_bad manners

So, on the subject of good communication, let's talk manners. How is your communication coming across in design, and do you think people walk away from a 'visual dialogue' with you feeling good, engaged, with a desire to keep talking? I think good manners here means caring about these things.

We make visual statements all the time, putting thoughts and opinions out there. If we adopt the right visual 'tone of voice'*, then the conversations that follow will be even more relevant and informed because people know what they're getting from the start. This is what I mean by a 'visual dialogue'. When you present statements and opinions, you can express yourself by choosing colours, shapes, fonts, patterns, photographs, narratives, web navigation – all sorts of things which have great combined potential to do two things:

one, present ourselves (or our businesses) honestly, thoroughly, with clarity and expression...
...and two, signal the behaviours and responses we hope for from our audience.

Think about face to face encounters for a moment. When you meet people face to face for the first time, do you consider the power of first impressions? Do you dress for the occasion? What is in your diary for today, and did you choose an outfit based on that? (I did this morning, but had to hang most of it on the radiator to dry out when I got to work thanks to our lovely British weather!) Hm, visual appearance....

A first date. Did you get sweaty palms trying to work out what to wear and how to act so you didn't come across as a complete jerk?

Coffee with a new work contact. How do you prove you're really listening if your eyes dart everywhere but on them? Remember, they're looking at you for visual clues that you understand them.

Road rage. That's a really good bit of visual communication. Think about it - that time when you could lip-read quite clearly and had no trouble interpreting the hand gestures....

Applying these principles of expression to design, both the typographic illustrations I've drawn here express something heartfelt, conveying personality by using fonts, shapes and colours.

Rude, or respectful? Honest and genuine, or insincere fluff? Dignified with professional distance or full frontal like a teenage labrador? If these illustrations were a first encounter, which do you think has more sincerity?

Of these two pictured examples, one of them typographically bats heavily mascara-ed eyelids, the other seems to be straightening its tie. Scratch below the surface and what sort of person do you think is behind these expressions? Do these messages echo characters you want to work with?
And here's the trick: both are true and authentic, in their own context.


The power of visual communication to convey expression and character should be at the forefront of your planning when putting marketing material out there. Whether or not you come across as a majorly offensive dork who shouts too much is totally up to you.

I, for one, think being real is really important, that expressing true character makes for brilliant encounters, and that good manners also make the world go round. On that note...

*
Further reading on communicating character with tone of voice, I like this article from Valuable Content which looks at how you do this with your writing:

How Do I Find the Right Tone of Voice for my Communications?