There's a word in my industry that is taboo. The word is "cute".
My company makes games, and we make art that goes in games. Our game styles range all over the place from Vaporwave to Wild West. We design many characters that we want to come across as charming, friendly, silly, or lovable. The only thing we try to avoid? Cute. In fact, in our style guide, this is the first line describing our style:
- Fun - but not juvenile
Playful. Vibrant. BRIGHT! There's energy and excitement the moment you arrive. Not goofy or chaotic. Not for kids.
I'm targeting my current company because it's an ongoing struggle, but it is NOT the first or only time I've worked on branding or theming and gotten the feedback that something is "too cute."
Some people avoid using the word "cute" because the they are afraid of disenfranchising the 'stereotypical' male demographic. In reality, the idea that the demographic even exists is a manifestation of toxic masculinity. "Are you a real man? Then you don't like things that are Purple. Girly. Childish. If you do, you must not be a man." But the reality is:
Everyone. Loves. Cute.
And the numbers are here to prove it. These are the top four of the highest grossing media franchises of all time:
- Pokémon est. $105 billion
- Hello Kitty est. $84.5 billion
- Winnie the Pooh est $80.3 billion
- Mickey Mouse & Friends est $80.3 billion
So leave your fragile masculinity at the door and learn to appreciate that your audience just might like tenderness, empathy, and cute things.