Communicating through design
In this short article, Hantian Zhang (Graphic Designer and UX specialist at Starbit Limited) introduces three communication interfaces within the design process and how understanding them can lead to more relevant, effective design.
The image we can see in figure 1 is an advertisement by Specsavers, successful British opticians. The message is self-explanatory and requires no additional verbal message beyond their motto “Should have gone to Specsavers”. Their design team has mastered successful communication with their target audience; a fundamental skill that drives graphic design forwards. Three different communication networks can be identified within the discipline as vital to consider for any project.
Firstly communication is direct: between the designer’s product and the audience. Art comes in many forms, whether that is performance, painting, sculpture or digital as examples; is the expression of the artist. Artworks can be presented to the audience without their understanding the intended message, especially the more abstract works of Jackson Pollock and Salvador Dali. People can enjoy art through the mystery behind the work, or to project their own interpretation. Design has a very different intention. The communication between design and the audience is, more often than not, commissioned work, ensuring the message is fully comprehendible to all involved is an important priority.
The communication between a designed product and its target audience is a complex situation. A poster design for a concert informs of the date, location and time. If the poster only contained uninformative images it would serve a very different purpose than intended and be functionally unsuccessful. Prior to the design process it is essential to consider the message that needs to be communicated. Secondly, the appropriate medium for the message and finally, it is essential to reflect on if the message has been communicated successfully and possibilities of misinterpretation.
Communication also bridges the gap between designers and their audience. According to Don Norman (2013), Massachusetts Institute of Technology, products cannot directly converse between the designer and the user about the functionality of said object. Instead, the product becomes the medium of conversation. Taking product design as a case study, an object may be used in a different way to how the designer intended. Poor user experience leads to a confused and frustrated consumer, as their behaviour has not been truly considered in the design process. In a graphic design context the aim is to converse to a wide audience, and therefore the target audience’s comprehension, expectations and behaviour must be considered. For example, a concert poster must consider the information needed by the target audience. The location, time and genre illustrate this. Identifying the difference between what the designer believes should be communicated and what information the audience actually needs.
Norman (2013) informs the reader of airlines often blaming pilot’s controlling errors when air accidents occur. In reflection, airlines should also consider the design of the cockpit which may have contributed to error.
The third communication network occurs between designers during the design process. Carefully considering the aim, content and form of the work appropriate the audience’s needs. Designers should seek the balance between the practical and the creative.
It is necessary for designers to keeping thinking about the communication at every level, and experiment to seek a successful yet innovative ways to use communication in design.
Figure 1. http://adsoftheworld.com/media/outdoor/specsavers_scooter?size=original. Accessed 07/22/16 [online source]
Norman, D.A., 2013. The design of everyday things: Revised and expanded edition. Basic books.