Audience Behaviour in Visual Communication #1

A crucial element amongst many, of successful visual communication, is knowing your audience. Specifically, how they behave in spaces and how they respond to various media types in their environment, that is, in addition to producing compelling and relevant work. Articulate enough to communicate vital information, yet evocative enough to create a positive response. Ultimately, to create the will of wanting to digest that information.

Currently I am partaking in a mock-poster group project to campaign for an independent Dorset. In addition to producing the poster itself we have been tasked with carrying out research based around audience habits, in order to help decide where the poster would be most optimally be placed, as well as considering which design elements and visual language will be most successful in catching the eye of passing students in the Media School reception area. After brainstorming and producing some initial sketches, we carried out a short study of student activity in the reception area in order to try and make deductions from the behaviour of our target audience. The benefits of doing this include:

  • Information on optimal visual styles to be used, based on viewing distance and angle, environment colours, environment lighting etc.
  • Seeing which current artifacts garner the most attention from the audience – we can try and look at why and how they do so.
  • Thinking about where a poster might optimally be placed for maximum exposure to passing students.
  • Informing discourse on how much information should be included on the poster, and how a visual hierarchy might be established based on viewing times and proximity.

We took note of how busy the area was, what particular activities were occurring at the time, as well as the time of day and week – as environment variables that could affect how people engaged with the environment. Studying the area for a short 10 minute session yielded some useful results in itself. We found that at 3PM on a Thursday, action between the TV3 studio and coffee shop in particular, mostly included a busy scene overall with a few groups having meetings, conducting interviews and using camera equipment. It could be argued that in this particular scenario, true results may have been skewed as the largest notable action carried out by passing students seemed to be glancing at the TV and audio crews, and after that, looking at the large crowds with no particular intention other than a glance as they passed from one end to the other. I feel it may be wise to repeat the study another day for equality – however it could be argued that this situation would just be representative of a normal period of time in the Media School reception due to its nature.

Other occurrences that we noticed were people making eye contact as we observed them, which is to be expected in a sense, however it could be contested that this suggests a personal or searching type of visual style could be useful in grabbing attention. People glanced at the coffee queue as they walked in, the 6 screen array as they walked out, and had a tendency to pay particular attention to the police box from across the room as they left. This could suggest that people find more interest in the more surreal or unusual features of the space – which is an observation that could be factored into creating an eye-catching poster. People tended to take the quickest path through the space, however not everyone was necessarily in a rush as we also observed people stopping and watching the large televisions. To conclude, possible ideas from this early stage of investigation might include putting posters on walls behind seating areas, where people may catch them as they look at other people, or perhaps on the pillars where there are also seating areas. Additionally, posters near televisions or monitors may also be successful.

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