Creating avatars for your project team

Creating Avatars blog header

You’ve made the move to agile, learned all about the wonders of visualisation and team boards are popping up all over the place. Now it’s time for the fun bit – team avatars!

 Avatars are pictures used to identify each team member. Placed on a story or task, they identify the team member responsible for that item. Avatars are a great way to quickly and easily communicate the status and current responsibility of work underway. Personalising avatars to represent your team:

  • Helps to “socialise” individual personas with the group
  • Speeds communication – remembering a face is quicker and easier to recall than a name
  • Promotes creativity in your workplace

Avatars can be a simple photo or image, caricatures, themed, unthemed – whatever the team decides. Having a team or program theme, however, can be a great way to build cohesion and create a team “brand”. This theme can be extended beyond avatars and used to style your team board and area, making your team easy to find and identify – especially useful if you choose a theme representative of your team’s mission (e.g. Mario Bros with their famous green pipes for a team focussed on integration).

Deciding on a theme can be a great team building activity when forming a new program or project team, and can be part of a larger team inception activity or completed as a stand-alone exercise. 

Once your team have created their avatar images, printable avatars with team member names can be created at Team Avatar Builder, a great open source tool. Upload a jpg or png file (square is best) with the team member’s name as the filename and this tool will do the rest.

Before we get to that point, let’s look at a few tools to create personalised caricatures and other fun themed options.

Create a caricature from scratch

FaceYourManga (faceyourmanga.com)

My favourite avatar creator, FaceYourManga allows you to create an avatar from scratch by choosing facial characteristics, hair, clothes, accessories and backgrounds. 

The Good: Great options for sideburns, scars and other facial features. For some team members the resulting likeness will be uncanny.  

The Not So Good: To get your final avatar image you’ll need to supply your email address, so make sure you read the site’s privacy policy.

Avatar Maker (avatarmaker.com)

Another avatar creator with a comprehensive set of options and a slick looking result.

The Good: Once designed, your avatar can be downloaded directly – you don’t need to provide any personal details.

The Not So Good: The avatars are pretty straight looking – no whacky scars or accessories here!

DoppelMe (doppelme.com)

DoppelMe is a classic avatar builder that delivers fairly basic results.

The Good: You can choose from a wide range of personal characteristics and save your avatar via the standard right-click and “save as” option. (You’ll need an account to access additional features).

The Not So Good: The end result is not as slick as some other options.

Create a themed avatar

South Park (southpark.cc.com/avatar)

Have you ever wanted to be a South Park character? Now’s your chance. This avatar creator lets you create your likeness, South Park style.

The Good: Delivers quality results with no need to provide personal details to save your image.

 The Not So Good: You may want to chat to your team beforehand about ensuring the avatars produced are suitable for work as the results can be a bit… South Park.

Peanuts (peanutizeme.com)

Get “Peanutized” with this Peanuts character builder from 20th Century Fox.  

 The Good: The results are very polished and very Peanuts. Once again, there’s no need to provide personal details, just download your “profile picture” from the site. (Wallpaper is also available if you really love what you’ve created).

The Not So Good: The options provided are not as extensive as with some other tools.  

Hero Machine 3 (heromachine.com/heromachine-3-lab)

Who hasn’t dreamed of being a superhero at some point? Hero Machine lets you make it happen!

The Good: There’s a great range of options for features and apparel, and you can add a companion animal for your superhero (perfect for animal-lovers). When you’re done, simply export your avatar in your desired size and format.

The Not So Good: The controls can be a little clunky – it’s best to start with a basic male or female character and customise from there.

Rinmaru Games (rinmarugames.com)

Fans of Japanese anime will love the avatar creators on this site. There are multiple “games” available to create your avatar, each with their own theme.  

The Good: Lots of themes to choose from – spooky doll, elf, geek girl, dark magician and more. The Mega Anime Avatar Creator allows you to access lots more options to create a standard anime character. When you’re done click on the camera icon to download; no personal details are required.

The Not So Good: The site contains ads and you may have to sit through one to get started. Some of the themed character creators have fewer customisable options than others so choose your theme wisely.

And that’s it! Hopefully you now have a few ideas to get your team avatars looking great. Happy creating!

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