Sorry for the bad english guys,let me explain my cituation,recentily i started working in a indie game,with a team of 4 guys,i'm the only artist and responsable for the illustrations/character portaits but also all the 3d modeling,texturing,rigging,animation,special effects and the menus,and i'm also helping with level design and writing,so i cant expend more than 20 minutes in a single piece,i'm know there's no miracles but i want to know how to express the core of a ideia in a simple way,removing all the superfluous details without disfiguring the piece,how to focus in what is really important to tell a idea.
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First for each of those disciplines you have to define the end purpose. It has to be agreed upon by the team and then you state the solution as clearly as possible. Each thing must be instantly recognizable without explanation. Setting a time limit on discovering the best solution is foolish.
So lets take characters as a first example; You have to distinguish between characters visually; that is done with silhouette first, color scheme second, attitude third as an animation. The details of facial features, hair color, costume and accessories don't matter if you design well from the macro to the micro.