Avatars certainly aren’t a new thing. They’ve long been a staple of pride and showmanship in forums all across the internet. I’ve never really paid much attention the avatars I use, generally just opting for a boring cropped photo or some version of my logo, and being pleased just to be done with it. With dozens of accounts across dozens of websites and services, I find myself using avatars more than ever before. And each time I create an new account I’m once again tasked with figuring out how I want to represent myself.
A couple of years and a couple of jobs ago, Kevin starting making avatars for everyone in our circle of friends. He has always taken to drawing us from the full spectrum of flattery to insulting, but these were presentable caricatures we could even show our parents. All of us used them mostly for IM an the various sites that allow a profile picture. Flash forward a couple years and we started using them in our Basecamp account for Happy Cog. Everyone likes them so much, that we’ve gotten Kevin to keep outfitting our roster with avatars whenever new people come onboard.
In the past year or so I’ve been noticing a funny thing during our kickoffs with new clients. We briefly show them Basecamp and talk about how we would like both companies to use it during the project. When we get to the People page their demeanor completely shifts, they see a slew of our avatars staring back at them. We just used them because we thought they were funny, but for new clients unfamiliar with Basecamp, it has the added effect of breaking the ice for them. Rather than “oh great, new software to learn,” it becomes “hey, we can have fun with this.”
It’s a simple thing, and certainly an unplanned one, but it shows some of our personality to the people we work with and helps them get acclimated to our process. Below are the current Happy Cog avatars. Some were created years apart, so I’ve listed them in chronological order. As you can see, the style has gradually gotten more detailed. Some fun details: mine was made when I didn’t wear a beard or need my glasses so much, Erin’s is setup so she can change its hair color to match her own ever-changing hair, and Rob’s forehead (fivehead?) extends about 40px higher than the cropping.