Character design in visually oriented works (comic books, film, television) is often a useful shorthand for making characters stand out and be memorable in terms of their appearance. For example, Darth Vader in Star Wars is often cited as one of the most memorable villains out there in terms of his character design. Vader is large, imposing, dressed in very dark colors with a red weapon, covered by an inexpressive facemask that makes him look inhuman, has a distinct auditory tic that the viewer quickly learns to associate with his appearance (his breathing), and speaks in a very deep yet artificial voice. It is these physical characteristics that immediately tell the reader Vader is a scary guy and not to be messed with, and his inexpressive fact and robotic voice and breathing add to his apparent coldness and inhumanity towards others. Everything about him just screams "villain".
However, my question is does character design and visual or auditory signifiers of characterization work as well as establishing characterization in non-visual media? I ask this because I am not sure, but my first instinct is that it wouldn't. A mental image the reader constructs of a character is not going to be as vivid as an image that they physically see, and it's very easy for the reader to miss adjectives or lines of dialogue that describe a character and construct an inaccurate image of the character based on what description they do remember. But this is mostly a singular individual experience and I do not know if it can be applied more broadly. And if this is the case does physical character design even matter at all if you are working in a non-visual medium?
Here's an example from my own writing. I have a female character in my story that is basically "the muscle" of the team. Because women are generally shorter than men, I decided to emphasize her imposingness in her physical design by making her wider instead of taller, not necessarily obese but merely stout, heavy-set, and curvy , as well as tying into other commonly used visual signifiers of greater physical strength in female characters. In visual media this usually works because the character takes up more physical space than other characters, making them look larger and more imposing. However when my beta readers saw this character they thought I was fat-shaming the character. It comes across to me like visual hints of character design on characterization just don't work in a medium in which the audience is not physically viewing the story.