Silhouettes have been part of human expression for thousands of years, going all the way back to ancient China. The power and impact of silhouettes truly define what it means when artists and designers say “less is more.” The basic form of the silhouette removes all detail and eliminates all distractions from what is being conveyed. This allows for a full range of expressions that can be simple or dynamic. Just ask any film director about silhouettes, and how vital they can be in helping to create compelling scenes.
From the suspenseful work of Alfred Hitchcock to the blockbusters of Steven Spielberg, silhouettes are a big part of the movies. In fact, the impact of silhouettes is everywhere. Here are a few examples of how silhouettes can create complex images using only shapes and outlines.
Silhouettes also have a positive benefit in real-world applications. In terms of distance and visibility, a good silhouette can stand out, even at long way away. For example, stop signs have a very particular shape, allowing them to be identified even if the sign can’t be read. The cost impact cannot be understated. Silhouettes take less time to produce as am image and typically use less ink to print, as compared to a sufficiently detailed picture of the same size. Then there is time, let’s face it, it’s a rough world out there. It gets cold, it gets hot, some days it’s wet and others it’s as dry as an old bone; the environmental stresses of signage can be brutal. This is where the silhouette really stands out. Fewer details mean that fading and damage do not hurt the impact of the image as severely as what can happen to detailed icons and symbols. In fact examining old, worn, and vintage signs can reveal a remarkable fact, after a good amount of time and weathering, most images turn into silhouettes.