Contexts FOR VISUAL COMMUNICATIONS
The term context in Visual Communication Design refers to the location or place a visual communication is shown or read. Together with designing for a target audience, a purpose, the context helps shape the way a design is made. Examples of contexts for visual communications are; a design studio table, a client board-room, a classroom wall, a supermarket front, a supermarket shelf, on a TV or computer screen, the side of a tram, beside a road, the side of a cardboard package, a magazine.
Students need to take care not to confuse context with presentation format when analysing design. For example a billboard is a presentation format, whereas its context is beside a freeway.
Examples of contexts
The context for the 'Sportsgirl' window display shown at left is the window of a store in a city shopping centre. The visual communication consists of an oversize photographic portrait, some samples of fashion on mannequins and large red type across the width of the window.
To engage an audience walking past the shop the designer has used large, broad components. The big, red type stands out from the background and creates a sense of depth beyond the window. It unites the whole composition with a horizontal band. The large portrait leaps forward from the installation. It is so much larger than life so attracts attention from afar. The mannequins, clothed in actual fashion items bookend the composition, again emphasising the width of display.
An alternative presentation format and context within the store, could be a large format brochure for that season's line. The context for the booklet would be on the sales counter inside. The format for the brochure would be portrait so the content would need to be re-arranged to suit. A full-length portrait photo would be needed to fill the cover. The large red type could be moved up to the top to resemble a fashion magazine. The mannequins wearing examples of fashion would not be required on the cover as those garments would be pictured inside.
There are several additional factors besides the purpose of a visual communication that influences the aesthetics and function of a design. These include;
- The activity of the target audience and the time they have to read a visual communication
- The distance the viewer is from the visual communication
- The immediate visual surroundings of the visual communication
- The physical environment for the visual communication