Audience

 

How often have you read or seen something and then wondered, “For whom was this written? To whom were they speaking?” All too frequently, speakers and writers speak and write to themselves or to people just like themselves, rather than to the actual audience that will hear or read their words. Case in point: Have you ever listened to a public discourse or sat in an introductory-level class, where the speaker assumes that the audience possesses a base knowledge of the topic that is inappropriate for the venue, by using insider’s vocabulary that is incomprehensible to newcomers to the topic? Most of us have experienced this. Such instances are examples of unclear communication because the words were not aimed at the actual listeners or readers, but rather, primarily, aimed at impressing the speakers’ or authors’ peers with their own intelligence. Have you ever seen a sleekly designed website or other product that you can’t actually figure out how to use? Again, such creations were not designed for the user of the product, but rather, to impress other designers. The obvious—but not always recognized—issue is that if an audience can’t understand the discourse or the user can’t use the product, then the process of composing or designing has failed its primary mission: to reach its audience.

An audience receives what it is actually presented with, not what the mind of the creator thinks it has presented; if the audience can’t understand or misunderstands the written or spoken text, then the impression left on them will be outside the intended meaning of the discourse.

Therefore, to communicate, an author or speaker must take the actual audience into consideration right from the start when composing a message. To do so, the author must understand the audience—both the primary and the secondary audience that will potentially receive that message. Such things as sentence complexity, the use of metaphor and figures of speech, first or third person, personal or impersonal tone and voice, word choice, directness and familiarity, formality, and other factors need to be consistent and intentionally used, rather than randomly applied, in order to communicate effectively. Furthermore, all of these elements need to be geared toward the actual audience that will be receiving the discourse, if misunderstanding is to be avoided and intended meaning is to be communicated.

The primary audience is the target audience, the one that writers or speakers intend to reach with their discourse; the communicative needs of that primary audience must be clearly understood by the speaker or writer before they speak or write. Identifying who that audience might be would be the first step to understanding how to reach them and this might be accomplished by things like brainstorming ideas of who you think you want to reach and bouncing those ideas off of others with similar focus to yours. Additionally useful would be some basic demographic research to further identify the general characteristics of those people whom you identify. Learning the actual needs and wants of those you identify would be the second step, something that only research—asking questions, conducting surveys—will actually find out.

Don’t assume that you know what people think, because such assumptions will undoubtedly result in a skewed idea of your audience that will more than likely represent stereotypes, rather than actual people. Targeting stereotypes for your audience is something that will be noticed by the readers and listeners and will more than likely alienate them and backfire on your intended purposes.

Another important consideration—especially in this day of digital text—is that in addition to your primary audience, you have a secondary audience. By trying to imagine how the text or discourse you are composing will be shared to others, you can attempt to take that secondary audience into account. For example, is your blog geared to teachers? If so, then your blog message might be seen by students, parents, or your principal or the school board members that have hiring and firing power over you. Thinking in advance about where your discourse might be shared is only common sense, but how often do people fail to account for it? Although impossible to take every possibility into account, by trying to imagine potential ways that your discourse might be disbursed on media other than the original platform, you can anticipate an additional audience and take that information into consideration in further selecting an appropriate style and tone for what you publish or present.

Planning with audience awareness in mind is all about how to make a connection and how you, as an author or speaker, can be understood clearly and unambiguously by the audience that is on the receiving end of your communication event.

content.php.gifPiraro, Daniel. “Bizarro Comic Strip for February 01, 2016.” Comics Kingdom. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Feb. 2016. <http://comicskingdom.com/bizarro/2016-02-01&gt;.

 

Google Image Search

So just how does a person find the original source for an image on the Internet?

Images so often float around online, so how can a person get down to the real facts behind an image? One way is to conduct a Google Image Search.

Google image search Screenshot 2016-02-20 18.01.47

Here is the Google Image Search box. Click the image to try it yourself.

With a Google Image Search, you can upload an image or enter the image’s URL (the web address) into a Google search box and Google will open a page that shows various matches to the image. From there, you can look through the search results and often you can find out who is the creator of the image or the source of its original publication or appearance, along with a variety of places in which the image has since appeared (like various blogs or websites). Oftentimes, you will see versions of the image in different resolutions or from different aspects. This is one great way to test if your image really is what you think it is, since often, through a Google Image Search, you can find versions of the image in which it has been slightly (or greatly) manipulated by an image editor like Photoshop. Another plus for using Google Image Search, is that it helps you as the poster to be a good Internet citizen by your finding and giving credit to the artist or creator of the image for their work and to supply your audience with a link to the original publication or the artist/creator’s website. 

