I’m often inspired by the behaviour and growth of my 17 month old girl. The other day I noticed something new that illustrated to me the power of convention and how even a child as young as 17 months understands it.
While my daughter was watching what was going on on the TV, I was flicking channels looking for something to watch. After a few minutes of finding nothing, I thought I’d leave it on a kids channel. Within seconds of me putting the kids channel on, my daughter had a big smile on her face. Her reaction to the other channels was a blank stare.
What has this got to do with convention? According to the dictionary, a convention is a way that something is normally done. What are the conventions of kids tv? Bright, colourful imagery, puppets or cartoons, and different ways of addressing the audience that often mimic interaction.
When I changed the channel to the kids channel, my daughter recognised that this was the channel for her, with the sorts of shows she likes. She just knew because the show followed convention, so she was able to focus on what was being done and said on screen rather than on thinking “is this the show for me?”. Context is incredibly important, and conventions help us to frame the context for our audiences.
When we think about any graphic design work, whether it is branding, website design or catalogue design, the same principle applies. Conventions can allow the audience to find their place easily and allow them to more quickly understand what is being said, compared to something which breaks conventions and leads to a subconscious confusion.
Does that mean we shouldn’t try to break out of the box? Not at all, but
we need to be aware of the power of convention to help us achieve the
end goals of our design work.
In the real world of sports branding: we all have subconscious ideas about what makes something a good or bad sports logo, and by looking at the quality of other team logos we can educate ourselves about the conventions of logos which make them effective or ineffective.
In the real world of grassroots clubs: when we see a club with poor design work from their logo to their website, we are trained through convention to see them as being worse performers on field. In turn this effects our ability to partner up with businesses that do their best to make themselves look like the best performers on the field.