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A group of diverse animated characters

September 2, 2022

Have you seen our illustrated characters?

Can you see yourself in these illustrated characters? Or does one of them remind you of a uni friend? 

Belonging and representation is something we all need to feel at uni. This means seeing yourself as part of Deakin’s learning spaces and experiences. It also means that the rich diversity of our Deakin community should be visible in these spaces.  

Deakin Library is committed to creating a sense of belonging for our community. Visible diversity that reflects all of Deakin should be part of our digital learning and communications. That’s what inspired a project, led by our Library Digital Designer, that has been part of your Library experiences.

The Inclusive Character Design Project 

We are a library that is focused on creating positive student experiences, especially in our digital landscape. We continually develop digital literacy learning resources and promote our services to our community. The Inclusive Character Design project was developed during 2018 and 2019, aiming to reflect both our resource work and the desire to strengthen student connection to the library. 

The key challenge framing this project was to develop a set of illustrated characters in a respectful and collaborative way. Our goal was to design illustrative representation that engendered a sense of belonging for students, to see themselves mirrored in imagery or to open a window for them that showed the wonderful diversity of their cohort. 

How did we get started? 

What we often see in digital illustrated characters are either a default hero white male character, negative stereotypes or characters so removed from realism (think of purple people or outline vague human shapes) that there is little to connect to. There is a complexity to representation that we recognised in this project.  

But to do this authentically we needed to look through the window of other people’s experiences and work. For example, artists such as Angelica Dass and Anoosha Syed who have created and shared an amazing body of knowledge on respectful representation. We also spoke to and got feedback from other Deakin staff, from our student body and from anyone who would talk to us about it! Finally, we researched and reflected and considered our own experiences. 

What do the illustrated characters look like? 

From all this rich information and learning, our Digital Designer created nine initial characters. 

Nine illustrated characters with names and alternative names underneath. From left to right, there is: Jamal, Trent, Mei, Amal, Ira, Priya, Thelma, Siobhan and Lee.

The characters also needed names, outfits, accessories, and stories. So, a character pack was designed for each of these nine characters. 

An example of Mei's character pack, with different outfits, expressions and interest areas.

But it didn’t stop there. We listened to our LGBTQI+ students, to our colleagues in Diversity and Inclusion, to NIKERI cohorts, and to the Librarians we work with. Additional characters were suggested to us: 

Our collaborators helped us create and refine these characters.  

Four additional illustrated characters, with a few versions/outfits and alternative names. These include Sam who is nonbinary, Kalinda who is an Indigenous Australian, Jasper who has a visual impairment and is pictured with a service dog, and Christine who is a Torres Strait Islander.

Where have I seen these? 

Our illustrated characters pop up in all sorts of spaces. Have you seen the Deakin Library YouTube channel? Maybe you follow us on social media. Perhaps a Librarian ran a seminar in your unit. Or walking through our library spaces a large display screen might have caught your eye with these bright, interesting characters featured.  

Examples of where the illustrated characters have been used, including on the library website, instruction videos, posters and social media tiles.

Do you have an idea for an illustrated character? 

Just like uni assessments, design is iterative. You redraft, tweak, edit, extend and (hopefully) continually improve on your first concepts. Practice can make perfect. But hearing other people’s ideas and reviews is an important part of that. Is there a character you would like to see designed? Would you like to be part of the process? Get in contact with the Library with any suggestions you have. We love hearing from you!  

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