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How to Design for Your Targeted Demographic

November 1, 2016

As a graphic designer, you aim to create visuals that resonate with your target audience. Imagine that you’re a visual “chef” and that your designs are like the hors d’oeuvres at a party. Your goal is to create the kind of dishes (designs) that your target audience will flock to.

If they love your (metaphorical) meatballs on a stick — color palette, typeface, etc. — they’ll keep coming back for more, and they’ll be inspired to connect with your brand, website or project in the desired way.

But how do you do make that kind of connection? Well first, you’ve got to mingle.

Step 1: Mingle With Your Target Audience

Not sure what type of design would resonate with your target audience? That’s a sign you need to get to know them better. The best way to do this is to mingle with them. Find out their overall personality, attitudes and tastes.

Find out where they gather online and listen to their conversations. Hanging around them as much as possible will give you a stronger feel for what they find important or meaningful.

  • Are they serious or playful?
  • Are they sarcastic or earnest?
  • Do they appreciate the big picture or get engrossed in the details?

Gathering these general insights can then guide the visual flavor of your design project. But wait. What if you have these insights but still aren’t sure how to begin your design exploration?

Well, oddly enough, it can help to think inside the box. Specifically, a room.

Step 2: Imagine a Room…

As you explore how to create a compelling design for your target demographic, it can help to ask the following unusual question: What type of room would appeal to them? Imagine the type of physical room that might resonate with them most. Think of the décor and colors of this room. Think of the furniture that would be in this room. Does the room have a black leather couch or a pastel green velvet love seat? Is there a picture of Mohammad Ali on the wall or a framed cartoon image of the Smurfs?

For example, the furniture, rugs, wall art and décor for the following audiences will likely be very different:

  • Millennial male rock climbers
  • Affluent female yoga instructors
  • Middle school boys who like robots
  • Older extreme sports enthusiasts
  • Driven “type A” chefs from New York City

Once you have a clear sense of the ambiance and feel of this room, imagine, for example, that the website or brochure you’re designing is sitting on a computer screen or a table in this room. It will have the same color scheme and overall “attitude” of the room that represents your target audience. The room represents their “world” and your design should visually reflect that world.

Step 3: Color Palette

As you step into the visual “room” of your target demographic, you’ll notice that the most important part of that world is color. Different color schemes communicate different messages — so some color schemes may be more appropriate for a given audience than others. For example, bright pink and orange communicate a different message from royal blue and gold.

What colors contain the message most appropriate for your target audience? Is your audience playful, exuberant and brightly colored? Or are they calmer, quieter and more muted? The answers to these questions will put you on the right path toward uncovering the most effective visual communication for your target demographic.

Step 4: Layout

Now that you’ve visualized the décor of a room representing your target audience, there’s another interesting question to explore: What’s the physical layout of objects in this room?

Is the room filled with many objects in a small space? Or are the objects and furniture more spread out with “room to breathe”? This reflection on the layout of the room will inform the layout of your design.

Does your target audience like to absorb a lot of details and information at once (a room with more objects) or do they tend to focus on just one or two critical ideas (a more sparsely decorated room)? In other words, how complex or simple will the layout of your design be? Make sure you tailor it to the preferences of your audience, based on an understanding of this hypothetical room.

Step 5: Typography

So much character and tone is communicated through the choice of typeface. What typographical character and tone best represents the spirit of your target audience? Think again of their room. Imagine that there’s a magazine, a take-out menu and a paperback book sitting on the coffee table in this room, and that they’re written in the same typeface. What kind of typeface is it?

  • Is it mischievous?
  • Silly?
  • Elegant?
  • Intellectual?

Again, as in the previous steps, the typeface of your audience should be an extension of the world they come from. You should literally be writing “in their language.”

Consider these steps before you begin design on your next project to get into the mindset of your target audience. Thinking about the user and their experience with the design is just one way to plan for a successful project.

Lexie is a designer, writer, and coffee lover. She writes about trends in the web and graphic design industry. She writes weekly on Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.

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