Character and Concept Design | Minneapolis College of Art and Design

Character and Concept Design

Learn character design and concept art as you gain skills that can be used to design for a range of media, including comic books, video games, animation, films, and more.

Student draws character in sketchbook with pencil.

As a Character and Concept Design major, you will:

  • Learn and apply character design skills such as research, storytelling, sketching, refining, and illustrating a final character. 
  • Create pre-production art emphasizing key story beats, characters, props, and environments.
  • Develop a portfolio of characters, concepts, and environments that can be used across a range of contemporary media.

Character and concept design will prepare students to go into majors such as Comic Art and Animation.

Get a feel for the program:


What projects will I be working on?

Students will develop visual media assets and artwork like character, object, and environment designs, as well as storyboards and style frames. Visual research and documentation of the process will be emphasized, from moodboarding and preliminary sketches to polished illustrations.

What kinds of jobs would a character and concept designer have?

The skills and practices covered in this major apply to a variety of jobs focusing on visual storytelling. These include several different roles and media, like concept artists, character designers, storyboard artists, comic artists, and production designers.

Will I meet professional designers and artists?

Yes, you will meet professionals working in the fields of animation, game design, filmmaking, and more. 

Will I be working digitally or analog?

The course features a mix of working methods, with digital instruction in Adobe Photoshop as well as techniques using traditional materials. While some assignments focus on specific tools, the course is designed to give each student space to develop their own unique approach.

What software will I be using as a character and concept design major?

Students will primarily be using Adobe Photoshop to create digital artwork or enhance and edit traditional artwork.  

How is this major different from graphic design, illustration, comic art, or animation?

Character and Concept Design encompasses many of the same skills and techniques found in other majors but applies them in specific service to larger storytelling projects. There is a greater focus on illustration than in graphic design or animation, but resulting artworks are usually not final products in and of themselves—rather, they act as guides to communicate needs and decisions with other departments in a production pipeline.

What would a final project look like?

Discussions, exercises, and assignments will apply principles and practices that lead to students creating a suite of pre-production art that will provide a visual overview of their story concept. These story concepts could then be used in a comic book, video game design, or in an animation. 

Character study. Name is Malus Cortland. Image contains several illustrations. On the left is a greyscale image of the character hugging another character. On the right is a full body illustration of the character, a silhouette of the character, and a detail of the character's hand.
Character study with one full body illustration of a girl with short black hair wearing a white dress and white tights. She is also wearing a blue shawl and blue boots. The image also shows several studies of the face and alternative views of the full body.
Character study including face studies, full body studies, a flour shop, and a pet cat. The character is Theo, a new flower show apprentice. Theo has short hair and a broken horn on the left and long hair and a full horn on the right side of their head. They wear a burgundy long-sleeve top with a blue decorative shoulder, yellow pants with a short green apron, and brown boots with lighter toes..
Character study of a part human, part animal king. The full body illustration on the left is fully colored in with soft colors. The poses on the right are line drawings over tan rectangles, filled in with a cream color. The character wears a crown and has small horns curling over his down pointed ears. He has long blonde hair and wears a red cape with fluff around the bottom He also wears a loose shirt, slightly tucked into black pants and slippers to match the cape.
Character study including four characters all lined up against a white wall with black horizontal stripes. Left to right we see a tall character with long red hair, a patterned top and tight leggings. Next is a character with black spiked hair, a purple jacket with white sleeves, a short blue skirt and black tights. Next is the shortest character wearing a hoodie that goes all the way over the face and has a cartoon face on the front of the hood, and wears green shorts. Lastly, we see a character wearing al
Digital drawing of a night scene. There is one large image on the left and four smaller versions in different colors stacked on the right. The viewer looks at the outside of a roller rink building with a now open sigh hanging. The moon peaks over the building.
Character study including four ghost characters. They are dressed as if they are going out in the 1970's. They are in all white and glowing against a dark background.
Character study of three characters. Left to right we see a dog standing upright and waving, a fox standing upright with one hand held up near its face, and a smaller bird, also standing upright. The dog wears a cropped top with a burgundy jacket with white sleeves and blue joggers with sneakers. The fox wears a stripped top with a star necklace, a side bag, and green pants. The bird wears a cropped tank with tiger arm sleeves and white cropped pants. The upper right says Geo Gooby.