September 17, 2019 \ Rachel Jellinek
Character Design for Animation: Two Healthcare Videos



One of my favorite parts of animation projects is working on character design for animation.  Recently we had the pleasure of creating a series of animated patient education videos on diabetes in English and Spanish for Boston Medical Center (BMC). The goal was to develop videos that were informative and visually compelling in support of the guidance patients get from their BMC diabetes care team.

In advance of starting any scripting and storyboarding, BMC provided us with some facts they wanted the videos to convey.  It was clear to me from the beginning that I wanted to write the script using animated objects as the main characters, instead of people.


1) I thought it would be unexpected and more visually compelling.

2) Having a patient or medical professional as the character guiding viewers through the content poses some potential challenges. What should the person look like?  What skin color?  Age? Gender? What if the character we created didn’t seem relatable to the viewer?

3) The purpose of the videos was to share information relevant to a wide audience of patients and members of their support system. We created the plate and glucometer as characters to reinforce key tools in diabetes management.

In comparison to BMC, we did choose to use human figures as the main characters in a video for the North American Thrombosis Forum (NATF). The goal was to create a video that educates people about the organization’s mission, which focuses on blood clots – a health condition that is often misunderstood by people who develop it and by healthcare professionals too.

One of the main messages in the video was that blood clots can affect anyone, and so we wanted a somewhat generic character who could be broadly representative.  We developed a simple stick figure with a basic black and white design to accomplish this, and her profile was a composite of different patient stories.  Other characters had different colors to add diversity and visual appeal.

Though we love live video because of the human element it offers – allowing viewers to make a more personal connection with its subjects – we’re also big fans of animation, particularly because of the creative opportunities it provides, especially in character design.

Here are two animated videos that I enjoy and admire a lot. Each is totally different, communicating their messages in two distinct but very effective ways.