrator, which is great for flat artwork but once you start adding multiple colour gradients and live blur effects the files become increasingly cumbersome. By the time the style was rolled out to a six panel full-page comic strip I was spending rather a long time watching the cursor spinning round on my aged Mac. In the end I gave up and actually went out and bought a new computer!

Third version

Third version

Shiny new Mac in hand, I refined the style a bit such as introducing sharper highlights to balance the blurry shadows, tweaking colours and finally sorted out Olivia’s hairdo. In the end everyone seemed happy with the result.

In reviewing the project and being the self-critical type I can see a million things I’d redo given the chance but I hope everyone likes it. Altogether it was an important and interesting departure for me artistically and though often awkward, laid the groundwork for later projects. Evolution in progress!

Fun in the kitchen!

Fun in the kitchen!

Find out more about our new course Guess What!


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