Sunday, 24 October 2010

Research and Development

Understanding an audience can enhance visual communication...

As a photographer I am concerned with; how a piece relates to an audience; if it communicates the ideas in the brief I was given or if it communicates the ideas I created; if it is relevant to the target audience and if the piece(s) is visually stimulating. One person's stimulating is another person's yawn though.

Example? I remember talking about the (fairly) new John Lewis advert with some mates (we have other cooler conversations not about adverts too) and some loved it some hated.

A short timeline of John Lewis 2010 advert.

For the sake of this blog I got some online discussions about the advert too:

Eek said, “don't really like it, it's depressing. How it's someone’s whole life practically in two minutes.”
Posted: Sat 1st May 2010 at 00:52:46

But SarahPie said, “love it, it's a fab advert.”
Posted: Sat 1st May 2010 at 11:19:04

 - Taken from a forum discussing the advert:

These two people are probably from different audience groups, and will have different priorities and ideologies from each other thus making their opinions differ.

Theorists have categorised audiences as a way of segmenting the general population. Hartley came up with one demographic approach to segment audience groups:
  • Self-image
  • Gender
  • Age group
  • Family
  • Class
  • Nation
  • Ethnicity

As we have moved on socially, some subjectivities are less relevant such as class, which is now considered a redundant way to label people. The psychographic approach separates an audience into levels:

It is very important to understand which audience group your piece is wanting to target, vital if you work commercially. As artists we are concerned with how people will respond to our work and how it will be received, even if we make a conscious decision to ignore audience and create highly personal expressions. By understanding the audience, it informs our decisions when we create.

Observation, collecting, studying and exploring can contribute to a deeper understanding of the subject…

Everything is research; going to look at a piece of art; seeing some graffiti on the street; noticing the architecture of a city and even taking photos from your family holiday. However, it is only relevant to a visual communicator if it is consciously considered.

There are two types of research - primary and secondary.
Primary research consists of collecting original data from scratch. For example, you might go out and interview someone about something, or take photo’s of a place that is relevant to the brief/idea, or sketching a persons face as you sit on the train.
Secondary research consists of gathering information/data that is already out in the world as a way of clarifying or developing an idea. Artist research is a common form of secondary research, so visiting galleries or exploring their web pages is secondary research.

This is a piece of primary research I collected in a recent project I made where I explored gender. I wanted to understand other people’s ideas about gender so interviewed a few people who I had not known previously to this project:

As visual communicators, visual research is the most relevant.

An example of primary research in a sketchbook by Jill Calder
Jill Calder takes great pride in the primary research she collects, “I love drawing. I'd quite happily draw on anything” (

By sketching or photographing the scenes that inspire us, we collect the visual information that we can later adjust and apply in whichever setting we want, but it also records a sense of how we feel the atmosphere and environment to feel around us.

Research helps us gain a deeper understanding of whichever subject we choose to explore.

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