We recently added the BBM Shop to BBM so we could offer stickers, which are cute, funny images that you can use to spice up your chats. They’re like the ubiquitous smiley face emoji:
But way, way better: more colors, more characters, better graphics, etc.
Where do stickers come from? Good question! Some, like our Frozen and Disney Villain stickers, we license from Disney. Most, however, we hire artists to create for us.
Designing mobile messaging stickers sounds like a pretty sweet gig to me. One of my favourite artists we work with is Swedish designer Emmy Lincoln, aka Itchy Soul. I wanted to know more about how she does what she does—and I thought you might too. So, I emailed her a list of questions to learn more about her background, her process, and the stories behind her sticker characters.
JG: How did you get started drawing?
EL: I was one of those kids who was always drawing. I grew up in a small town in Sweden, where my mom did pottery and my grandmother was a painter. So I had close family to inspire and encourage me to draw. Later I studied graphic design and I’ve been working with graphics for mobile phones for the last ten years. I’m now freelancing as a visual designer and artist, and still have great use of the drawing skills I taught myself as a kid.
JG: Tell us about your design process. If you’re sitting down to design an emoji, what do you do?
EL: I begin by hand sketching and by trying to figure out the personality of the character. Then I write a list of all the different expressions I want to use, and make some sketches of how they might look. You have to trust your own experience and instinct to know if you’re on to something good. Asking other visual artists for feedback can help to improve your design, but sometimes compromising to please others will weaken your own idea. We can all fail, but if you make something that you like yourself then chances are that others will too.
JG: What defines a good emoji or sticker? As you’re creating them, what do you strive for in the finished product?
EL: I suppose a “good emoji/sticker,” from the provider’s point of view, is one that sells well or that is used most frequently. Generally, that would be a design that doesn’t offend or exclude too many people, a character that is positive and familiar. But sometimes a “good emoji/sticker” can be the opposite, a design with edge that makes a statement and brings value to the brand. Personally, I look for something that stands out from the rest, something that has an interesting style or unexpected elements, and perhaps something with a bit of darkness behind the cuteness.
JG: Which sticker sticker packs have you designed for BBM?
EL: I designed the CosCat and SkeletonGirl stickers.
JG: Of all the emoji and stickers you’ve created, do you have a favourite?
EL: I like my crying SkeletonGirl the most out of my own stickers. I’m quite an emotional person.
JG: When is the best time to use emoji?
All the time! They help lighten the mood or express something that’s hard to say in words.
JG: The CosCat sticker pack is a team favourite here at BBM. Maybe you can settle a debate for us. In your mind, is it just one cat dressed in a bunch of different costumes, or a bunch of different cats in costume?
EL: It’s just one cat in different costumes.
JG: Tell us about this cat. Seems like it’s fairly mischievous, doesn’t like getting dressed in doll clothes, and also uses a BlackBerry.
EL: CosCat is inspired by all the wonderful pictures people post on the internet of their cats in silly outfits. It’s just the funniest thing ever, seeing a cat in a costume. Especially when it has that offended, sulky look on it’s face, completely unaware of how funny it looks, being a cat of course. Love pets in costumes!
JG: You also designed the Skeleton Girl sticker pack. Tell us about her.
EL: SkeletonGirl is a character I paint sometimes. She is a fierce fighter with a big heart. She was born out of the earth atop a great mushroom in the forest and was adopted by a family of big, fury, peaceful creatures. All they ever did was to sit happily on giant mushrooms all day, and as SkeletonGirl grew older, she found it harder to fit into their tranquil life. She left the forest to go on adventures with her friends, and trained to become a warrior and earned her pink wig — the sign of a sword master. From then on, a whole bunch of new adventures await my little SkeletonGirl! If you’d like to see some of the original paintings behind the character visit itchysoul.se. I recently exhibited a series of SkeletonGirl paintings at the Pictoplasma character design conference in Berlin.