A key aspect of storytelling is the suggestion of the larger world or context that the story takes place in and is a part of.
Whether it's an epic of an intergalactic political battle between star systems or a little story about a tiny old lady with a big secret, clues to the larger environment beyond the space that the story takes place often immerse me aesthetically and most importantly, conceptually into the story that I am viewing.
These "peripheral" ephemera turn me into a participant, spinning my imagination beyond the story, invoking curiosity about the world at play and inciting speculation about what else could be happening within the reality presented to me. These types of assets and designs inform me of a larger world and system, and tell a whole other story of their own.
Even a tiny detail, even one pixel, contributes to the painting of a complete picture.
In the same way, I feel that even a small easter egg or world building element in the background, can cumulatively encourage a more complete, creative, and nuanced understanding of an unfolding story, as well as maintain aesthetic and conceptual consistency. Enough supporting and contextual elements can sovereignly create an ecosystem of ideas and signs that can create a map of understanding.
Here are some examples I've made, all objects/designs that peripherally and indirectly describe the culture and conditions of an environment.
Fake advertisements can act as context clues to the environment by describing what people are buying, who's selling the goods, how they are selling to them.
Seeing the ads above, and then seeing the ads below can create a "montage" effect.
A story about the culture can be told indirectly through the evolution and juxtaposition of ads.
Descriptions of the functional needs and innovative focuses of an environment can also contextually inform its conditions, and can also establish the genre/time/setting of a story.
Fictional/Parody Games, TV shows, Movies, Sports, and Literature that are popular in the world can also behave similarly to ads by acting as context clues to what's popular at the time in that environment.
ART & DESIGN
Differences in the environment's common styles and subjects of art and design can distinguish era, events, location, community, sentiment, condition, and more.
Art and design details can also make a world/story feel more personalized and visually consistent.
Propaganda and other subject based assets can perform a similar role, illuminating political, social, and global issues, concerns, and ongoings.
Objective assets like way-finding and warning signs can signify social, economic, and political situations and pubic experiences, as well as institutional attitudes and relationships.
A story can be told all on its own through signage as well.
Other objective artifacts such as brands, flags, maps, infographs, and charts can help establish facts, current events, and history.
By depicting a particular subject matter through a wide but coherent array of formats and assets, like propaganda, video game advertisement, schematics and data, and toy/packaging, perhaps a clearer and deeper but nuanced and sophisticated understanding of the subject (and its contexts, relationships, and history) can be invoked.
Like the montage effect seen in the Ad example, seeing the relationships between the peripheral assets can create whole new understandings on their own.