You don’t think superhero costumes are all about design elements? Think again. Here’s a look at how four of my favorite superhero costumes employ special design elements.
The latest rendition of Batgirl has a costume style that I absolutely love. It’s the perfect combination of style and functionality. The solid seam lines on the jacket and bold stripe down the sides of the legs gives the costume a feeling of clean uniformity: she’s a soldier in essence and has little need for extra frills – that’s why the cape can snap off at a moment’s notice.
However, she’s still a girl in her twenties: so the costume has a fun purple and yellow combo instead of the stark black of the original Batman look. But she’s still representing the Batman brand: so the familiar bat logo is clearly present.
2) The X-Men
Although their costumes go through many different renditions, they always seem to return to two major themes in their costumes: the bold yellow color and the obvious X – and for strong reasons. While their secret identities may be in hiding, the X-Men are a team meant for open combat – to be noticed. The yellow draws attention to them. Why not another color? As we can remember from color psychology, yellow is a bright, cheery color, meant to promote positivity.
The “X” is to echo the team’s namesake and creator, Charles Xavier, while also showing to the world that they are unashamed of who they are. They want to be seen, they want you to know they’re here to help, and they want you to remember their name.
Who can say this costume is not memorable? But can you articulate why? Superman’s costume is a bold use of the primary colors in stark, clearly identifiable ways. The main blue of his costume lets us know he’s dependable, the yellow background on his shield tells us he is a force for good, and the splash of red in his cape and S let us know that he isn’t afraid of danger.
In recent mythologies of the Superman storyline, the S represents Superman’s family crest back on Krypton, adding a further level of symbolism to the design elements present. Similar to the X-Men’s “X,” this S reminds you exactly who Superman is – phonetically and symbolically.
I wanted to take a look at Spiderman’s costume because it employs a similar color scheme as Superman’s (dominant blue and red), but in a different way. The use of these bold colors echoes the uncomplicated nature of this character – he’s your Friendly Neighborhood Spiderman.
The use of the spider operates the same way Batgirl’s bat symbol does: to point to the hero’s namesake and hint at their abilities. Furthermore, the web-like grid overlay on the costume adds a level of depth to the costume and ties together the red, blue, and black spider in a smooth way – as opposed to the stark way the blue, red, and yellow in Superman’s costume stand apart from each other.
Now, every time you take a look at a superhero costume, look for the design elements: the use of line, color psychology, the presence of symbols, and the elements of functionality!