Mind-mapping as a Character Design Brainstorming Tool

Over the course of the next several blog posts, I’ll be sharing my process on how I personally approach character concept design. Constraints are important, and in this case, the constraint I’ve been given is the text description of a character obtained from Chaotic Shiny, a writing and gaming generator.

Er’mli, the God of Wrath, is very beautiful, with copper skin, long, pale golden hair, and eyes the color of tree bark. He is very tall and broad-shouldered, and often looks sly. He usually wears formal attire dyed medium yellow and dark blue.
He is also associated with water and strife. He is often worshipped by women. His many followers can be primarily distinguished by their tattoos. There are a few shrines to him at the edge of forests. There are many myths involving his rough relationship with Ned. He is the son of Mu. He is known to give aid to mortals in dire need.

In reading the above passage, there is a wealth of info that immediately comes to my mind. But instead of proceeding to the sketching phase at this point, I like to start off with a mind map to help me uncover new details and untapped ideas as part of my brainstorming process. The mind map can be a powerful tool when it comes to gathering references and sketching initial concepts.

Taking a sheet of paper, I start from the center and list the key words or attributes for the character. This is my starting point. Each of the key words serve as “triggers” for the next word. So, for example:

Copper skin immediately brings to my mind the word “snake”, which triggers the word “poison”, which triggers the word “dangerous”. There is no right or wrong answers in this phase of brainstorming. Simply free associate and write down the first word that comes to mind.


After my initial mind map has achieved some key trigger words, I next convert the document to a digital format (see below) for the purposes of organizing and presenting my ideas.


After the mind map is generated, it’s off to collect references.