Dumb character design question

Hades

Mhm, good good.
The other day I learned distinct colors, body types and faces are all very important for a character to stand out among others.

Then, I also realized it's common for multiple anime characters to have super similar or 100% identical faces to each other, as a well as identical bodies in every way but height. In cases such as those, having unique clothing or different hair color can help make characters stand out, but now I think it can be a problem if you're trying to make, for example, regular people who are all wearing the same school uniform or something but have the exact same face or body type.

So my question is, is it lazy/bad character design if an anime character has the same face and body of another one, yet manages to stand out perfectly thanks to its clothing?
 
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Koops

Koops, King of Cowards.
Tbh maybe it is, but like, if you make a design so iconic, then of course anyone who looks like it (and with a generic design, of course a lot of people will look like that) will look like they're a lazy design. Different clothing however is not the only thing that can make someone stand out, though. Sometimes, the sheer presence of certain characters emanate special aura, or something spooky like that. Sometimes, the character's appearance in on itself can be the most iconic thing about them, or how intimidating they are, or how sweet, you know, inner qualities and flaws that appear on a character's physical form one way or another!
 

Ray Trace

You Can Tick Off Birds If You Follow My Advice
What you're discussing about is character silhouette. Silhouette is extremely important to character design. Hell, the Fire Emblem characters in Smash is a pretty good example of what makes a bad character silhouette: if you want a good character design, they should also be recognizable from a distance without requiring the use of color to set them apart.

Here's a link that elaborates it a bit better than I can.

 

Fujiwara no Sai

Searching for the Divine Move
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I would say yes, using just clothing as a substitute for facial variety is not a good practice. Consider that we as human beings predominantly focus on faces when interacting with other people. It is an important thing to focus on when designing characters. If you skimp in that area, people will notice. The Toriyama face phenomenon comes to mind here.

There's also the issue that if your character's identity is defined mainly by their clothes, they will lose said identity if they ever need to change into another outfit. That's generally not something you want to happen, unless it's a deliberate stylistic decision meant to get some point across (like for example you're making a point about one's identity in society being determined by some external factor), make a joke of some sort, or to make your product look cheap or simplistic. Or alternatively if your setting dictates that your characters wear face-obscuring gear like armor most of the time.

There are exceptions of course, but in general, you would want to put distinguishing features into at least one other area. Anime often tends to use the style and color of hair as a crutch, but ideally you'd go for the face. My personal recommendation would be to focus on the eyes. Varying the size, shape, iris-to-eye relation, visibility and positioning of eyelashes, eyebrows, or even the overall shading and style of the eye; doing this doesn't take too much effort and already goes a long way. I'd like to bring up My Hero Academia here, which already has so much variety in its characters that you'd think it could skimp on paying attention to faces, but impressively, you can identify each member of class 1A just by looking at a black-and-white close-up of just their eyes. I think applying your own characters to this kind of test is a good idea,

Tl;dr: You should use at least one feature other than clothes to make a character distinct, unless the lack of distinction is deliberate and has a point. When in doubt, focus on the face instead.
 
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