Cartoonist draws attention to HR messages

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Q&A with Jenny Campbell

Through eye-catching and humorous cartoon campaigns, nationally-syndicated cartoonist Jenny Campbell shares her unique artistic talents with a variety of companies and non-profit organizations. The cartoons that she creates for clients of Outside the Lines Creative Group, LLC (OTL) are fun, innovative and effective as she brings HR messages to life with the cartoon characters she develops.

Jenny’s daily and Sunday comic strip, “Flo and Friends”, appears in newspapers across the country, and throughout her career as a cartoonist, she also has illustrated more than 15 children’s books. Through a three-part series of blogs, she responds to questions OTL’s clients have about the cartooning process. This is the first article in the series.
1. When you’re meeting with a client, do you usually hope that they choose an animal, object or person as their mascot character? Are some characters more fun to draw?
Well, that’s easy… I’m ALWAYS hoping they’ll choose an animal. My human characters seem to be popular with clients, and I love drawing them. But I definitely have a bit more fun with animals. Animals are just so much easier to exaggerate, and to put in ridiculous positions, and to create wonderful moments that make people laugh out loud. For example, one of our clients – Akron Children’s Hospital – lets us use their real-life therapy pony, Petie, as a cartoon mascot to convey health and wellness messages to their employees, and the campaign has been really fun.

Petie, a therapy pony at Akron Children's Hospital, is the star of a wellness cartoon series for hospital employees.

Petie, a therapy pony at Akron Children’s Hospital, is the star of a wellness cartoon series for hospital employees.

Horses are fun to draw, but ponies are the best! Chubbier, shorter and just more cartoony by nature. And let’s face it, putting a chubby little pony in a leotard, in a Zumba class, is just innately funny, and might not have had quite the appeal if he’d been a human character. It’s cool drawing people, too. But in our client meetings, I’m always secretly rooting for an animal, or even a widget that I can bring to life!

2. Do you draw wildlife using pictures or do you draw what you envision the animal to look like?
No, I definitely need some reference. If I’m drawing an armadillo, for example, it’s a little hard to just make that up. But cartooning, I think, is like any other kind of art… you’ve got to study what you’re drawing and sketch it out before you can exaggerate it and make it funny. So I can research my armadillo, study his features, his limbs, the patterns on his armor… And once I’ve done that, I can make him as ridiculous as I want.

3. Do some characters lend themselves more to being happy, grumpy, confident, or inquisitive? In other words, do you have a personality of the character in mind while you’re drawing it or does it get a personality as you are drawing it?
Oh, there’s no question… the characters DEFINITELY have their own personalities… creatures, people and inanimate objects alike! And giving those characters a distinct personality when I draw them is all part of the fun. I probably wouldn’t draw a raven looking coy and innocent… he would absolutely be up to something. By the same token I’d probably draw a fat little groundhog with a goofy, befuddled personality.

Of course, it depends on the character, too. For example, one of the characters I draw for Jergens, Inc. is a flange named Scrap. So, does a flange – a round, flat piece of metal – have an innate personality like a raven or a fat groundhog? Not so much. So Scrap’s character had to be developed, and he became the comic character among the Jergens’ mascots: the doofus who, in spite of all his good intentions, just NEVER gets it right. Who’d have guessed it of a flange? But, that’s the fun in creating these guys and giving them personalities!

"Scrap" is a character based on a flange made by Jergens, Inc. He appears twice each month in an HR/benefits cartoon series for Jergens employees.

“Scrap” is a character based on a flange made by Jergens, Inc. He appears twice each month in an HR/benefits cartoon series for Jergens employees.

4. Can characters age over time? With an aging workforce, is it more effective to age characters that we currently have or should we introduce new characters that look like they’ve been in the workforce a while?
Except in the syndicated cartoon strips, “For Better Or For Worse” and “Funky Winkerbean”, cartoon characters generally don’t age (look at Charlie Brown!). And I like to hold to that rule. If an aging issue needs to be addressed, it’s easy enough to introduce an older character and use that character to deliver the message.

But as for the mascots we develop for clients which become more and more well-known to their employees as time goes on, I think aging them just could become confusing.

Have a question for the cartoonist? Post your questions here or send them to denise@otlcreativegroup.com.

Curious about how cartoons and cartoon characters can work in your organization? Contact us at denise@otlcreativegroup.com or 216-407-4676. Visit our website at otlcreativegroup.com. Find us on Facebook at facebook.com/otlcreativegroup.

Stay Tooned: In the next two weeks we’ll cover:
• Q&A Session with Cartoonist Jenny Campbell (second in the series)
• Create a cartoon character that fits your organization

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