Talking about Characters Design...
The Question: "I'm curious to know what you mean when you say they don't relate to anything. Are you referring to components within the design not relating to each other?"
My Answer: No, in general when i do a design, even if i have total freedom of choice, i try to use some real references of a culture or something like that. This is because when we see a human being of any shape we tend to relate to him, the more elements we recognize the more we relate, and the more we like it. I'll make you a very simple example on how it works, let's pretend that we have to do an hunter that needs to catch food for his family. It doesn't matter if it's sci-fi, fantasy, retro futuristic or cultural realistic background, the hunter must have a certain type of gear with him like a water can, some kind of silent weapon, some camouflage dress, some pockets. When we see those kind of stuff our brain automatically recognize and relate to. If we see a man with a sun protection tool (an hat) and some clothes or gear that protect the internal legs side we automatically think that he's going to ride something alive, probably out of a city. Those kind of stuff makes your designs believable and easily recognizable, a quick example that i can think out of the bat where the aliens from Stargate, those where extremely good designed and essentially they was a readaptation of Egyptian pyramid culture, of the same theme there where even some squads from Unreal Tournament.
It's not the easiest thing to explain but once you know about this you'll start to notice lots of references between all the stuff you like the most