Created By: KJMackley on August 9, 2009
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Distinctive Appearances

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Been mulling around in my head for a while, but this is something that shows up everywhere.

You have a Five-Man Band, a group who is defined by their roles and quite often their physical size and appearance. You want these characters to be memorable, so you make them as different from each other in appearance as possible. The Hero is muscular, The Lancer is slender, The Big Guy is really huge, The Smart Guy is really small and oversized glasses, The Chick has all the right curves, etc.

And this can go in almost any number of directions. Make their silhouette identifiable. Have it all be Color-Coded for Your Convenience. Make it a Five-Token Band, even if all you know about the guy is that he's "The Mexican one" that's a lot better then "the other white guy."

Examples-
  • Batman's silhouette is as easily identified as his appearance, most of the time it is the same thing as his insignia. Part of it is intentional, when his body and cape casts a shadow even the mooks know he is there.
  • Indiana Jones. He walks into a room and you know it is him. You see his shadow and you know it is him. You can see him in a crowd and know which one he is on a bridge.
  • Scrubs had all the people in the hospital seperated into colors: white lab coats or blue scrubs for medical doctors, green scrubs for surgeons, pink (or purple) scrubs for nurses and the maintenance crew were black. Even then J.D. usually wears a different shade of blue than most of the other doctors. The Todd always has his sleeves ripped off to show his "guns." Doug wears a much lighter shade of blue along with a red fanny-pack.
  • Gears of War designed The Hero Marcus as having the default armor style for the game, with everything else being derived from his design. For Dominic they gave him a shoulder light as well as a knife on his chest to give him a different silhouette. Cole has his arms bare and Bairds' armor is blue, plus he has blonde hair.
  • Transformers does this quite often, most especially when the toy designs were actually for the franchise and not repackaged from other toy lines. There are still some things you don't mess around with, such as Optimus Prime's chest windows. In fact, since most of the other Autobots have the front grill of the car become their chest, having the front windows become his chest is what makes him visually unique and thereby the leader. With Transformers Animated, the design is so unique that all you need is their outline and you can see the Autobot line-up.
  • Gargoyles come in all shapes and sizes. None of the main crew have the same color scheme, same wing design, or even the same face. In fact, seeing that Angela had Goliath's coloring but Demona's appearance tipped Elisa off that she was Goliath's daughter.
Community Feedback Replies: 11
  • August 9, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    Several monsters created by Toho Studios certainly apply here. One can easily recognize Godzilla, King Ghidorah, Anguirus, and Gigan for example due to their distinctive appearances.
  • August 9, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    Star Wars: Is there anyone who can't recognize Darth Vader by his shadow?
  • August 9, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    valve deliberately invoked this when designing the characters in Team Fortress two. every class has a very distinct shape which helps a lot to identify whats coming after you. also makes it easy to spot snipers byt looking for their hat...
  • August 9, 2009
    TParadox
    More specifically, what define's Indiana Jones's silhouette is his hat (and his whip, if it's in the shot). So much so that the filmmakers eventually decided that his hat would only come off if there was a darn good reason. Note the footage of Harrison Ford jokingly offering to staple the hat to his head.
  • August 9, 2009
    rjung
    As I recall, this is common in animation to help viewers identify characters quickly -- during production of The Incredibles, an animator did outlines of each of the Parr's heads, to make sure each of them was distinct from the other. Brad Bird liked the sketch so much he had it made into a T-shirt.
  • August 9, 2009
    Warlock
    Yep. Not only color, but also silhouette, pose, and light-to-dark ratio/location. <-(animation student)

    One chapter in How to make Webcomics (By Kurtz, Straub, Guigar, and Kellet) even went so far as to describe the (black-and-white) layouts of the different characters in PVP, pointing out the different areas as light and dark, and how no two characters had the same arrangement.
  • August 10, 2009
    KJMackley
    Oh yeah, contrast Only Six Faces and compare Cast Of Snowflakes.

    Cowboy Bebop made the main cast all very distinctive, with the slender Spike, muscular and bearded Jet, curvy Faye and waif redhead Ed. Apparently the designer even said that he avoids drawing characters with perfectly symmetrical appearances and that is why Jet had the mechanical right arm and the metal piece under his left eye.
  • August 10, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    Adult Swim had a between-shows promo that mentioned this, with silhouettes of the cast of Futurama clearly identifiable.
  • August 13, 2009
    KJMackley
    bump
  • August 13, 2009
    Durazno
    This was Todd Mc Farlane's objective when he started drawing Spider Man, and it mostly worked. His silhouette is pretty standard... except that it's often contorted into odd poses, and sometimes those big white eyes are staring out of it.
  • August 18, 2009
    KJMackley
    One last bump, I think this is agreed upon even without that many responses.
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