Designing for a Target Audience

What is a target audience?

A target audience is a specific group of people to whom a product, service, or brand is marketed in a variety of ways. In most aspects of an organization or business, knowing your target audience is essential to delivering an appropriate message or solution. This is equally important to the creative and visual departments.

It may appear a designer creates a design product intuitively, with only summary information about the product or brand and the client’s customer base. This is not the case. Before a designer goes to the drawing board and delves into any design program, the designer must plan out for whom they are designing, and the overall message to which the design product is contributing.

In graphic design terms, a design product refers to various product or service image designs. Design products could include, but would not be limited to: web design, graphic design, marketing collateral, package design, product/service branding, infographics, motion graphics, 2D and 3D animations, and social media design.

This article answers a frequently asked question regarding the process of creative design, and why target audience analysis is a key part of the design product.

Why is designing for a target audience more effective than designing blindly?

Screen Shot 2018-09-02 at 8.35.54 AMDesigning for a target audience, instead of designing blindly, results in a more effective design. Understanding the target audience allows a designer to create a product in the client’s language. Speaking in the client’s language demonstrates the designer is in sync with the client organization’s message and brand. In the case of an existing brand, the client’s customer is already familiar with the overall look and message of the brand, and it is necessary that the graphics meld into the existing visual and auditory messages.

Without a doubt, knowledge of the target audience helps the design process. Designing blindly means the designer proceeds to draft a design product with no target audience analysis, having only broad guidelines of the project. Although a designer will be able to create a design product according to the client’s instructions,
it will most likely not be in tune with the client’s language. The client’s customer might mistake the design for another organization’s language, resulting in missed opportunities for the client. Having a graphic design that is not cohesive with the brand, content, or message leaves the customer confused and may lead them elsewhere.

How does a designer learn about the target audience?

In order to plan for a design, the designer starts by understanding the audience to whom the product is being marketed—the client’s customers. This understanding occurs through a target audience assessment. Typically, a designer begins by asking a series of questions to narrow down the audience, such as:

  1. What industry is the client in?
  2. Who is the client’s main customers?
    • What does the client’s customers do for a living?
    • What is their income level?
    • What is their typical age?
    • What is the gender of the typical customer?
    • What is the education level of the typical customer?
    • Do they have children?

abstract-ai-art-355948These questions may not seem like an average questionnaire for a graphic designer, but the answers will help shape the design aesthetic of the product and ensure the design product message connects with the client's customers and aligns with the client's brand.

Some follow up questions focusing on the actual product and design:

  1. Is there an established brand? If so:
    • Is the client going through a brand re-design?
    • What are the main elements of the brand? This would include: color, font styles, graphical elements.
  2. Is the design for digital or print?
  3. Is it a still design or a motion design?
  4. What are the capabilities of the media in which the design will be posted?
  5. Where will the design be viewed?
  6. Will the design be posted on social media?
  7. Does the design need to be 508 Compliant?

As these questions are answered, claims and conclusions can be drawn about the target audience. Some of these questions may involve research and an extensive assessment.

Example of a target audience analysis

For every creative project completed at CATMEDIA, the design team completes a target audience analysis or assessment. To understand the process a little further, I will utilize the questions mentioned earlier for a quick assessment of the project we completed for one of our clients.

A little background first: this client came to us with the overall objective to implement custom designs to showcase the goals of a new project on their website. Before we dove into the web and graphic design elements, we mapped out the audience analysis to understand who would be utilizing these graphics.

