Pokémon designer opens up about balancing cool & uncool Pokémon

Ken Sugimori opens up about how he balances designing both cool and uncool Pokémon for the most popular gaming series in the world.

Posted by Ashley King on July 28, 2018

There's a new Japanese book out about the Pokémon Ultra Moon & Ultra Sun series that contains an interesting interview with Ken Sugimori, the main designer for most of the Pokémon in the series. Siliconera published a bit of the interview in English that discusses how the legendary designer strikes a balance between cool and uncool monsters.

Sugimori-san: The technique I often use when finishing up designs for Pokémon is to “keep the balance.” I might try adding something uncool to a Pokémon that is too cool, or I might add something cheerful to a Pokémon that is too serious. I spoke about making friendly designs earlier, but what I actually do is take something cool and make it less cool.

Sugimori says it's important to strike a memorable balance for Pokémon and this unique design decision influences him more often than not, often contrary to some of the other designers on the team. The example given in the interview discusses Oshawott's freckles and how important they are to his core design.

Sugimori-san: After all, as Pokémon that are being sent out to the world, we want them to always remain memorable; however, I feel that in order to do so you have to add a touch to it. For example, look at Oshawott’s cheeks. It has three freckles, and if you take them away Oshawott becomes cuter. However, taking them away makes its face less memorable. Actually, a lot of people told me “I want you to get rid of the freckles,” but I strongly insisted “It is better to have them.” Going by my standards, this is the correct way to design Pokémon.

It's interesting that Sugimori-san adds things to Pokemon to balance how they look. Oshawott is definitely cuter without the freckles, but the animators of the Pokémon anime can use those freckles to make the Oshawott character that much more expressive. What do you think?

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