INTERACTIVITY – the new must-have in media design!
Nowadays, it is important to exploit every source of media format to effectively communicate with the public. As the number of medias increases, it is crucial to re-focus content structure and design elements during project creation, even merging media and experimenting new forms of interaction between media and individuals. Our senses influence our emotions. Our brain interprets somatic sensations as trusted sources of information till the point that an element of interactivity can change consumer perceptions. Here we are: what is interactivity? Why should you be interested in knowing more?
Information consumption is no more a straight-line experience
This is a multifaceted era for information consumption, that is increasingly requiring new forms of interactions. It is decisive to focus our attention on the way our audience interacts with the content, to create a system rather than a design, a tool rather than a brochure, facilitating a smooth process for information consumption.
In terms of process, there is an increasing trend to highlight – people are no more thinking in a straight line. People are mapping data, using an increasing number of format and media. Print, smartphone, website, TV, social media and so on – we are just moving back and forth between formats and devices to find the information we are looking for, even using more than one format or device simultaneously.
Interactivity – connecting people with communication sources
We very often speak about “look and feel”. Design is the “look”, interactivity is the “feel”. Interactive design goes beyond just the visual appearance of a project. It includes all the possible ways in which the user can interact with something. I’d like to propose a broader definition of interactive design, that is applicable not only to the digital world, but indeed to all communication sources.
Interactivity is the relationship between an individual and a tool. It means to structure a set of elements, both in terms of design and content, to offer the widest use of a source by an individual and to maximise its communication potential. This can be said with regards to brochures, branding guidelines, annual reports, billboard, leaflets, video, website and whatever source of media you can think of. Interactivity is a way of setting a communication piece of work: this added-value should be applied in any type of communication material.
What are the main aspects of interacting?
There are many strategic elements to consider when designing and developing a communication solution or a marketing tool. The secret is to focus on the actual experience of the connection between an individual and the interactive source, being it digital or not.
Content – words should be direct and simple to communicate information in a understandable way.
Graphic design – all graphics or images should be consistent in style and meaning. To be effective and powerful, visuals should be used discreetly.
Media –the physical object that the individual is interacting with must be carefully selected so that the interaction can be enhanced at its maximum level, depending from content and audience (it could be a book, a touchscreen, a package, a mouse and so on).
Time – the interactivity time frame should be as small as possible. In this sense, the interactivity experience should be immediate.
Behaviour – you should consider the emotional level of interacting with a source, meaning forecasting and listing reactions, emotions, possible frustrations and possible solutions.
Cross-channel – the information needs to be re-designed for all the selected channels (e.g. printed brochure and online brochure and offline pdf).
Context – the context should be considered to shape both the design and the amount of content needed. This will optimise the interactive experience.
Consistency – there should be an overall consistency throughout formats and media, not only on a mere branding level. The main challenge is to achieve a content amount and a design that is flexible, working both offline and online, in printing and digital, with a clear adding/subtracting content details, responding to a clear logic, hierarchy and usefulness. In other words, users should be able to change media or format without the need to learn again how to read and use it.
Some invaluable interactive hints…
At the very end, the aim is to create a structure and a design to allow the individual to find easily what he/she is looking for.
However, as much as simple it can seem, any interactive project requires high-level expertise and know-hows. From a small mistake, the overall interactivity can be spoiled and the general experience can be weaker than expected, resulting in a customer dissatisfaction. Lack of hierarchy or alignment, inconsistency or low colour contrast, wrong decisions in content amount or lack of order in the structure – these are small mistakes that can ruin the interactive experience.
I want to share with you a general list of hints for interactive communication and design, that you should think about in creating a communication piece with an interactive element. This give you a quick but clear idea of what there is behind an interaction element selection, design and development.
Attractiveness – The overall design should be attractive, always considering the target and their general attractiveness standards.
Colour scheme – lock down a smart colour scheme and use same colours for logically related elements, functionalities and features. Colours should give a clue about the outcome, to give an implied hint to understand how the interactivity work.
Design – create a visual style for the project, keeping it consistent throughout all media formats, meaning a real adaptable design
Efficiency – understand how quickly a person is able to interact with the tool, finding what he/she is looking for.
Flexibility – the structure should take into account that an individual would like to have the possibility to use the source in different ways. It means that you should consider the number of interaction ways, basically understanding how many a person has to get the needed information.
Grid – develop a clear and flexible grid system, setting rules for all your communication elements and media peculiarities (website and printing have different needs and peculiarities)
Hierarchy – select what are the elements or piece of content that need to be highlighted
Learnability – test how easily a person can learn to use a tool, when approaching it for the first time.
Operability – test how much control people have when interacting with the tool.
Typography – better not to use more than 3 different font styles, sizes and weights. The fewer, the greater sense of consistency you will achieve.
Usability – always think about the best format to achieve to most effective and easiest way to use a tool.
Now, take these wisdom pills and think about interactivity! And do not forget to tell us what you think!
by Chiara Lamacchia