Using Google image search is not the only way that you can learn the provenance of an image, but it is a great place to start and is easy and free to all. There isn’t really an excuse not to search out the origin of the images that are being used.

After all, knowing as much as you can about the images that you post on Facebook or any social media, should be a no-brainer, because if you post something that is inaccurate, especially if it is obviously fraudulent or manipulated, it doesn’t reflect well on you and is not going to accomplish the rhetorical purpose that you have intended by your post.

To use Google Image search, just open a Google search page and enter “Google Images,” then click. Here is the link for more information on using Google Image search:
https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/1325808?hl=en

Branding

The value of holding a consistent image and visual approach should be universally recognized, because it helps the user/audience you are trying to reach see your service as an organized system.

For example, if you need to label some doors at your business site or make signs for your location, don’t just go down to the hardware store and buy the first set of stick-on letters that you see, as I have seen done before, even by very large organizations, but put some thought into it with information design and branding in mind.

This is a great article and I wanted to share it for anyone wondering about why it would be important to create a consistent brand for their business or organization. Although the immediate focus is on user oriented projects, the ideas are useful to anyone wanting to learn more about branding.

“What is branding?”

Interaction Design.org

When you were at school, in all likelihood your mum/mom/mother (delete as necessary) probably stitched your name into all parts of your uniform and gym items. While the labels were probably itchy and annoying, they helped you keep track of your stuff by distinguishing them from everybody else’s clothes. Personalizing your things in this way, allowed you to say, definitively, that something was yours (unless your name is John Smith).

Branding works in much the same way. Companies and businesses attach names, logos, slogans, and specific design elements to their products to distinguish them from their competitors. However, while your school shirt, trousers, etc. simply had your name in them, company branding is focused on attaching or associating positive attributes to their products.”

Branding: Making Positive Associations

“We already make associations between certain words, colors, people, objects, styles, design features, and meaningful qualities, such as likeability, friendliness, sexiness, and wealth. Branding attempts to ensure the package they are offering or purporting to offer, bears positive qualities, rather than negative ones.

The brand of a company or specific product is essentially the idea or image they are trying to project, so consumers connect or identify with the whole group or one product in particular. Branding is meant to help make products instantly recognisable to consumers, and to ensure they help to maintain a positive image or reputation. It is for this reason that celebrity endorsers are dropped like a lead weight, if any indiscretion becomes public knowledge, Brands lose their meaning if the products become associated with people who are appearing in the news for negative reasons.”

Read more of the article here:

 

brands-of-us from Mental Floss article

Brands of the US map Credit: Steve-Lovelace.com

Documentation Management

“Documentation management is the bane of many a project manager’s existence. Yet, without a clear and simple documentation management system projects often go astray. Your team members need to be able to find their documentation when they need it. If they can’t; they’ll go and do other things instead–or waste hours of time trying to find it. Neither of these things is good for the health of your User interaction (UX) project. So let’s look at some simple tips for better document management on UX projects:” For more of the article, click here.

Dilbert Naming Conventions

Quizzing your Quizzes: Verify your “Shares” on Facebook, Part 2

And what about all those posts, blogs, and articles that we share on FB? Can I investigate more thoroughly before I click share? Here are just a couple of things worth considering when investigating the sources of what we post:

Dandelion Silhouettes with Flying Seeds http://www.freepik.com/

Everyone needs to be more careful to choose which posts, blogs, and websites they are willing to expose their friends and family to through electronic media sharing.

What is the actual address of that website? The legitimacy of a shared posting or shared quiz, such as that game, coupon, or other marketed post you want to share with your FB friends, will almost surely show on the actual domain name of the website that you have clicked to from the shared post, quiz, or blog article. To find that out, click on the address bar in your browser (i.e., box at the top of that webpage) of any website to look at the full domain name on the URL (i.e., entire http//:www.address); if that web address looks fishy (i.e., it doesn’t sound like the kind of address that matches that company’s real website or the address doesn’t look like it matches any legitimate-looking company), the website might not really be sponsored by the company you think that you are clicking to, but actually something about it might be false. If the article or blog post says it is from some or another news source, like the New York Times, then if the website or Facebook page is a little off from that, say, “Newyourk Times” or some such, pay attention to that and be warned.

