Elements: who is this for?
Too many people start by trying to aim for the widest possible audience. But instead of appealing to “everyone,” the work fails to draw anyone closer. This is usually due to a lack of forethought about your specific audience. Considering your audience is about more than basic demographics of age and gender. What are the interests, desires, lifestyle, and problems the people you want to talk to are living through right now? This can be reflected in your visual storytelling in two ways:
The first aspect of this element is designing a clear overall aesthetic. This part often comes fairly easily because most of the time we initially describe aesthetics in general terms, such as : 1) slow pacing, minimal text with light backgrounds, subtle neutral earth-tones, low-contrast, and soft-filter images, 2) clean and fast with angular lines and tiny pops of neon colors, oversized text that shouts, 3) lots of texture, multiple layers, rich jewel tones, and soft curved shapes, relaxed pacing.
A consistent aesthetic serves the story you want to tell by creating the visual world you have built to draw in your intended audience. This allows the people who engage with your material to buy into the overall aesthetic before they are even fully conscious of it. However, if the overall aesthetic is inconsistently applied, your audience loses interest and fades away, almost as quickly as they arrived on the scene. Visual signifiers work hand-in-hand with consistency in capturing and keeping peoples’ attention.
The second aspect of defining your audience is by using visual signifiers. Is what you’re trying to communicate something aspirational? What relational factors are involved? Are you inviting your audience to be co-conspirators with you? Are they learning something completely new and revolutionary, even shocking? Are you providing help or security for a problem they are having? What visual signifiers would convey these things non-verbally?
Visual signifiers include color and the psychological associations with certain colors and color combinations (I discussed these elements in my previous articles on choosing colors for your app and on color terminology); specific objects and symbols like a diploma for graduates, or a ring for the newly engaged; words or hashtags that appeal to a particular age group, and more. Specific visual identifiers and a consistent overall aesthetic, combine to support the visual storytelling message, from the first glance to the final page.