We love our summer interns, and we’re particularly proud of our Thrive Program, an 8-week program that provides second-year students from communities underrepresented in tech the chance to develop their technical skills and experience life at Duolingo.

Our Thrive interns always get to work on incredibly impactful projects, and their work lives on long after they leave! Meet Taylor, whose work with the art and design team included imagining Vikram's kitchen and rooftop garden!

In with the new!

When I began pinpointing what I wanted to work on during my internship, I reflected on my personal goals and how they might impact the company.

I knew I wanted to spend my summer designing new characters and expanding the Duolingo World. The Duolingo characters are a core part of the brand. Since language learning connects people by building bridges across different languages and cultures, it’s important for these characters to represent a diverse range of perspectives.

I soon realized how I could transform my passion for character design into a meaningful project. That summer, there was a team that was creating animated videos with the help of external vendors and artists. I noticed that these vendors were designing characters individually for each scene they needed to appear in, with very minimal style guidelines beyond the main cast’s character sheets. I saw an opportunity to provide this team with more support.

For my first project, I set out to create a character library of well-designed, diverse characters for our artists and contractors to reference!

We felt confident giving these characters to our vendors to use in the background of scenes. They fit in the Duolingo design language, but didn't outshine our main characters’ performances. Now, the characters I designed can make reappearances in future projects. Instead of designing new sets of characters for each individual use-case, our artists can reuse these character designs to save time, resources, and focus for other priority tasks.

Duolingo characters are constructed of simple geometric building blocks, so I explored different combinations of those shapes to create fun character silhouettes. They had to be interesting, but not too wild as to distract from the main cast. I brought my initial sketches into Figma, the main illustration tool at Duolingo, so I could learn the workflow that I would be using as a full-time Duo. After that, all the designs went through a ton of iteration, tweaking little details to make every part meaningfully designed and visually appealing.

Next, a peek inside Vikram's house

While researching for my first project, I studied our main cast closely. In doing so, I discovered a problem: Vikram, one of our characters, was much less understood by audiences and even our art team. So, I decided I would tackle this issue by creating a design of his home to explore the character’s main traits. After all, you can tell a lot about a person from their living arrangements!

After doing some more research on all the Vikram information out there, I became an interior designer—picking furniture that reminded me of what I imagined he would own. Afterwards, I made a blueprint of his apartment. Since his main characteristics were his love of baking and gardening I decided to focus on his kitchen and his rooftop garden. I did rough layouts of these spaces before polishing them up. Then I added color, keeping in mind that the colors could not clash with Vikram himself so that he would stand out in the space.

I immediately learned that homes have a lot of influence on the perception of the character who lives in them. While the art team was helping to critique and push my work forward, we were already joking and coming up with ideas for content featuring Vikram, simply based off of my initial sketches!

Ready to return!

Working on both projects strengthened my worldbuilding skills and taught me a lot more about creating memorable characters from scratch. I will be returning this summer as an Art Intern, so I’m excited to learn more!

Want to learn more about life at Duolingo? Check out these interviews with real-life Duos!