A caveat to that point is that sometimes the web address of a company doesn’t necessarily look like a match to a site. This might happen for several reasons, since sites are hosted in lots of various ways, including those free hosting sites that want to include some of their business’ name in the web address; also, some hosting companies or some parent companies of businesses have domain names that rule over the whole organization. For example, a daughter company or a company that merged or was bought out might have a website name that reflects the larger corporate entity of which the site you want is only a small part. Also URLs/web addresses have always been dispensed on a first-come, first-serve basis to whoever pays for the name, even if they have nothing to do with the actual company; in this case, some individual was able to get a jump on a name and then sort of hold it for ransom to the highest bidder, so sometimes the name someone wants is simply already owned. However,  most large companies, like Target or Coke, pay for the URL or website name that they want and own the legitimate web addresses to match pretty well with their name. In most cases, whatever entity is trying to drive you to its website, should have a website or domain name that makes sense to you. In other words, what you think is a “funny” or not matching web address, might not really be funny at all; therefore, matching the name to the site is a yellow light for skepticism, but not a full stop sign.

A bigger flashing light to raise our skepticism about the originator of a shared article or posting: after following back on a shared post, worry if you find that the website that shared it doesn’t contain any findable identifying information that indicates the identity of the site or the articles’ publishers or authors. If a website hasn’t posted any information about who they are, such as is found on an “About page,” a “Contact us” page, or an “Archive” or “History” page, then be skeptical about whatever they are publishing or sharing. Everything published should be verifiable and subject to reasonable push-back, whether the information sets the date for the original publication, research study, or the names and qualification of the author or researcher. “Who said that? Why should I believe them? What are their credentials?” are essential questions that always need answers. If no answers to these questions can be determined from the site, don’t bother sharing items from that site. Some sites welcome feedback and host discussion forums about the topics addressed. Reading through this feedback can enrich the experience on the website, but of course often, there is a lot of garbage found on such discussions. When you are sharing articles, don’t forget that you are also sharing the discussion boards, the ads, the other links that are on that website, so anything you share, will also share whatever links to that link. These links are a chain; we are talking about the metaphor of a “web,” after all.  You could unknowingly be linking your family and friends to a chain of inaccurate or unsupported information .

Also, if the originating dates of the blogs, postings, or articles you find on these sites are older than a year or two,or if the articles don’t have any supporting evidence, such as the citations for the references to their claims, then I would not share anything from that website (or believe anything that they say, actually). Frequently, I have seen someone share an “article” on FB, that when “clicked,” shows a website or a blog that paraphrases or quotes another blog or website, that when clicked, leads to a seemingly endless chain of websites/blogs/links that have quoted from that same article, but none of them have ever attributed the work to an author or a date or an original published source for the material. If you do happen to follow all of this and find the beginning link in the chain, often you will find yourself several years—if not decades—into old material with a questionable validity to begin with and one that has clearly become outdated. Sadly, the lie, the debunked, and the misinformed have an “eternal” life online, because the unsubstantiated, the inaccurate, and the outdated are linked and shared unendingly.

Quizzing your Quizzes: Verify your “Shares” on Facebook, Part 1

Do you ever worry about all those quizzes shared on FB? What some of these quiz sites might really want is your information—the information that you don’t generally share with strangers, such as access to your FB page and your contacts’ list.

Munroe, Randall. “Xkcd: Communication.” Web log post. Xkcd: Communication. Copyright Creative Commons, Web. 13 April 2015. http://xkcd.com/1511/

Munroe, Randall. “Xkcd: Communication.” Web log post. Xkcd: Communication. Copyright Creative Commons, Web. 13 April 2015. http://xkcd.com/1511/

I have taken some of these quizzes myself. They are almost irresistible and usually quite self-congratulating, but recently, something was a bit odd about a quiz that I had just taken. It seemed a bit suspicious that I, as well as all of my friends taking the quiz, started posting that everyone had received scores of 100% correct, even though some of the questions had been quite obscure. (After all, who, besides me, knows anything about the Muscovite princes?) This result raised my curiosity and made me suspicious in a way that I probably should have been already.  I decided to stop taking the quizzes altogether. These quizzes seem to pop-up with an increasing rapidity, with their fun and attractive topics that appeal to everyone in an upbeat style and eye-catching images—favorite Disney princesses, favorite Beatle’s songs, favorite movies, favorite states, favorite form of mineral deposit—all just part of the fun and appeal of Facebook. However, who of us ever asks any questions about the things that we “Share” with each other, including these quizzes? How many of us ask, “Who is behind this?” or “Why should I give that nameless entity access to all of my ‘Friends and contacts?”

