Blog: Secrets from the Chef

How we drew a character for Sindbad

Evgeniya RodinaAuthor: Evgeniya Rodina
23 May 2011

Character for Sindbad

Not that long ago our portfolio of characters was replenished with a new character — we drew a noble purebred aviator cat for Sindbad. For 16 years Sindbad offered to its users a convenient search interface for purchasing air tickets at the most affordable prices. The service provides for the best air fare deals Russia-wide and overseas.

A small conversation between the Turbomilk’s Yegor Gilyov and Sindbad’s Yury Frolov preceded our work on the character:

Yegor: We like creating characters :) On the other hand, it’s hard to create a character and not deviate towards East, 1001 nights and so on…

Yury: We can draw some kind of an animal ))). I would concede to a cat that catches little flying planes.

We used to sit with our colleagues just now and discussed the character. So, I told Roman that we should start thinking about adopting one… He said that he approved the idea and we would benefit from some human image or an animal in an avionic style. Some sort of a brave cap cat in a helmet and goggles. I even have a toy that is like that, which I brought from Helsinki’s airport. You push is on the belly and it hums like an airplane, haha! It’s just what comes on my mind.

Yegor: the earlier years of aviation is an exciting topic!

Yury: Sooo, that’s just what we talked about… Romantic world not for everyone… Young designers sawing clothes, making suitcases. Yup, those were the times and now they are more like moments)

Inspired by such thoughts we started working.

Our first sketches presented us a brave Aviator Cat in a leather jacket, pilot helmet and goggles. So we drew the cat sitting, the cat standing, the cat hovering in the clouds like a plane, the cat leaning over the capital S…

Sketch of character for Sindbad Sketch of character for Sindbad Sketch of character for Sindbad Sketch of character for Sindbad

These cats evoked a whole wave of discussions but to the delight of the designer have been rejected.

“Cool! My main concern with the cat is the leather jacket and the goggles. These come from the dawn of civilization, from the heroic pilots that could fix the engine with −40 degrees, make skis out of broken chassis and take off from an iceberg. This is way too cool for the CIVIL aviation. Right now we have the times of style and comfort.”

Roman Lebedev, “Sindbad”

We accepted the concern and got engaged in redressing the Cat in some other uniform. We sifted through a whole bunch of pilot’s photos and even talked to some. And here comes the second array of sketches. You cannot help but notice the difference. In one case the Cat closed the eyes from having too much pleasure and it exudes warmth and comfort, on the other it looks at the visitor:

Sketch of character for Sindbad

This Cat was closer to the desired result but looked baggy. It should have been put on his rear paws and added some youth to it.

Sketch of character for Sindbad

In this series of sketches we experimented with the hand’s gesture. The character waves with one hand and the second hand is behind his back or is deep in the pocket.

The final battle was over the smile. Would Cat Sindbad be smiling with only his lips or his movie superstar teeth would also be a part of his sparkling smile?

Sketch of character for Sindbad

Thus after a vast number of sketches, discussions and clarifications we drew the Cat in color. It turned out to be a real civil aviation pilot: neat and handsome! :)

Character for Sindbad

But that was not the end of our mission. Sindbad asked us to draw the Cat for the flight search section. To make sure that the user is not bored while the system is dealing with handing the search query another version of the Cat would entertain the public.

Originally we wanted to picture the Cat at the rudder of an airliner in flight among the clouds. This is how it was supposed to look like:

Sketch of character for Sindbad

Then we made a sketch with a magnifying glass through which the character would be looking for flights. He was doing it like this on the sketch: his mug against the glass and staring at the visitor with his large green eye!

Sketch of character for Sindbad

“We are looking for a „pilot came to look at the radar“ association :) There is a radar in a plane but I think too much realism would kill the idea. Let it be a radar in the wall and a cat looking in it. And no connection to the reality. In reality people do not look for anything with a magnifying glass. It’s just a symbol.” —

Roman Lebedev, “Sindbad”

As a result of the discussion we drew the Cat in a new image next to the radar:

Sketch of character for Sindbad

This sketch pleased everyone and a vector drawing was created based on it.

Character for Sindbad

Apart from the deal, as a designer I would like to add that we really enjoyed working with Sindbad and its managers, who proved to be very active and interesting colleagues. Lengthy search and debate, refinements and adjustments turned into a comprehensive and pleasant project, which now occupies its worthy place in our portfolio.

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Its nice to see the whole process and how even small changes like the smile or the paw position can make a big difference. I have to say, I also really like the early versions too esp #3 & #7.

If you don’t mind my asking, what is the approximate cost for the character dev process?



Reply @erikig, 9 July 2011

How long does it take to create a vector drawing like that? Do you reuse graphical elements or is everything from scratch? I’m fascinated by cool illustrations. I’ve always been curious what the process is. A friend of mine told me that illustrations like this are hand drawn on paper and then traced or vectorized in some way. But it doesn’t sound like you do it that way.

Reply @344kellogg, 19 July 2011

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