Define the Delivery Medium

by Terry Lee Stone

Great design is all about getting the right message to the right people in the right way, and that means choosing the appropriate delivery medium.

Design schools have evolved designer training along with changes in the graphic design profession—changes primarily driven by technological advances. We are now often trained in a way of thinking that is delivery media independent. Some have called it being “media agnostic.” It’s a term that refers to communications planning that favors no particular medium, channel, or discipline over another until a proper research, analysis, or a strategic exercise determines the best approach to engage the target audience.

Designers who have been practicing for years know not to get too attached to any one particular means of communication. They’ve seen print budgets slashed, traditional advertising dissipate, and watched the rise of social media networking impact marketing tremendously. Design, in terms of delivery media, is always in a state of flux. The only constant is change. The best choice for one client in a certain situation may be totally wrong for another client, or even the same client when addressing another problem. For example, a direct-mail campaign to solicit funds for a nonprofit organization may have outstanding results when targeted to mature adults, but fail to connect with young audiences who would rather be reached via an email blast.

The Choice Is Audience Driven
What matters most when it comes to researching and evaluating media is the target audience:

  • What do they use now?
  • What are they most comfortable with?
  • What will make the client more appealing to them?
  • How do the client’s competitors talk to them?

The main choices of delivery media are either physical or screen-based. Some vehicles include:

Physical Delivery Media:

  • PRINT: books, brochures, magazines, newspapers, sales literature, packages, hang tags, direct mail, stationery
  • ENVIRONMENTAL: signage, building graphics, interiors, trade show booths, sets, landscape elements, exhibits, retail, kiosks (might have a screen too)

Screen-Based Media:

  • ON-AIR: television, advertising, movies, motion graphics, animation, instructional video
  • ONLINE: websites, animations, movies, games, interface, interactive, advertising, blogs, WIKIs, virtual worlds, social networking media, instructional videos

Being Open To All Media
The most forward-thinking designers, especially the ones who plan a lifelong career, adopt and embrace the idea of designing for any and all media. They work to understand each media, the pros and cons of designing for each one—all the while being clear on how these tools are interpreted by the target audience. Sometimes the best fit is a mix of several different mediums.

Terry Lee Stone is a writer, manager, producer, and creative strategist in Los Angeles.


Media Matrix
Work to understand each different media option, and the pros and cons of designing for each one. Sometimes, in order to better reach the target audience, the best approach is a mix of several different mediums.


Quick Tips
Common Denominators
The common design elements used in all media must be utilized to their fullest advantage with compensation given for the variances between media. In determining delivery media it’s important to look at:

  • Content (images and words)
  • Flow of information (narrative)
  • Interaction (physical or virtual)
  • User’s behavior (pro and con)

When in doubt, and if the client budget and schedule allow, test several media to validate your decision. Design several types of pieces in a couple of different media and put them in front of the target audience in a research study. Did we accomplish what we set out to do? Did the audience accept or reject the design? What is the best media for the message?


Dig Deeper!
1. Get Terry Lee Stone’s books Managing The Design Process: Concept Development and Managing The Design Process: Implementing Design.

2. 2. An old, but good, article exploration of the concept of media neutrality by Ahmad Islam in AdAge: “Agnosticism Has No Place in Media Decisions”


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