Tech Magazine

The Power of Understanding Your Audiences’ Design Context

Posted on the 31 August 2012 by Onlinere @onretailblog

The Power of Understanding Your Audiences’ Design Context


As visual web designers, we are always looking for that wow factor to make our work stand out from the rest. When working in E-commerce, having the wow factor can be the difference between making sales or not. Sometimes visuals engage our audiences well and other times we struggle to get something that looks right. At times it can feel a bit hit and miss. In this post we are going to explore one of the ways we can more effectively capture our audience’s imagination by the power of understanding our audiences’ philosophical contextual background.

Blue or Pink

If we were tasked with painting bicycles to sell to young British males, we would start by doing a little market research. From this we would conclude that the majority of our target audience have spent more money on blue possessions than pink ones. We would only have to look at their wardrobes, bed covers (if they’re single) their decor (again if they’re single) to surmise that that they are therefore more inclined to feel more comfortable riding a blue bike than a pink one. With this in mind, we would paint more bikes blue than pink.

This makes sense; British, young, male, prefer blue bikes more than pink ones. We would have observed that blue is more effective colour when selling to males, therefore we would use blue to attract them. The problem is that by doing this we are blindly copying a formula which we know works. We know males generally have a blue preference, but we don’t know why. The power comes in knowing ‘why’. Why are British, young males more likely to buy something blue than pink?

Interestingly it hasn’t always been this way:

“An article in the trade publication Earnshaw’s Infants’ Department in June 1918 said: “The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger colour, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.”[18] From then until the 1940s, pink was considered appropriate for boys because being related to red it was the more masculine and decided colour, while blue was considered appropriate for girls because it was the more delicate and dainty colour, or related to the Virgin Mary”

From this we can deduce that the decade within which we were born, has a direct influence on our aesthetic preferences. Post 1940′s, generally speaking in British culture, blue = male and pink = female. The question of ‘why’ is hard to answer but the shift is easily attributed to the Second World War. Such occasions as war are often the catalyst for a philosophical/cultural shift.

Mixed up in that shift, an inversion of the social norms of blue and pink connotation happened. After which we all adopted the new colour gender association. Since then baby boys are dressed in blue, given blue toys and discouraged from associating with pink. In post formative years, it becomes an indoctrinated norm and feels inherent. The cycle continues through generations until the philosophy of the culture shifts.

Another shift occurs in the 1960′s from post war modernism to a post modernism world view. This is illustrated when contrasting the interior design of 1950′s and 1970′s houses. 1950′s was the era of clean lines, definite, optimistic with a new frontier feel, all of which can be associated with the modern scientific philosophy of the time. There is a definite shift in the 1970′s with the rejection of science as the answer to everything and the philosophy of relative truth turned our living rooms into floral, organic and brown.

How to capture the wow factor.

The trick is to identify the dominant philosophy of your target audience’s formative years, then seek to understand how and why it influenced the visual design in its day. Once you understand this, you are in the mind of your audience and from this position you are no longer a blind copier of visual formula that you know work, you have something much more powerful, you have an understanding of ‘why’ they work. This knowledge gives you a massive advantage when trying to attain the coveted wow factor in your design.

Our aim is to engage our customers as much as possible. By doing the above we tap into their subconscious and encourage positive feeling associated with our brand.


Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog