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Communication design refers to the technique of communicating a message via audio-visual tools to convey an intended message effectively to the target audience with an aim to inspire the latter to take the desired action such as making a purchase, referral, etc. Unlike abstract art, wherein there is room for open interpretation, communication design enjoins responsibility upon the professional to build a relationship between the artwork and the viewer by strategically engaging the latter through creative storytelling. The role of a communication designer goes beyond creating stunning graphics, leveraging the power of elements of design psychology to convey a clear, crisp message in a compelling way.
In contemporary societies, design is all-pervasive and omnipresent and represents some form of communication or the other. The importance of communication design in contemporary societies can be broadly segmented into three aspects i) aesthetic, ii) teleological and iii) semiotic. Aesthetics involve the sensory appreciation of design elements. For instance, the interior architecture of temples of Khajuraho and historical monuments such as the Taj Mahal speaks volumes of the aesthetic sense of our forefathers. The teleological aspect relates to the purpose for which the design is intended and emphasises usability, communication, and readability as its key functions. For instance, traffic signages and signals should be designed to be easily understood by riders without the need for any text. The semiotic elements of the design relate to the content and meaning of design. Semiotics is a study of symbols and signs. The semiotic function of communication explores how people use these symbols to construct meanings and convey them through gestures. For instance, the historical monuments reflect the architecture and design of the ancient era and convey the rich heritage and cultural tradition of a nation. The ‘red’ colour is used to convey danger.
Encompassing an idea and its meaning
The role of any artwork has widened to encompass not only denotation but essentially include connotation as well. The term ‘connotation’ refers to subjective dimensions of the key messaging to ensure participation from a large number of viewers in the interpretation of its meaning. For instance, a fruit platter denotes a plate full of fruit. However, it can also connote abundance, wealth or wellness, depending upon what its objective is. An effective communication design strategy involves an in-depth understanding of the cognitive and cultural profile of the target audience. It must be tailored to the demographic, behavioural and semiotic profile of the audience.One of the primary functions of this discipline is to inform and educate the reader. For instance, the infographics on the COVID-19 pandemic devised by the WHO have enlightened and educated the global population about the causes of transmission, precautions and protective measures of the disease. This is a powerful example of how this discipline has sensitised the world about the new disease.
Imparting clarity and aesthetics
We live in the era of information technology characterised by an explosion in visual vocabulary and dwindling attention spans of viewers. An effective communication design imparts clarity, effectiveness and aesthetics into the flow of information. In the words of Victor Papanek, “design is a conscious and intuitive effort to impose meaningful order.” Any artwork should embody clarity of form and content in the presentation of individual elements such as letters, diagrams, charts and organisation of communicational sequences.
As society becomes more informed and companies ramp up their digital presence and recall, professionals need to be cautious about the connotations of any artwork. Here the semiotic function assumes paramount importance and ignoring its implication can result in varying interpretations resulting in disastrous consequences.
An essential function of this discipline is to address the layers of diverse and interrelated problems. At the outset, a professional must identify the problem he is trying to solve. This has implications for the objective of his artwork. For instance, a fitness watch brand should highlight how its product accurately tracks calories, heart rate and other parameters to keep the user informed about his health in real-time. Here, the objective of the artworks can be to inspire users to engage with it or purchase the product and so on. A modern-day professional has a variety of resources at his disposal for designing his artwork. He should identify and make intelligent use of them to address a specific problem and inspire viewers to take a particular action.
Simplifying user experience
User experience has proved to be yet another significant dimension of communication design. Apple smartphones, for example, became an instant hit among millennials due to their user-friendly interface and attractive design.
The future of communication design and its impact on business and interaction
The proliferation of emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, etc., enable brands to identify and segment their target audience with precision, foster engagement and redefine user experience, thereby helping brands to retain a competitive edge in the market.
The proliferation of e-commerce has underscored the significance of effective design and visual communication to boost customers’ shopping experience. A Forrester research highlights that merely improving the image quality on an e-commerce website can increase conversion rates by three times. Similarly, design elements such as chatbots, 360-degree product view, user-generated content, instructional videos can improve user experience and push sales. Hence communication design has revolutionised e-commerce by encouraging customer retention and brand loyalty, impacting the business’ bottom line.
The penetration of social media also lends an interesting dimension to this discipline. Today, most millennials use social media to exchange information through texts, images, and videos. The use of these interactive tools allows information to be comprehensible to even a layperson. Moreover, organisations are increasingly leveraging social media to stay connected with customers and address their queries and grievances in real-time. The interplay of interesting creatives and engaging content plays a pivotal role in amplifying communication to customers and aid companies to achieve their business goals.
Hence, communication design has the power to build personalities and brands and reinforce their legacy. To achieve this goal, any artwork should be able to capture viewers’ attention, convey the intended message effectively and retain their interest for a prolonged period of time, thereby generating a strong recall for a particular brand or personality. For instance, AMUL print advertisements portraying its mascot ‘the butter girl’ and topical messaging have built a strong recall in viewers’ minds.
Communication design has evolved from being an offline medium to embrace an omnichannel form. It has become a vast discipline and a sought-after career option. The digitalisation of businesses, increasing digital media consumption, the emergence of various OTT platforms, e-sports and e-books are some yet powerful examples of bright prospects awaiting this discipline. Pursuing it as a career empowers the youth to participate in the nation’s growth story by proposing creative solutions to modern problems such as road safety, traffic congestion, pollution, disposing of plastic waste,sustainability, etc. Professionals in this discipline have successfully meshed the traditional design skills with the new-age technological tools to propose truly unique and innovative solutions to usher a design-backed ecosystem and fulfil the aspirations of New India.
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