Formulating a response
Okay. I’m looking fear straight in the eye, and I played back the feedback I got from my presentation at the last GRC… and I’m not feeling that bad, actually. In fact, I think Peter T made some really interesting points.
Understanding vs Interpretation
I’m playing around with this diagram to figure out what I mean.
The dots represent information. The more dots there are, the more overload of information about a user. I am intending on working out whether it’s the amount of information that leads to better understanding of audience, or its the type of the information that leads to better understanding. Perhaps it isn’t to do with understanding at all. Perhaps it’s to do with interpretation…
Interpretation is defined, ‘a mental representation of the meaning or significance of something‘, which is different to understanding.
Understanding is “adj : characterized by understanding based on comprehension and discernment and empathy; “an understanding friend” n 1: the cognitive condition of someone who understands; “he has virtually no understanding of social cause and effect”
Perhaps designers interpret certain aspects of the audience, rather than understand them. It’s how well they interpret those aspects that leads them to fuel the creation of future possibilities…?
Am I calling for other ways to interpret various aspects of the audience to facilitate the designerly process?
More on personas
Graphic designers are often perceived as the middle-person between client and audience – their designs considered as interfaces or mouthpiece that facilitates the client-audience relationship (any refs here?). This observation may indicate the reasons for the designed artefact taking central and prominent role for designers and is the focus of the practice. It had often troubled me as a practicing designer that once the designed artefact is designed and printed, I saw or heard very little of how it has engaged the intended audiences, other than statistics indicating rise and fall of marketing sales as a result of its use as packaging or advertising. Behavioural change and shifts in mindset may be subliminal, and span long periods of time with other numerous influential factors, making most follow-up market research methods hard to guage its true impact on the audience (says who?). One significant aspect of ‘Dear John’ project, is the immediacy of feedback by the audience through the statistics of visitors and hits to the website, through people sending photos, artworks and e-mails back to us. It had enabled me to understand the power of design in having greater impact and affecting people in personal ways, playing a role of a catalyst to action than the traditional role of facilitation. Our objective in providing ways for people to amplify their voices and to create a space for it to be shared and communicated, allowed ways of interaction that became a unique, empowering experience for me as a designer.
My first job
Having an e-mail conversation with Luke made me realise how the significance of my past design experiences is shaping my research. It sounds obvious, but obvious things are the hardest to notice.
So, thinking back to when I first worked for Survival and designing the Racism Book made me think how my research now, could’ve helped me then.
One thing I’ve managed to clarify is the quantity of knowledge one has of the issue/content doesn’t directly relate to how well one can communicate to an audience, for example, having significant knowledge of tribal peoples and the issues they face doesn’t necessarily mean that you can communicate that well to an audience. Stephen had a wealth of knowledge of the issue and the people who were involved. He knew in great detail about the politicians, the oil/mining companies who were trying to steal the rights to the tribal people’s lands. I can see now why Stephen and I didn’t see eye to eye. His wealth of knowledge of all these things was contrasting to my simplicity of not knowing about the issues, and my opinion about the ways we can engage the public (who also doesn’t know much about the issues) had no common ground. Our disagreement was a stalemate, only because we were talking about two separate things. I wasn’t questioning his knowledge because I was talking about how to make that knowledge accessible to people who didn’t know anything. In that sense, I was well placed to discuss how to enable this, since I didn’t know much about the issues. However, Stephen didn’t agree. He thought I was someone who would layout the book with his content.
From observation, I also think this is a common phenomenon amongst NGOs who are intent at pushing their information at their audience. Defeat Howard was an organisation with similar intention, and they end up only talking to people who are their small circle of supporters. From such experience, WHAT you know seems to cloud HOW you talk to someone.
With this research, I hope I could help myself 8 years ago in that situation. How I could argue what I know, and what my role is, and what value a designer brings in creating artefacts that communicate to an audience, other than graphical style and organisation of content.
Design vs marketing
I am stumped by this question. What is the inherent difference between design and marketing? All the literature on demographics and psychographics seem to have been generated from marketing as a way to understand the consumers. I am not intending in re-inventing the wheel here, but I am also lost in seeing the fine line I am treading between design and marketing. If advertising were designing visuals to communicate to their market, and it is enirely based on their understanding of the target market, how different is that to what I am calling for? What is the difference in the design process that enables this to happen? What is the difference between designing a publication, to designing an advertisement?
I wrote the above about a week ago. Again, what I am seeing is that the questions are too simplistic, and therefore the answers become simplistic.