An 'audience' is the group of people to which a product or visual communication is directed, aimed or marketed. It is not sufficient to say the poster is aimed at the 'general public'. We need to be more specific in our description of the audience. Audience is also referred to as the target audience or specific (target) audience.
Audience refers to the people who are intended to see a visual communication or use a product. Different people like different products. They are also attracted to different visual communications. Designers appeal to different audiences when they design visual communications.
In Visual Communication Design we have to be able to identify an audience when we analyse and create visual communications.
What makes different audience groups different from each other?
We discuss audience by identifying and referring to one or more of the audience characteristics (shown in detail below). Many exams ask students to define the audience for a visual communication by identifying two audience characteristics. When choosing the right characteristics go through the list and see which ones stick out as relevant.
Two tips for identifying an audience
Be careful not to include characteristics for the sake of it (always choose ones that you can see evidence for in a visual communication).
Be careful not to think you are choosing two characterisitcs, but you are actually choosing one. For example; If you describe an audience by saying that they 'like music and are interested in the outdoors', then you have only chosen one characteristic: Interests. You must identify another characteristic if you are asked for two. You could say; 'The visual communication is non gender specific as it targeted to males and females (gender) and people who are interested in both music and the outdoors' (interests).
Let's examine the audience characteristics for a Toyota Prius hybrid car. What do we know about it? It is an economical car so it isn't so sporty, has a good luggage area and creates minimal exhaust emissions. Let's examine each characteristic one by one. Ask is it relevant. If so, how/ why?
Age - yes - young parents - Why? Because it has a large luggage area and isn't very sporty.
Gender - maybe - females - Why? Because it focusses on practicality rather than style and performance.
Culture - no - Why? It is not biassed to any national or religious group.
Location - yes - urban - Why? Because is doesn't have the performance of a long distance car and can carry light loads conveniently.
Socioeconomic - maybe - mid range socioeconomic - Why? Because it is a mid priced car.
Interestes, beliefs - yes - people who are interested in saving the earth - Why? Because a hybrid car makes less pollution.
So, we define the audeince for a Toyota Prius as;
Young parents, mainly mothers, living in the city who are interested in the environment.
Choose some other examples of product design and information design and try it out yourself.
There are six main factors when describing 'audience'. These are called audience characteristics. Differences in these characterisitics create different groups of people, and that means different audiences.
These six factors are organised into two big groups: People’s age, gender, culture, location and socioeconomiclevel. These five characteristics are called ‘demographics’. The other group is called ‘psycho-graphics’. This includes one large characteristic covering people’s interests, opinions, lifestyles and desires.
Identifying an audience by thier life stage
People’s age is used to as way to divide a market. There are three ways to discuss age. These are; age groups, the stage of life of people or by the generation into which they were born.
Defining audiences by age is done by identifying an age range. For example ‘18 to 24 year olds’ or ‘Over 50s’.
We can refer to the stage of life people are up to. A stage of life influences purchasing decisions. People want products that define and suit their stage of life. For example, ‘first time mothers’ and ‘Grey nomads’ are stages of life. Think about what they buy.
People can also be categorised by the generation into which they were born. Dividing the market by generations looks at the social, political and economic influences that formed people’s attitudes, beliefs and values.
Some generation names are - The Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y.
Ask what age would a visual communication appeal to? And discuss why. Often it is the images that give a clue. Perhaps the layout or colours too. Answer in age ranges or life stage terms.
The market can also be segmented by looking at the culture of various audience groups. Culture refers to race, ethnicity and religion. People from different cultures across the world often have different opinions concerning appropriate dress, manners of speech, ownership of sacred material, humour and depiction of humankind, genders or Gods.
When identifying and analysing the audience of a visual communication ask yourself, ‘Are there any references made to culture, religion, race (skin colour) or nationality?’ They are usually hiding in the images, or the patterns or colours, on the visual communication. Try to find out what those references mean.
Establish if the communication is culturally inclusive or exclusive. (trying to include more kinds of people or to exclude other groups of people).
Ask would people from anywhere, with any cultural background understand the messages in the visual communication like you do? If there is a joke, would they get it, or be offended?Or, if there are people shown in certain types of costume would people from different cultures appreciate it in the same way? If not, you can be sure the visual communication is aimed at certain cultural groups and you can discuss them in your SAC.
Someone’s location exerts a huge impact on the choices they make about the products and services they buy. An audience’s tastes and preferences are formed by where they live or work. Designers create products and visual communications with an awareness of the factors that create differences in the preferences of people living in different locations.
Use words like city dwellers, urban, sub-urban, rural, remote to describe the kinds of places consumers live.
Ask yourself, if a visual communication designed to appeal to people in the city, the country or the seaside? Is the audience for a poster advertising Queensland’s Hayman Island aimed at metropolitan people or beach dwellers?
Identify and explain where the audience live or work, not where the images in the visual communication come from.
Consumer’s ability and willingness to spend is an important factor in defining a audience.
A person’s socioeconomic level is made up of three factors. Their education, their income and their occupation. Together these form people’s general purchasing habits. There are five socioeconomic levels. People in the high levels have the highest incomes, university education and professional occupations. Conversely, people from lower levels have low incomes, high school or lower education, part time jobs or are even unemployed.
To discern socioeconomic look at both the kind of images and the kind of layout, use of colour. Then examine the materials it is printed on, etc to determine if it is aimed at a low or high socioeconomic group.
Peoples’ interests and lifestyles affect and form their values, outlooks and opinions influence their purchasing preferences.
Designers appealing to audience’s interests, opinions and lifestyles literally, or metaphorically. For example, an advertisement for tents would be targeted to people who like and actually go camping; appealing to an audience’s lifestyle. But an advertisement for expensive Swiss watches depicting images of cutting edge sports people may not be aimed at elite athletes, shown in the commercial, but at business people who believe that values such as competition, independence and achievement are important for success.
Designers also appeal to people’s desires and intentions. An advertisement for a water efficient shower head or fuel efficient, hybrid car appeals to a consumer’s desire for a better ecology.
Discuss the interests, opinions, lifestyles or desires when you describe an audience.