A lot of the time when I talk about visual design I talk about silhouettes. There are many things to consider when designing any visual element in one of the games I make, and thinking about objects in terms of their silhouette helps to remove distractions of things like colour, lighting and texture. We're then free to focus on a single element before we move on to those other things.
So how important and powerful is a silhouette, and what do I personally like and dislike when creating one? First, it's important to remember that visual design is just a series of decisions. Some of them are unconscious, informed by personal preference that makes certain things our first choice. Others are more actively reached, through trying a series of ideas to see which ones work best for us. Let's look at some of the decisions we can make when creating a simple element such as a sign.
Our silhouette here is very simple, very basic. Two roughly rectangular shapes. It gives us the information of "a sign", but it doesn't do much more than this. It's the most perfunctory silhouette we can probably give to such an object. To me this is not very interesting as a visual element. Maybe we might try to fix it by making it a bright colour, or more interestingly lit, or have some weird graffiti on it, or something of that nature. These are all viable solutions. But before we try any of those, it's a great idea to try and make the silhouette a bit more interesting.