We all enjoy using stickers from time to time when messaging – whether it’s talking about our favourite television show, complaining about work or celebrating with a friend – it’s fun to add a little more character to what we write.
But stickers have to relate to and reflect the emotions of a large international audience in order to be successful. A global selection of artists was given the (rather fun) task by London-based creative team Anyways (formerly INT Works) to design multiple sticker packs for Google’s new messaging app Allo, rising to the cross-cultural challenge.
Allo was announced by Google earlier this year, but rolled out for iOS and Android devices in September. You can find out more about Google Allo features compared with the likes of Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp here.
Three packs of stickers are included in the app, but users can download a further 24 packs. We spoke to Anyways art directors Alice Moloney and Charlie Sheppard about the process behind commissioning artists from all corners of the globe, and choosing sticker set themes that would appeal to a wide audience.
Image: Indian designer and illustrator Mayur Mengle designed the Talk to the Hands sticker set.
Mayur says Indians use many hand gestures to talk. Taking this idea forward, many youthful emotions are expressed in this set through hands. (Mayur’s designs were not art directed by Anyways).
Finding artists to design the sticker sets proved a big task for the Anyways creative team.
As well as bearing in mind the gender split, Anyways wanted to commission illustrators with different levels of experience – from big names to emerging talent. They sifted through hundreds of artists in specific continents.
Each artist was given his or her own theme and suggested messaging within that theme. Some themes were specific, such as “conversations about television”, and some much more broad, such as “relationships”.
For example, Burnt Toast Creative was given the theme of "work life".
The graphic design team took on a more sarcastic, negative tone in their stickers – extrapolating the brief out to "general work grief", as seen in this image.
Anyways wanted to keep the style of the sticker sets broad and international, keeping in mind the vast difference in audience taste.
Testing within focus groups, they found people tended to respond well to sticker sets with one character only, perhaps it possessed a stronger identity. Also sets with a more positive tone and upbeat messaging were more popular.
“Clarity is something we always prioritised, because if a sticker doesn’t make sense to the user or recipient within a split second, then it’s unsuccessful,” says Alice.
“The style must support the message instead of getting in its way.”
Image: Illustrator Dingding Hu was given the brief "over the top cuteness" – to create one or more super cute characters with a strong personality that people can easily relate to.
Drama Llama was the favourite pick of many proposals – a silly yet friendly crazy llama.
And the message behind each sticker set had to prove acceptable across multiple cultures and contexts.
Google invested a lot of thought into the foundations of each sticker set, providing a solid starting point. Anyways tried to avoid adopting short-term trends or niche references, whether stylistically or within the messaging itself.
The Anyways team also brainstormed all sticker set themes with the wider team from the HudsonBec group to conjure a wide range of opinions.
Here’s some of the sticker sets produced by artists commissioned by Anyways.
Image: Animator and illustrator Lavanya Naidu created the lovable characters of Lulu and Jazz, under the brief "a couple in love".
Image: Kawaii illustrators Squid&Pig were asked to design a pack of stickers under the theme "cute overall". From there, three marshmallow characters were created, each of them with a distinct personality but with a shared love to party.
Image: Ian Jepson created the character Stee-vee the TV for the brief "binge watching". Ian had to provide three initial directions, but once Stee-vee was chosen he says it was a quick process from developing the idea into 30 different scenarios to the final illustrations.
Image: Prasad Ramachandran designed and illustrated this set of 24 stickers - I love India. (Prasad's designs were not art directed by Anyways)