In 2005, a book called "The Skillful Huntsman" was published by Design Studio Press, and concept art was forever changed. For maybe the first time, students were able to see process steps to making entertainment design, and of course, those students began to emulate the process laid out in that book.
One of the parts of that book that got perhaps the most attention was the concept of thumbnail silhouettes. The idea is actually, really, really good - to think of the shapes and read of what you are trying to design instead of getting bogged down in the details that are so easy to fall prey to in line drawing. Of course, when students started aping this technique, many of them didn't have the understanding of form that is REQUIRED to make this a useful methodology.
The result, frankly, created wave after wave of incredibly shitty designs in our industry. Instead of focusing on readability and form, people got caught up in how "interesting" a shape they could generate - usually by adding a shit-ton of spikes. When that didn't happen, the designs were unreadable and not taken further. Portfolio after portfolio were filled with pages of little black blobs that could never inform anyone further down a pipeline with information needed to do the work.
In the last couple of years, there seems to be less of that going on. The word got out that it wasn't a "cool" technique to get jobs. Now, I'd say the pendulum is swinging the other way, towards tighter and tighter linework. That will probably cause it's own set of problems, but is beyond the scope of today.
This morning, I started to rough out some designs for a building in my "Strange Futures" project. It's going to be the home of an isolated old guy living out in the desert, where he has to ward off attacks by mutant dinosaurs. I want to capture the feeling I got driving through the Badlands of South Dakota and seeing old shacks in the middle of nowhere, but also have a bit of "cool" to it, and show the mish-mash of technology that is the cornerstone of Strange Futures.
I'm not ashamed to admit, I did a page of silhouettes. My tendency is to keep things too close to "reality", and I want something with more panache than just an old tin shack or mobile home. Silhouettes almost force you to go beyond the basic cubes of those realistic homes.
Here's my first page: