Defining your audience and creating a profile

The first step to designing to to think about who will be receiving the the final product, or defining your audience. This should be narrowed to a specific demographic or stakeholder group. One of the biggest problems I’ve seen is an inability to define an audience. Here’s how this process can sometimes go:

“Hmm…I know that I want to send this event’s postcard to our donors, to other artists, to students, and also to friends of the artist, so that must be my audience.”

While it is true that you need to send to different types of people, it is impossible to effectively communicate to all of those various groups because they all have different needs and desires in the piece. Thought it may be difficult, You have to narrow the focus to one primary audience group and base the bulk of the decisions around the needs and desires of that group. Let’s say for example that you decide donors are the most important audience group. With them in mind you can ask yourself what would be most important? Is it more important to them that the imagery reflect the artwork that will be featured at the event or that it publicize your organization? You will likely have both types of information, but one will be more prominent and more important. Maybe you decide that the donors would be more interested in the prominence of the organization so you highlight that and narrow the focus on the artwork.

Because you defined the primary audience you have a logical path of reasoning to make decisions and also to defend them if questioned. You could just have easily decided that the friends of the artist were the most important audience group. In that instance you would guess they would be more important in seeing the work done by their friend with less emphasis on the organization. This design would be completely different with the focus on the artwork and much smaller emphasis given to the organization.

Writing an Audience Profile

When you begin working on an audience profile it is very helpful to first make a list of all of the different types of stakeholders and recipients that you will be sending to. Write down as many different audience groups as you can think of, whether they are small or large. Then you can take the completed list and begin to narrow your focus and choose which will be the primary audience group.

With the audience group defined you want to start to imagine some demographic information that will shape your decisions. Some of the demographic information would include:

  1. typical age range
  2. gender
  3. social class and/or income
  4. location

With this information you can begin to form a picture of someone who embodies the profile and extrapolate more information about what shapes their needs and desires. For example, based on age range you can make some assumptions about values. If the age range is 16-18 years old you might assume that they are heavily involved with social media and therefore surmise that they value transparency, openness, and autonomy. If your audience is upper-middle social class you might surmise that they are educated and place values in learning and a work ethic.

Example

So what does this look like in practice? Below is an audience profile for a Savannah, GA based cafe chain providing gallery space for local artists. As you read the short profile you should begin to get an image of someone who fits this profile. This description and that image will be the driving factors throughout the rest of the design process.

Demographic Information

  1. Age: 18-50
  2. Gender: male & female
  3. Social Class: middle-upper
  4. Location: work or live in Savannah, GA

Audience Profile

Gallery Expresso’s target audience includes males and females ages 18–50. They are socially aware trendsetters, appreciating culture, local arts and entertainment. Their style is both modern and eclectic. They value transparency and simplicity over corporate policies. They work or live in the central Savannah area and demand an atmosphere where they can be creative, social and work from laptops or relax and enjoy entertainment with friends. They are well educated and technologically savvy, having a moderate expendable income for food and entertainment.

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