Graphic design is about more than creating beautiful art. There’s a careful science behind good design that’s more concerned with psychology, mathematics, and marketing than you might think. Every color choice and line detail is carefully considered to create an image that’s suited to its purpose and effectively engages the audience. But who is that audience, and do you—the designer—need to know who you’re drawing for before you begin? Let’s find out.
Do graphic designers need to know their target audience?
Graphic design is often a form of marketing, and just as with copywriting, website development, and social media management, it needs an audience. As the designer, you’re not creating a piece of art for yourself but to please somebody else and accomplish a specified purpose. A logo, for example, needs to match a brand image and visually entice that brand’s target audience. If you don’t know who you’re drawing for, your art won’t have the functionality that it needs.
Two types of target audience
In graphic design, there are two types of target audience:
- The client
- The client’s client
The client is the individual or organization that’s commissioned your services. This is your primary target audience and the one that you’ll be aiming to please. You need to understand exactly what they’re looking for, how they picture their own brand (their brand image), and the vision of their company. The art you produced must be a reflection of their business, so understanding them is crucial.
The client’s client is your secondary target audience. These are the people you’re marketing to that the art is meant to engage, and you must design with them in mind. Although we call them the secondary audience, they’re just as important as the client, so don’t put them in second place!
Blending your audiences to find a balance
Having two audiences is a tricky business. You need to strike a balance between the company’s vision and what works with the audience, which isn’t always easy. As the designer, your job is to lead the way, showing the client the best route to fulfill both purposes.
Let’s say that you’re designing a logo for a fast food company, for example. They want to come across as eco-friendly but still engage the general fast-food audience that’s currently opting for big brand names. The client hopes to use eco-friendly colors, like green and brown, but you know that in the fast food industry, these aren’t going to stand out. So, you explain to the client that red and yellow are better choices to engage the audience and offer alternative ways of making it clear that the brand is sustainable.
Here, you’re addressing the client’s vision whilst marketing to their potential customers, taking both of your target audiences into consideration.
How do you know your target audience?
Sometimes, a client will provide you with a clear idea of the target audience. Other times, such as when creating work for your own brand or when your client doesn’t know, you’ll have to work out who your audience is by yourself.
There are a number of ways you can do this. Competitor research is always a good place to start, looking at the types of people who are following similar brands on social media. Or, you can sign up for a free trial of a prospecting tool that will help you identify your target audience for you, saving you a whole lot of time and ensuring you know exactly who you’re marketing to.
Create a customer profile (or customer persona) that embodies your general target audience. Detail information including the personas:
- Hobbies and interests
This will help you hone in on exactly who you need to keep in mind when designing and understand their preferred aesthetic.
Why do you need to know your audience?
We’ve looked at who your audience is and how to find them, but why do you need to know the people that you’re designing for? This all comes back to marketing. The purpose of your design isn’t just to create something beautiful but to:
- Build a brand image
- Engage the right people
- Sell products/services
- Build trust with the client’s audience
Your design is functional, and knowing your target audience makes it far easier to ensure it fulfills that function. It also helps you save time as the designer. Rather than looking at a broad spectrum of colors, for example, you can instantly narrow down your choices to what you know appeals to the client’s audience and matches their brand image. A younger target audience and a happy, cheerful brand image, for example, are going to be better suited to bright primary colors rather than neutral tones or monochrome.
Good graphic design should help brands to connect with their audience. The bottom line is that if you don’t know who that is, you’re not going to be able to fulfill your work’s purpose.
An eye for art is a must for every graphic designer, but so is an understanding that there’s more to good design than aesthetics. Hopefully, this article has shone a light on why understanding your target audience is so important in the design industry and has given you some tips to know yours better. Now, all that’s left to do is start designing!