Why is the silhouette important to so many character designers and why not to others? Is the silhouette of equal importance across all character-driven industries and media? These are some of the questions we are currently discussing in our Linkedin group.
The character designer and IP developer who started the discussion added, "I'm one of the character designers who doesn't use the silhouette often. I am usually more interested in the shapes. When it comes to making sure that my character is instantly recognisable though, I also use it".
Then an art director, illustrator and animator eloquently equated character design with a friendly police lineup, which helps the audience identify the character that made off with their attention.
He went on to say that the prime viewing angle for the silhouette will only be seen occasionally over the course of the narrative. With toys this issue is even more pronounced, given that they are seen from all angles at all times.
He concluded that because the designed silhouette may be almost "invisible" in the finished product, its significance has to lie elsewhere. If a characters' shapes and proportions can be abstracted to the point of the silhouette, while retaining the ability to trigger our emotional response to the point where we are left with a sense of the character, then that is its true, deeper purpose.
This group member then compared this effect to our ability to recognize "Beethoven's Fifth Symphony", regardless of whether it was played by the Berlin Philharmonic or on a kazoo.
The character designer and IP developer who asked the original question replied by saying, "your point regarding the fleeting nature of the silhouette is a really important one here".
He also found the parable of "Beethoven's Fifth Symphony" very interesting. Despite the fact that the signature melody is only one small piece of music in a symphony... it is the defining one, the one we are meant to recognise and to this character designer, that is what the silhouette should achieve.
It's understood that a signature theme will only be heard occasionally, but every time we hear it, we know... we are listening to the "Fifth". The silhouette certainly isn't the only signature visual that makes the immediate recognition of a character possible, but it's an important part of a whole.
Why not join the discussion and let us know what you think... here.