I imagine that everyone has some very specific rules when it comes to the visual style of the character and ship they use, I am interested in hearing some of them.
My rules are very simple.
Uniforms- I will agonize in the tailor screen for a long time to get the right mix of modern STO style and starfleet tradition, I will never make a uniform that does not look like a functional thing that could be worn on duty all day. I make sure that the uniforms follow the design lineage that we have seen since TOS all through the DS9/Movie era's. I will admit that this makes me a bit confused when I see some folks running around with very different styles and I have to keep telling myself that I am not the only person with rules they use to make characters.
Ships- I will never use the black skin for ships, it looks to aggressive for a Federation vessel and would never fit with my style, I like to make sure that the ship looks graceful and balanced without any "it would be cool if" features.
I guess I play like a purist and don't let other design elements from other franchises or anything to spill over.
This is by no means supposed to be a thread where we all complain about what others are doing, I just figured that it would be neat to talk about what makes us choose what we choose from a visual standpoint.
First and foremost, with limited exceptions, all characters and BOff on my account must wear the same style uniform. Said limited exceptions include diplomatic officers and civilians.
The primary color of all duty uniforms is black. Generally, division color is secondary (usually shoulders), with blue-gray trim; however, in the tradition of late DS9/First Contact uniforms, this can be inverted, depending on how it looks on the chosen style of uniform.
Style of pants, regardless of uniform, is Loose Long/Standard. Women are allowed skirts instead, but usually I don;t bother since it's tough for me to get them to match the uniform style.
Boots are generally not restricted in style or color pattern, so long as the colors match the rest of the uniform. However, recently, I have made an effort to standardize boot style as well. Though I don't consider it mandatory, it is "recommended".
As for ship styles. I'm very loose on the geometry. If it looks pretty, I go with it. That said, I'm terribly picky, so most of my ships are vanilla geometry anyway.
I, too, refuse to use the dark material in 99% of cases (it is strangely flattering on the Cheyenne-class, though). Usually I use the slightly blue-tinted material (2, I believe) because I prefer the fancy deflector style. I do, however, like to apply the paint schemes to my ships.
I never use the particularly outlandish ones, but I find the ships feel boring without a little color. I never paint the entire ship, either, even when I do paint it. Usually I just do the saucer, pylons and nacelles, though this varies from class to class. My Prometheus, for example, has paint on the nacelles, saucer, and upper hull, because the scheme I chose looks better that way.
When it comes to uniforms, my Science Captain, Tita, probably has the most precise rules. This is probably because I based her on an Anime character, so her outfit is based on the skin-tight black outfit the original Tita wears, which a white jacket over it. My Tita's costume is black pants, with the top that has the cutout design on it, that is like a half circle coming up from the bottom. That second is black, so it looks like it's part of the pants (or a jumpsuit) and then the top part is white with blue trim to match her department.
So all of her crew also have a black, white and the department color scheme. Their individual choices are all different, but they have the white somewhere as a secondary color. For my Engineering Captain, he has the standard black and department color scheme, but he and all of his crew have a dark red pinstriping. Since my crew is shared, I have the same BOs for both Captains, they always have the same uniform, just the choice of colors differ. (So they have either the white section or the pinstriping depending on which ship they're on)
My Engineering Captain's ships all have red patterns on them. I also try to make his ships look at "thrown together" as possible. His Heavy Cruiser and Advanced Escort both have mismatched nacelles. You can only mismatch the top and bottom ones, but I RP it as if he has four different nacelles on both. (And have edited a demo for screenshots to show this) Tita's ships all have blue striping instead of red.
I tend to use the Cygus and Corvus patterns a lot, as well as Aries. I do like my ships to look somewhat "busy", and I never use a completely canon ship, or the same parts from any of the dev created ones. (That is, my ships are always mix and matched) I tend toward this more with my main Captain, as I said, but it's true for both.
In the beginning I was going for a dark "black OPS" style layout, so everything I had was black and dark.
However I find myself focusing more on canon colors and styles. The colors I use for uniforms are still darker than canon, but my ships follows the on-screen appearences of all ships, as much as STO allows for.
Typically, I use the TNG Black and Grey uniform, with the AGT badge or the 'modern' style steel colored com badge. The primary color of my Starfleet uniforms is black, with the secondary color being the divisional. The fact that we have so many different uniforms to chose from drives me nuts. This is Starfleet, not a circus. Let the KDF wear anything and everything they like. Starfleet has a uniform for a reason.
All of my ships are Starfleet canon. I do not use the cryptic designs. My hull material is either 1, or 2, depending on the ship. All of my ships use Phasers and either Photon or Quantum torpedoes. Depending how they appeared on screen.
Right now, the Defiant-class drives me up a wall, due to the weapons load-out. DHCs and turrets, while usually necessary, drive me crazy. I've been experimenting with the Prometheus-class beam boat to compensate, until Cryptic fixes the Defiant.
I have some very specific uniform rules i use across the board;
All science ship crew wear the DS9 series costumes.
Captains get a variant using the open version of the DS9 series costume.
All tactical ship crew wear the TNG Film costumes.
Captains get a variant using the open version of the TNG Film costume.
All Cruiser ship crew wear the TNG Series costumes.
Captains get a variant using the open version of the TNG Film costume. This one is differently coloured to mirror Picards open variant and undershirt from the series.
I also have MACO's/Starfleet Marines (GASP!) which use the SFA tops and ENT pants coloured to look like the uniforms they used in 'nor the battle to the strong' and 'siege of ar-558'. This is regardless of what type of ship they serve on. (i'd really love it if i could use the mercenary belts and such with these *drool*)
Starfleet intelligence officers use the S31 uniforms
Diplomats use the diplomacy uniforms
Oh i got a few cadets aswell, i use the colour schemes from the shows for those, so coloured shoulders and the rest grey. I'm currently going with the SFA uniforms mainly because they have the cadet rank pips but i'd prefer to be able to use the DS9 series uniform.
I recoloured command to Grey, Tac/Sec is red, Eng/Ops is yellow, Science is blue, Medical is teal, MACO is green.
All crew use the alternate future badges. I use gold rank pips for the starfleet officers and silver for the MACO's.
As far as skirts. This depends on the duties. sci/med/ops/diplomat/command may wear skirts. the rest dont due to the more utilitarian nature their clothes require.
However, i do tend to go a bit wild on making my ships all purdy. I also go with a mix of canon and cryptic ships, if they had a few more of my favourites from the shows bumped up to T5 i'd very likely go all out canon though.
phew.... well, all that makes sense in my head anyways, hope it's not too confusing! :p