Graphic Designers' Sense and Knowledge of the User: Is thinking differently the groundwork for acting differently?
AbstractGraphic designers' lack of concrete knowledge of their audience has drawn strong criticism from within the field, without seemingly prompting broad uptake of user research in design practice. This article reports on an unanticipated and ambiguous finding from an interview-based study with nine graphic designers, which sought their views on how graphic design practice had changed through the addition of web design to the former concentration on design for print; one catalyst for the adoption of the new title of communication design. The interviews elicited many unprompted comments claiming strong knowledge of the user, but also other statements showing the designers worked with little or no actual information about their audience. Two inferences are drawn here. In discussing how the participants resolved this situation, the article proposes that despite an interest in the agenda for user-centered design, most graphic designers currently lack the enabling skills and opportunity to carry through on this. Yet seeing a simple binary division between intent and its lack of fulfilment may not be the most useful way to consider the issue of graphic designers' knowledge of the user, a changed discursive position being an important conceptual rehearsal for new approaches to graphic design practice.