The Role of Content in the Graphic Design Process

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The design process is a delicate one that is purely driven by content, target audience and goals.  These three points can greatly shape the outcome of the project, whether it ends in success or failure. Let’s take a closer look at the definition of graphic design and ultimately the creative process involved in making the project a success.


So what is graphic design exactly?

Graphic design is the creative vehicle through which a message or idea is conveyed with a purpose and meaning that caters to a specific audience. Traditionally, it is the use of image and type and the medium most commonly associated with graphic design is print but modern day design encompasses so much more than that. It ranges across multiple disciplines including: illustration, digital, film, multimedia, type, motion, packaging, environmental, editorial and publication, and brand and identity design. This broad range affords projects to take on the medium most appropriate to the message that they are conveying to their audience. The possibilities are endless.

 

Content drives design, because without it – it would be devoid of all meaning. So designing without content is rather unintuitive – it would be like building something before knowing what purpose it would serve. Content not only dictates aesthetic decisions but it also defines hierarchies which help define visual points of interest in the design – more specifically informational collateral. In conjunction with budget, It also aids with production. For example with a brochure, the designer can choose an ideal size to comfortably accommodate all the content without compromising the layout.

 

Content is not solely defined as supplied information used in the final print or digital collateral. Information such as background information on the industry, holes in the market, company culture and personality, target audience (age, sex, interests, etc) and goals all fall under the umbrella of content. This content may not necessarily reach the front lines and be exposed to the target audience but this information is still just as critical to the process.

 

An example of where this sort of content would be crucial would be a branding exercise for a company. Having information of the industry and the market will allow the designers to strategically plan what niche a company can take advantage of and how they can differentiate themselves. Company culture and personality (or rather how they would like it to be developed) will play a huge part in the design of the identity, whether the company is conservative, bold, fun, laid-back, professional, health-conscious, environmentally-friendly, etc … knowing this information will aid in the final look and feel of the brand. Target audience will also influence the final look and feel as of course, it has to appeal to their consumers. The design of the company identity extends beyond the aesthetic, and to create a holistic brand experience for employees and consumers, planning of company policies, standards and codes of conduct need to be carefully defined and implemented to align with the overall flavour the business is striving for. A good example of brand extending beyond the visual is Starbucks, who is renowned for its excellent customer service. Designers rely on the client’s expertise in their business’ industry and vice versa so well-thought-out content goes the extra mile when supplied at the start of the project. Of course there will be many questions and discussions down the road as the designer works to develop a better understanding of the client’s business and goals.

 

From a campaign perspective, let’s take a closer look at goals and target audience, as defining these aid with concept development, art direction, and mode of delivery.  Just for Laugh’s digital festival JFL42 is a good example case study as their goal was to sell festival passes to a late-twenties-early thirties demographic. The comedy scene is booming with a very diverse set of acts and personalities and with the landscape of social media, internet memes and viral videos taking on so much precedence in today’s culture – the mode of delivery for this festival naturally became obvious. JFL42 touted itself as a digital festival and incorporated a visual aesthetic chock-full of hilarious and memorable internet memes into the festival’s identity.

 

From here, a digital festival pass was born whereby patrons would have a unique code that can be scanned via smartphones. They also introduced an innovative token reservation system for all the smaller shows happening all across Toronto’s smaller venues. Patrons reserve a spot at a show then upon arrival they can reclaim their token for reuse by a simple check-in via mobile. That means you can watch as many shows as you can fit into your schedule as long as spots are available – now that’s a pretty awesome offering! This made perfect sense as the target audience was comprised of a young, tech-savvy group and that comedians today have embraced web and social media as a primary means of interacting with their fans. Even Louis CK, one of today’s great comedians, who publicly showed his disdain towards what technology and social media have done to change society has embraced it, knowing that for good or for bad – it is the way things are now.

 

So is an engaging visual really that important?
Whether your goal is to garner support for a social issue, selling the hottest new gadget, or promoting your local business  – people respond to design on an emotional level (humour, moments of sheer joy or sadness, nostalgia, etc). They say that you should never judge a book by its cover but sadly it’s something that can hardly be avoided. We are visual people and our first point of contact with everything is met through our eyes, so whether we like it or not, we base our initial impressions on data we gather from the visual cues we pick up. We can’t ignore hard facts and statistics but from that perspective, you still have to take good design into consideration to catch the eye of the audience and from there make sure that your message is evocative and intriguing enough to draw further interest and commitment.

 

In the end, a solid foundation can be set by thoroughly outlining and understanding the content, target audience and goals from the get-go – conditions in which a design and strategy can naturally evolve into something perfectly catered to successfully meet your business goals.

 

Watch out for a future post with an in-depth review of the roles we play as designers (creative shop) and clients. Thanks for reading!

 

Rene Tan
Rene Tan
Graphic Designer
Mystique Brand Communications

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