Communication, Design and Brand Strategist, Author, Speaker.

WITH AN INCREASED APPRECIATION FOR AUDIENCE NEEDS, designers are taking steps to better understand audience motivations and behaviors. Before sketching or designing, designers are seeking out audience insights by going on shop-alongs to view purchasing behaviors, as well as conducting visual audit analysis and equity asset research. They are asking audiences what the client brand and competitive brands mean to them. They are asking about the graphics, trying to understand what resonates with consumers. All along, they are looking for ways to ground the creative work by incorporating the consumer’s perspective into the process.

For Luis Fitch, understanding the Hispanic market is at the heart of his business. Fitch is the founder of Minneapolis-based UNO Hispanic Branding, a leading branding and design agency dedicated to building brands that connect with Hispanic consumers. Their first step is always to understand the demographic. From there, they are able to determine not only the needs of the audiences they are serving, but also the context and meaning behind the product or services. “We want to know what is the latest trend and what’s in their heads,” says Fitch. “That’s what our clients want. It’s more than making it look authentic or making it look Mexican… It’s ‘What is the next big thing?’”

UNO takes an ethnographic approach for much of its research. “If you don’t go out to the streets and ask, you won’t find it,” says Fitch. Fitch and his team conduct interviews and focus groups, and they even go to consumers’ houses to see how they live with and use the product. Sometimes the people they talk with even help UNO develop the product.

To better understand what will resonate with its target audience, UNO uses a visual and verbal collage method they call “Filtros.” Pulling from their vast collection of books, magazines, and images related to Hispanic culture, they create mood boards that inspire and help the design team focus on the audience’s particular cultural language, based on their level of acculturation. Filtros acts as a reminder for the design team by helping them discover not only new things about audiences, but things they might have forgotten or things they were not aware of, and more importantly, things that they can combine with the U.S. culture.

Sometimes the people they talk with even help UNO develop the product.

Filtros sometimes involves user participation by using visual references like pictures, books, and magazines, and letting the consumer put collages together using writing, drawing, and photography. Consumers may be given small cameras and told to take pictures of how they use the product, or what’s inside their refrigerator, or to document their week in a diary, and then those pictures are categorized and Fitch and his team start to look for patterns. Often the results reveal insights into how consumers use the products or services.

SO BACK AWAY FROM THE MONITOR and stop relying on design porn for inspiration. Hit the streets and find out what real people are doing, what they’re experiencing and what matters to them. Talk to people, and invite them to participate in the design process. Only through empathy can you create meaningful and memorable design.

To learn how to make your design process more strategic, check out
The Strategic Designer: Tools and Techniques for Managing the Design Process
Available on Amazon

Great design and great client relationships; Two things that all designers want. The Strategic Designer is based on research conducted with over 100 designers, educators and researchers from across the nation. The book provides a framework for collaboration, context and accountability in design problem solving. The book offers accepted professional practices and acts as a graphic design process body of knowledge, guiding the reader through each step of the graphic design process. Designers will learn how to build strong client relationships, increase project success rates, boost efficiency and enhance their creativity.

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