These Communication Models Will Help You Create Designs that Sell Like Hot Cakes


Have you ever felt that when you design, something just stays missing? You know the tools, you have the skills, but when you design things, it just lacks something… and you can’t figure out what. If that is the case, then this article will change your life.

The difference between a good design and a great design is that good designs look good, they feel good but great designs work! This is the parameter Steve Jobs defined. A good design is that solves the problem. The artistry, the looks, the feels, everything comes second. If it doesn’t solve the problem, it’s rubbish.

So what is the difference between a designer and a Photoshop operator? And what will make our designs work? And how do communication models come into all this design talk?? Let’s find out.

Today’s article contains:

The Fault in Our Designs

The flaw that mostly restricts designers from earning a decent income via designing is they often forget about the message in the design. This happens especially with freelancers. What happens is that some designers have trouble defining the problem, hence when they try to communicate via their designs, it doesn’t work.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say you are a designer and you have found a client who needs a logo. Now, how will you define this problem?

Wrong Definition: The Client Needs a Logo

Even though it seems like a perfect definition, it is actually wrong. Let’s take a look at the right one.

Right Definition: The Client’s Business Needs a Face

What makes this definition the right one is that when we go into details, this definition will tell us what we need to communicate. For instance:

  • What kind of face would the company like? A youthful energetic one or do they need an elegant, dependable, seasoned look?
  • What kind of colors, shapes and typography will psychologically communicate their brand identity.

A designer is not an artist, a designer is problem solver who uses the medium of art. Define the problem properly, and half of your troubles go away right there.

How to define the problem, properly?

  • Never assume you are supposed to design an artwork, you are always supposed to communicate a message.
  • Break down your message, go into details. If the details remain relevant, you are on the right track. If the details go out of context, redefine the broad problem.
  • Take care of the psychology of designing, that can really make troubles sometimes.
  • Clients won’t always be able to define you their message, that’s your job.

Solving a Problem Through Communication

Let’s assume that you have defined your problem in the right way. Now what?
This is where communication models come in.

Let’s take a look at the earliest of the modern communication models: Shannon-Weaver Model

Shannon Weaver Model

For us designers, this is probably the most relevant model because it shows linear transmission. In our case, communication is mostly one-sided. Let’s say you have designed a website, or a logo, or billboard… they will receive your message but you will not receive their reactions. So it is one-way communication, else known as linear communication.

This is where communication is at its most difficult. This is because when you are talking to someone, their feedback, whether verbal or non-verbal, enables you to customize your message. Designers don’t have this luxury. They have to just design their message and let it go.

Communication Model for Designers

So, how do we fit on this communication model?

  1. There is a sender. That’s our client who wants a particular message delivered.
  2. We designers are the encoders. We give form to the client’s message.
  3. Then there is a channel, through which the message reaches the other end.
  4. At the destination, there is a decoder device such as a computer or mobile phone
  5. And receiver is our target user.

Did you notice I skipped noise? That’s because channel and noise are intermingled. Let’s clear them quickly because we still have a lot to cover.

Understanding Noise in Respect to Designing

Before defining noise, let’s take an example.

Imaging a tree. Did a picture of a tree emerged in your mind? I’m also imagining a tree. Tell me, would my tree and your tree be identical? Of course not.

Now if I tell you a lot of details about that tree… would you be able to imagine exactly the kind of tree I’m imagining. No, not exactly.

Now imagine, if I show you a photo of that tree. Now you can see it, would your emotional reaction be exactly the same as mine? Perhaps I had seen that tree on a lovely spring day and you a similar tree on day that was terrible to you.

Now even though we are seeing the same tree, we are both getting different emotional reaction, we’re both getting different message. That’s noise!

Noise is anything and everything that changes your message. It is speed of internet on your user’s device. It is the screen size, it is the eye-sight of your user, it is the current mood of your user… there’s a rule about noise in the field of communication:

Noise is inevitable.

You cannot skip noise. All us designers can do is reduce it. The simpler the design, the less is the noise.

The Other Model

There are many communication models that have been theorized, such as Osgood-Shramm model (which is one of my favorite models), but since we are discussing from design perspective only, let’s take a look at SMCR model.

Berlo's SMCR Model

Please take a deep look on this model before carrying on.

This model is completely different from the earlier model we have checked.

The difference mainly is that it focuses on the subjectivity of the sender and receiver. The Shannon-Weaver model focused on the technical part of the communication, but this model focuses on the human part.

If you notice, it focuses on who says makes a lot of difference of what the receiver will interpret. Who’s saying, under what conditions, to whom, and what are the conditions of that receiver… these aspects have loads and loads of to do with how the message will be interpreted. And that’s is 100% true.

I believe that it is a combination of these two models that enable us to understand communication properly.

For further understanding, please have a look at this video.

If you have seen the video, you must be thinking where does the feedback part fit in?

User Testing is Feedback

Feedback, as we have discussed earlier, is the stuff that enables us to customize our messages, our designs according to the user’s needs. Now how do we get feedback even before launching the design? User Testing!

Shannon Weaver Model with Feedback

Feedback allows you to re-customize your message according to the users’ needs. In interpersonal communication, that feedback is the facial reactions, gestures and also the verbal messages.

In design, since we have to gather the feedback beforehand, we need to conduct user testing.

User testing is when you select a group of people from the target audience and share your designs with them. Let them experience it and give you feedback. This way, you accurately predict the results of your designs in the real market.

The Ultimate Communication Checklist for Designers

  • Whenever a client needs a design, they actually have a message to communicate.
  • Sometimes, clients can’t define that message. It’s your job to understand what they want to communicate.
  • You perform the role of encoder. Client is the sender.
  • You need to keep not only the receiver, but decoder and channel in mind.
  • Decoder is the device on which the user will receive the message.
  • Channel is the medium through which your message reaches the user, such as web or newspapers or TV etc.
  • What is being said is not as important as who’s saying it.
  • Through what channel, and to whom?
  • Noise is inevitable. You can only reduce it.
  • Once you create a design, put it through user testing you can acquire feedback. That is absolutely necessary.

If you can think of any other point, please do share with us in the comments section below.

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