For thousands of years, people have used animals as symbols to represent aspects of human emotion, culture, and ideas. Even today, when designing characters in media, people use animals as symbols for larger concepts. Usually, artists will make them more humanlike, a technique known as anthropomorphism.
Illustration, especially in sequential art like comics and animation, gives artists a chance to tell a story in the most direct way possible. The way a character is designed, and the way it pulls from symbols known to thousands based on a rich canon and tradition in art and literature, can add even more layers to these stories.
My goal with my illustrative art is to work to tell stories through images, and with a logical edge, try to construct a story or a set of stories through the details of the characters and the world, even without words. Design is a balancing act between traditional metaphors and contradicting those very same metaphors to make something unique and unexpected.