The Value of Context

The Value of Context

I sent three friends (one of them my sister) a Snapchat of my new kitchen faucet and the responses were eye-opening!

 

I captioned my snap with “by myself”.  My sister responded with congratulations with replacing the faucet by myself.  One of my friends responded with “you had to do the dishes by yourself?!?” and my other friend responded by asking if both my husband and dog were gone and I was “by myself”.

 

I found the responses interesting. While I had, in fact, changed my faucet by myself, it brought my attention to the recent conversations and the events that had occurred with each individual before my snap.

 

Where we are, affects what we see.

 

When talking to my sister, she had recently been doing updates to her home and was doing a lot of DIY projects, so she understood I was proud of the handiwork I did “by myself”.  My dish focused friend had recently been telling me about her need for a dishwasher, so I could also understand her response.  Lastly, my friend that thought I was home alone, we often let each other know when our significant others are either working odd shifts or on trips. So, it made sense that “by myself” was the context she took away.

 

This made me think back to what one of my favorite professors was constantly saying:

Think about the audience.

Infant being cast – Ponseti Method

 

The audience is one of the first things I think about when starting a project. However, this event was a reminder of its importance.  I like to think that every project is unique, even if it is for an audience I previously created for, there are always differences.

 

What are the age range, gender, diversity, background, and the content of the information?

 

These things matter and must be understood before pencil ever touches paper.

 

These bits of information create the premise of our project so we can identify the context and build for the audience:

Children: Attention and literacy.

We need something to keep their attention so we often use bright colors and simple color palettes. We also need to think about literacy and education.  Does the content need to be an animation or will an illustration be better?

 

Diversity: Self-identification and inclusivity.

The Value of Context
Image of oral vaccination such as the polio vaccine.

One of the biggest mistakes often made is simply placing a cis-male model to be the example to the audience.  Whether working on something within the United States or abroad, it is important to understand what groups are being addressed.  As a minority woman, I  did not grow up seeing a lot of black or brown people as models in content for me.  I, like many, felt othered.  This is something that has to be addressed and really thought about moving forward.

 

Age: Generational awareness and lexicon.

As a millennial, I have become hyper-aware of my word usage and communication compared to those from baby boomers, gen-x, and gen-z.  It’s not just about what words our generations tend to use like “groovy” or “lit”, but also the experiences of each generation such as access to internet or aptitude for technology.  Thinking about age helps us determine the value of a digital based illustration used primarily for web or app use, or printed information that may be on a poster or a handout.  Ultimately, the information has to be readily available for how that specific audience would prefer to access it.

 

Upon all this information we can build and create to have illustrations and animations that have the highest impact on the intended audience.

 

It’s not just about what you say, it’s how you say it.

 

In the case of my snap, I could have mentioned the word faucet, zoomed in on the faucet, or put some of the tools I used in the shot.  Those things would have added more context to the accomplishment I was sharing. On projects, this is a reminder of the importance to think critically, research thoroughly, and try to see things from a different perspective.  At the end of the day, the work isn’t for me, nor for the researcher or company, but for the people we are trying to help.

 

If you are having a hard time communicating with your audience in your own project, feel free to contact me at assata@legacybiostudios.com and receive a free consult to illustrate your legacy.

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