Aside from style, more specific considerations have to be made when designing a character. For example, should the character be male or female? What should he or she wear? In what ways should the overall image reflect a character’s personality?
To begin with, I decided to make Susie female. My reason for this was partly based on the demographics of our university. As of Fall 2009, the semester in which Susie was born, 64.6% of the population at the University of Houston-Clear Lake was female (UHCL Office of Institutional Resarch, 2009, p. 2). Because we identify with others who look like us, Susie was drawn to resemble the average student at the university—in other words, a female.
Kristine L. Nowak and Christian Rauh's (2005) article in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, entitled "The Influence of the Avatar on Online Perceptions of Anthropomorphism, Androgyny, Credibility, Homophily, and Attraction," backs this idea up. According to their study, participants, when presented with myriad avatars and asked which they favored,
reported a preference for choosing human avatars; the top twelve avatars most frequently chosen were humans. A non-androgynous female (4th most feminine) human avatar was found to be the most credible, the second most attractive, and the third most anthropomorphic. . . . Participants strongly preferred avatars that were both human and matched their own gender. . . . A gendered avatar (whether masculine or feminine) was more credible than an androgynous avatar and more likely to be selected (p. 171-2).
Clearly, we tend to trust human, gendered, and often female characters.
Furthermore, I took into consideration Susie’s personal style. Susie wears glasses, a beret, a cowl-neck sweater, skinny jeans and high-heeled boots. I added beret and glasses in order to give her a more studious, intelligent, cultured look. These items, juxtaposed with the open book in her hand, give Susie the air of an intellectual. However, despite her high intelligence, Susie is not a serious, ancient, professorial type (like Dr. D.!); she is young, high-spirited, and fun—and willing to help. In order to put forth this idea, Susie was drawn with a wink and a smile. She wears contemporary clothes that a young person might wear: in her case, a cowl-neck sweater (because it’s freezing in the Writing Center) and jeans, as well as some high-heeled black boots which add a young, flirty edge to Susie’s look. I considered the color of her sweater and jeans as well; green and blue are the University of Houston-Clear Lake’s colors, and Susie was drawn wearing them in order to maintain her identity as an official university “spokespersona.”
This process took many steps, demonstrated in the section on The Creation Process.
We realized that as the university's demographic changed, Susie needed to change as well. Because of this, Susie is continuing to undergo a revision process. We discuss this in the section on Revising Susie.