CLIENT: Harmony magazine for DHA Memorial Trust, Mumbai, India
INTENDED AUDIENCE: Urban, educated, middle-class; age group of above 55 years
CREDITS: Ashwini Deshpande and Sudhir Sharma, both founder-directors and principal designers of Elephant Strategy + Design
When designing India's first magazine for senior citizens, Elephant Strategy + Design faced several developmental and aesthetic issues. First and foremost, very little data that applied readily to magazine design existed for their target demographic. Further research of the target group showed that senior citizens most often read newspapers. This helped define some editorial content decisions.
Because the client recognized a marketing opportunity, focusing on the unique needs of Indian senior citizens, the design team chose to focus primarily on those needs in their research efforts—and ultimately in their designs. Elephant began by analyzing various magazines dedicated to senior citizen lifestyles from around the world. This literature review helped determine basic structural rules, such as picture ratio and font size.
Surveys Provide a Breakthrough
Because they were creating a new publication, Elephant wanted to target the intended audience with surveys. Not much data was available on the preferences or choices of Indian seniors, so Elephant sought them out at senior citizens' clubs, walking parks, common recreational areas within housing complexes, temples, and restaurants. The surveys sought an understanding of the physical limitations and necessities that would influence the viewer's reading experience. They asked questions about reading style and habits, as well as the requirements and preferences seniors placed on their publications. Questions about preferred topics, authors, and journalists were included. Subjects were even asked about stylistic preferences.
The next phase involved beta testing the complete project through focus groups. When most design decisions were applied and Elephant needed to reconfirm certain assumptions and analyses before going live, they invited journalists, celebrities, and graphic designers—all above 55 years of age—for feedback on design and style of the magazine.
A Successful Launch
Elephant says that certain aesthetic and structural decisions regarding fonts, grids, and color choices would have bypassed the target group completely if attention had not been paid to user-centered research. This information was especially critical because Elephant had no opinions or assumptions about the project, having never before created a project specifically for an older audience.
"Every magazine designer dreams of making a very sleek, stylish and edgy product," says Ashwini Deshpande of Elephant. "We refrained ourselves from doing anything for the sake of aesthetics. Our simple brief to ourselves was to create an 'easy, comfortable, and interesting' magazine for the audience." None of these values was to be traded for stylish aesthetics.
"Just like children's books have a different sense of aesthetics, primarily due to heavy picture content and large fonts, we defined a fine-tuned aesthetics for the older people. The challenge was to get it right without having to explicitly pronounce it. At no point did we want to create something that would remind the readers of their age."
The result of the efforts was a set of design and content rules that helped provide a user-friendly magazine, delivering information to this unique target audience in an appealing and invigorating fashion.