Audience Research in Visual Storytelling

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson goes over the ways by which you can conduct audience research in visual storytelling. Then you'll learn how to implement it, including with respect to design elements.

Visual Storytelling

Who would appreciate an artsy way of presenting information more? An engineer or a photographer? Likely the latter. And you know that because somewhere in your past you came across one or the other, or information about them, which led you to this conclusion. So, you did your research, and if you ever design something for an audience of photographers, you'll keep that research in mind.

This lesson goes over the fundamentals behind researching your audience and implementing your research into visual storytelling and design elements.

Conducting Research on an Audience

When telling a story, you've got to know who you're talking to. We can use a simple example of how this is important.

If you're going to tell a visual story of how Einstein came up with the theory of relativity, you're going to use very different words and visuals when talking to a 5-year-old than when talking with a 50-year-old world-class physicist.

So start with general audience research where you get basic things, like their age and educational background.

Next, start zeroing in a bit. Let's say you've identified that your audience is going to be 20-50-year-old computer nerds. That's great. But computer nerds come in many flavors. They can be:

1. Novices. They may think Python is a snake, but they don't want to be talked down to like they're a little kid either.

2. Generalists. They're not experts in any one particular area of computers and thus appreciate the overarching themes within a topic/story as opposed to nitty-gritty details.

3. Experts. These are the guys who aren't interested so much in a story as they are about discovering something cool.

4. Management. Management will want an in-depth look at the meaning behind the story. What drives this story and makes it work?

5. Executives. Get to the point. These guys want to know what the conclusion is and why they should care. Oh, and pronto!

Once you've refined your audience this way, you still have some research left to do. We'll pretend that your research has led you to conclude that your audience is composed of 20-50-year-old computer nerd novices.

Great. You can further narrow things down for a killer visual story by figuring out what this subset of the population and computer nerd population actually wants to see in the story. What are their likes? Dislikes? If you're working for a company/brand, find out what they know about it to better craft the story.

We can summarize audience research for visual storytelling to this. Answer the following questions:

1. What's their background?

2. How well do they know the topic the story will be about?

3. What do they care about or dislike?

Implementing Audience Research

Let's go over an example of one of the many ways by which this research can be implemented.

You know your audience is filled with novices. We'll also pretend that they're attending a conference designed to get them to buy software from a company which teaches them Python.

Since they're complete novices, some background information on Python that showcases what it does and how it works would be in order. You wouldn't want to do this with an expert audience.

Any computer language can be intimidating, especially to a novice. So tell a story of how a complete novice learned Python and sky-rocketed her career as a result. Pepper the story with visuals that showcase how she did it with your client's software, how long it took, how easy it was, and how happy she was as a result.

Selecting Design Elements

When designing any visuals, ensure that the design elements, such as color, shapes, and use of space that you choose to use match your audience research. Let's turn to a different example to showcase this point.

Let's say you've now been hired to create a visual aid for an audience composed of medical professionals. What does your audience research reveal about most such professionals?

1. Most are quite intelligent and appreciate order and logic

2. Most likely work in clinical medicine

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