And what about all those posts, blogs, and articles that we share on FB? Can I investigate more thoroughly before I click share? Here are just a couple of things worth considering when investigating the sources of what we post:

First of all, you can copy the source or name associated with the FB quiz or website, by opening up a tab in your browser and pasting that name in a search box (or in other words, googling it). Sometimes that site or web address will have been researched already by people who have reviewed it to praise or debunk it. This first and most basic stop on the way to validating the legitimacy of a site is rarely even reached by most people. Do you think of this before you share something on Social Media?

Most people, unfortunately, see something, and “click”—share it. Googling Snopes.com or urbanlegends.about.com or charitynavigator.org or else, just trying to get some further and more objective information about the source of a post or quiz, should be the first step in satisfying my most basic need for verification and curiosity. If you think something is interesting, make sure that it really is worth sharing.

Additionally, the FB professional page of a legitimate source, such as a well-known company, will clearly show an appropriate number of followers to match their prominence (i.e., millions of followers for a major business, thousands or hundreds of followers for a local one) and their FB business page will click back to their real, working website and other social media (i.e., the Coca-cola business page will click back to their site where you can sign up for their legitimate Twitter stream; my professional page, “Susan W. LaVelle, Information Design” will show you my website, susanwlavelle.com, and clicking to my website, will show a live feed for my FB professional page and Twitter feed, both of which will link you back to my websites). Anything requested or shared on FB would more likely be found as legit if it links to the connections that legitimate that site as a reliable source. Finding openness and clarity helps to verify that the Facebook page that you are sharing from is actually what you think it to be.

How to Design Your Graphics for Effective Communication, Part 2

Part 1 of this series presented a series of organizational patterns seen as basic content structures, such as the patterns of chronology, sequence, space, comparison and contrast, or cause and effect. The question was asked, “Which one of these patterns would best showcase the elements that I want obviated by my graphic design?” 

In Part 2, we will be discussing a basic approach to creating the underlying framework of an effective graphic.

How can designers ensure that the intended message comes across clearly in the graphics they create?

ONE THING USEFUL for beginning designers and non-design specialists would be to write a short purpose statement of what you are trying to accomplish and communicate by using graphics in your design. If you can’t clearly and unambiguously state with words what you are trying to communicate to the audience, you won’t be able to communicate that purpose clearly through the graphic you design, either. The purpose of your communication should be central to what is communicated to the audience; the “coolness” of a new infographic tool, color-combination template, neat font or latest tech-tool trick or trend, or whatever else distracts us, can work against clarity and effectiveness, making communication of intended meaning a hit-or-miss endeavor.

By zeroing in on your purpose through the written statement, you will be able to pull out some verbs and key concepts to clue you into the pattern of visual organization to best illustrate your information. For example, if you have a purpose statement that says something about illustrating the negative and positive issues involved in the “digital divide” you will see that several of the words—“negative/positive” and “divide”—point to a Compare and Contrast Pattern; in fact, such words almost beg the use of an illustration that divides the design space into two or more parts. If the pattern that is most implied by the words you use is not the type of organization that would best illustrate your point, you might consider selecting new words to better match whatever organizational pattern you envision for your message or else, make it very clear through your illustration why your words work against the grain of preconceived patterns.

The point is that going down “underneath the skin” of any graphic should tell you something about the graphics’ structure, about the basic idea, conceptual model, or organizational mode to drive your point forward or to frame the illustration. In creating a graphic to communicate something, you need to know what specifically you want to say before you start designing. If you structure your design with an organizational framework based on the “skeleton” of purpose, the details will follow from there, helping you know what creative method to use to design the artifact. Your message will get across to your audience with less ambiguity and more clarity, so that the audience will more quickly absorb and more thoroughly retain the information you present. You would be surprised how many people do not do this simple preparatory work before they put together a chart, figure, or graphic element.

A great process starts with a purpose statement, moves on to sketching a prototype, asks for user input at any and all stages, and then, makes decisions about what sort of software is needed for composing the graphic.

— Susan LaVelle

Aaron Kuehn. SKELETON TYPOGRAM

Skeleton Typogram by Aaron Kuehn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. http://aaronkuehn.com/art/skeleton-typogram