As I mentioned in my last post Boost your Engagement With These 3 Character Design Tips, I have a detailed chart pairing physical attributes with symbolical and psychological personality associations. If you are looking for an economical way to symbolically tell your story, this character design trait list is a good place to start.

I got this as a handout while in school at SAE in Byron Bay, Australia. I think they got it from a CGC school in Sydney. Other than that I don’t really know who to credit this concept art character design guide and character symbolism chat to, I’m sad to say.

Character Design and Symbolism

Body Part When small/short When large/long
Eyes Blind, Timid, Obsessive, Narrow-Minded Young, Inquisitive
Lashes Assertive, Troubled, Vicious Desirable, Drowsy, Loving
Forehead Stupid, Vacuous Intelligent, Nerdy, Wise, Elderly
Hair (male) Conservative, Efficient (Bold = Freaky) Rebellious
Hair (female) Assertive, Efficient Freedom
Ears Attentive, Clever Deaf, Dumb, Elderly, Pixie
Lips Pensive, Mean, Un-sensual, Quiet Sexy, Talkative
Chin/Jaw Submissive Power, Strength
Cheekbones Weak Beauty, Officious
Neck Narrow-Minded, Red neck, Strong Inquisitive, Elegant, Clumsy
Female Breats Athletic, Impish Nurturing, Matronly
Male Pectorals Introverted, Self Absorbed, Incapable Noticeable, Forthcoming, Strong
Arms (thick=protective) Introverted, Incapacitated, Meticulous Able, Capable, Gangly
Hands (thin fingers) Artistic, Sensitive Manipulative, Dexterity
Hands (thick fingers) Manual Labor Strong, Powerful
Hips Grace, Swish Lazy, Maternal
Stomach Fit Jolly, Voracious
Legs Stubborn, Slow, Dominant, Grounded Servile, Helpful, Fast
Feet Nimble, Weightless Earthy, Dumb
Hair/Fur Color Association
Hair/Fur Blue Heavenly, Cold, Young
Hair/Fur Green Mysterious/ Mystical
Hair/Fur Brown Tender/ Loyal
Hair/Fur Yellow/Red Evil
Hair/Fur Black Dominant, Evil
Hair/Fur Blond Desire, Vague, Vain, Youth
Hair/Fur Brunette Centered, Earthy
Hair/Fur Pink Eccentric
Hair/Fur Green Out of this world
Hair/Fur Blue Banal, Superfluous
Hair/Fur Silver/Platinum Pure, Wealthy
Hair/Fur Gray Mature, Wise
Hair/Fur Purple Elderly, Respectable
Hair/Fur Black Melancholic, Aggressive
Other Association
Thin Legs Elegance, Ungainly, Gangly
Sharp/Angular Lines Masculine, Negative, Evil, Weathered, Intellectual
Soft/Rounded Lines Feminine, Positive, Friendly, Young, Superficial
Moustache Macho, Hiding
Beard Respect, Knowledge
Glasses Dumb, Self Absorbed, Intellectual
Hunchback Old, Reclusive


Character Design Tropes

This link is from Masterclass and it goes over some common character design tropes such as the chosen one, the damsel in distress, the femme fatale, the girl next door, the mad scientist, the trusty sidekick, the wise old man, the dumb muscle, and the antihero:

This article also addresses how to avoid these tropes or design against the grain, such as: Figure out what your characters really want, get to know your characters outside the story, allow your characters’ personalities to change, and avoid clichéd situations.


Symbolism and tropes are part of visual communication shorthand. They get the idea across fast and more effectively because it's ingrained in our culture, so it's instantly read and understood. It can be a powerful tool if it's used with intent and sensitivity, but it can just as easily be abused and come across as a hack treatment, a stereotype, or worse. Use caution and restraint when using symbolism and tropes and remember it's not a solution for every situation. Rely on your process for design and problem solving a character and use this guide to refine your intent as needed.

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