The field of youth media is about, among other things, pulling young people out of the audience and having them run the show. From passive to active, consumers to producers, bystanders to change agents. So, it’s an interesting dilemma to have – asking youth to put themselves back in the audience in order to define it.
Mike Cross, a Multimedia and Art teacher, put it this way: “How do you get a group of young people to define their audience for a media project when they struggle with the concept of audience?” He tackled this challenge head-on when he decided to do a poster project with his group of students.
As a way to introduce the concept of audience, he asked his students to make three posters – all with the same message, but for three different audiences. For this project, Mike defined the audiences for his group: elementary students, teenagers, and parents. Then he prompted his students to brainstorm and discuss all the ways that they could create their posters to target and appeal to the respective audience.
Following these discussions on audience and discerning which graphic design elements appeal to the different groups, students decided that for the elementary students they would use more playful fonts and have a lot of color; for the teens the posters would be more serious and have a cooler font–like a grunge; and for the parents the posters would be presented more formally.
In addition to defining these audiences, Mike had the students examine movie posters as a way to critique the graphic elements, as well as introduce how these different elements convey meaning to different audiences. They also discussed the process for creating a movie poster and used these as an example for their own posters.
“I learned that it is important to keep some guidelines but to balance that by allowing for creativity.”
- Mike Cross
In the end, students gravitated to creating social issues posters around the topics of gang violence, animal abuse, and the environment. The seriousness of these issues corresponds to the seriousness of purpose the students are bringing to their media work. When you’re encouraged to think carefully and to truly examine the interests and perspectives of the people you’re speaking to, it affects what you say and how you say it–and elevates the quality of your message.