Career Outlook For Creature or Character Design

It’s safe to say that today’s professionals are a bit more cautious when it comes to choosing a career path or changing the one they’re on. Given the uncertainty of the current economic climate and the seemingly temporary nature of many new jobs, this caution isn’t at all surprising. To help ease the mind of those thinking about a career in creature or character design, this article will aggregate information concerning what a student of creature and character design can expect upon graduation.

What does a creature and character designer do?

To put it simply, creature and character designers are vital to the success of many television shows, movies and video games. If the characters are poorly conceived, it shows. If the characters are poorly rendered, it shows.  And if the characters don’t move in the way they should, it shows. The point is, creature and character designers make the unbelievable believable, to the success of the program or game in question.

Of course, a successful creature and character designer has many tools in his or her toolkit. They must be able to create anatomically correct creatures and beings while still somehow adding otherworldly qualities. Being a skilled 2D artist will help during the development process, but a skilled creature and character designer will need to be able to create realistic 3D renderings using sophisticated software programs like ZBrush.

A character designer works alongside a number of stakeholders to turn a description of a creature or character into a full-fledged on-screen being. From 2D, roughly sketched concept art to full on 3D sculpting including texture and colour, the creature and character designer is responsible for bringing to life the vision of the director and writers, and ensuring that a digital element looks and moves the way the audience expects it to.

Where can I take the program and how long does it take?

It might surprise you to know that many Canadian academic institutions offer accredited programs in the digital arts. Not only that, conducting a little research into some of these schools will reveal some of the achievements earned by their instructors and their students shortly after graduation, so it’s obvious that they offer quality content.

Fortunately, traditional academic institutions are not the only way to receive quality training in this explosive field. There are many focused, truncated courses and programs available on campus or online that can help the prospective creature and character designer become industry ready in a fraction of the time.

For those transitioning from one career to another, it might be difficult to justify the cost and time commitment of a four year program. Some specialized, standalone courses are offered in as little as eight weeks. Others, like the Creature and Character Design Program offered at the CMU College of Makeup Arts & Design, pack in a ton of industry relevant material (from life drawing to digital sculpting, to digital character design to practical character design) in a condensed 17 week format.

What is the career outlook after finishing the program? What industries can I work in?

You don’t need to subscribe to premium cable or own the dozen or so gaming consoles to know that demand for digital creature and character designers is constantly increasing.

Upon graduation, one of the greatest avenues that will be made available to you will be in movie and television production. If you aren’t keen on relocating, you’ll be happy to know that many studios and digital design companies work north of the border, meaning that if you live in one of Canada’s metropolitan centres, there will be many opportunities available not too far from home. If you live in a more remote location, you might be able to take advantage of some remote work.

Another principal avenue of work will be in the video game sector. If you’re interested in something less mainstream, there’s a growing demand for the creation of realistic creature displays for arcades, amusement parks, museums and tons of other unique attractions. You could even carve out a niche for yourself creating one-of-a kind pieces for serious collectors.

You can certainly apply your trade in television, movies and gaming, but you don’t need to feel limited to opportunities solely in these mediums. There really is no limit to where these skills can take you.

What other design careers are out there?

The great thing about pursuing design is that many foundational skills  you learn in one specific area of design can be applied to others. That means if you experience a shortage of work in one area, you can branch out and take on other design related jobs until something that really drives your passion comes along. While this might not be for everybody, designers with experience using digital tools can put their knowledge to the test as a freelance graphic designer, a UX designer, advertising, promotional material, art direction, toy design and so much more.

As long as you keep adding to your skillset, you should be able to sign on to a number of different projects, a fact that should give you some comfort if your primary field of interest experiences a downturn in the number of available opportunities, or is part of an industry that experiences cyclical lulls.

Things to know about the program

Enrolling in a creature and character design program will offer you several benefits. The first such benefit consists of familiarizing yourself with  some of the industry’s standard tools, such as Photoshop and Pixologic Zbrush, amongst others. Secondly, you’ll emerge with a solid portfolio of work to show prospective clients in less than a year. Lastly, you will develop the knowledge and confidence necessary for working with cross-functional teams to achieve a goal.


While there are no absolutes when discussing career opportunities in any field, those that experience the greatest success are those who possess the skills necessary to be able to work in a wide range of industries. Digital designers—of which creature and character designers are comprised—are positioned for success within a number of different fields, and as such this career option should be considered a viable pursuit by anyone interested in working in a creative field.