Question Answer Design Conclusion
What industry is the client in? Medical Association with sanitary and simple environments

Design will be clean, light coloring and crisp shapes

Who is the client’s main customers? Adults, company stakeholders; administrators, doctors, nurses, scientists, medical sssociates

(extensive research would be necessary)

Typically look at documents such as: lab reports, charts, forms, contracts, spreadsheets. These documents associate with organized content with clean and minimal graphic elements.
What do the client’s customers do for a living? Aid in keeping the population healthy through preventive care. The information needs to be understood by scientists, as well as, their general audience.
What is their income level? ~$50,000 – $200,000

(extensive research would be necessary)

Professional aesthetic, clean, sophisticated
What is their typical age? Late 30s – 60s Straightforward composition; nothing too contemporary, straight to the point
What is the gender of the typical decision maker? Mostly female, some male Light and soft color tones, nothing harsh on the eyes, clean and simple lines
What is the education level of the typical customer? Masters – Ph.D. Sophisticated and straight to the point
Do they have children? 50/50 Have little time for an elaborate design, concise is preferred
Is there an established brand? Yes Utilize their established brand colors
Is the client going through a brand re-design? No Utilize their established brand colors
What are the main elements of the brand? This includes color, font styles, graphical elements Greens, magenta, circular elements, photographs

(extensive research would be necessary)

Utilize these colors and elements throughout the product
Is the design for digital or print? Digital Design for web, understand the parameters of space within the webpage for the design
Is it a still design or a motion design? Still Use the appropriate software
What are the capabilities of the media in which the design will be posted? Can implement custom graphics No limit to the elements and shape of design of the product
Where will the design be viewed? Company website Utilize size parameters of the current website as the platform for the product
Will the design be posted on social media? Most likely

(extensive research would be necessary)

Keep in mind while designing, although the colors are limited, it is important to have as much as possible to stand out on social media websites.
Does the graphic design need to be 508 Compliant? Yes The product text should be 508 Compliant font sizes with no clashing colors in composition.

Narrowing down the design according to the assessment

After the assessment was complete the designer analyzed all data and created cohesive design characteristics. To define the target audience, we drew conclusions from the answers in the table above. Through this context, we concluded the target audience for the design product was:

A well-educated, family-oriented, middle age female consumer or employee in the medical field.

Next, we constructed a clear design aesthetic. As you see from the table above, there were multiple design conclusions. The designer narrowed down the conclusions to make a conclusive decision on the design aesthetic based on the information collected during the audience assessment.

The design aesthetics included these characteristics:

  1. Clean and simple composition, no elaborate detailing
  2. Sophisticated shapes, including branded graphic elements
  3. Green and magenta coloring
  4. Minimal content, 508 Compliant
  5. Photos required
  6. Design with the intention of posting product on social media platforms

These criteria became the design guidelines. The audience analysis saved time and allowed for more effective design. The designer went to work at the drawing board and began conceptualizing the design product.

Conclusion

attractive-bags-beautiful-975250Understanding the process in which a designer uses a target audience assessment could offer a new perspective on how you market your own products to customers, clients, passengers, or patients. A target market assessment helps shape a highly customized design, saves time on the design process, and helps to ensure the design product speaks in the language of the clients’ customers. Without an understanding of the target audience it would be like reading a book with no context.

Although the intention of the design product is to deliver the provided content, the design could be seen as a secondary platform. The design is not spelled out, like the content, so it becomes a subliminal message to the viewer. Good design increases user attention and engagement, which may help the user to understand the content a little better.

 What are some of your graphic design challenges? Please share below.

ABOUT CATMEDIA:

CATMEDIA is an award-winning Inc. 500 company based in Atlanta, Georgia. Founded in 1997, the company specializes in advertising, creative services, media production, program management, training, and human resource management. As a Women Owned Small Business (WOSB), CATMEDIA provides world-class customer service and innovative solutions to government and commercial clients. Current CATMEDIA clients include Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

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Shelby Vecchio

About Shelby Vecchio

Shelby Vecchio is the Graphic Artist and Animator at CATMEDIA. Her background includes digital design, animation, and fine art. At the University of North Carolina, Shelby earned her B.A in New Media focusing in computer animation.

View all posts by Shelby Vecchio

Branding, Creative Services, Graphic Design, Graphic Designer, Tips, Uncategorized

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