Choosing a target audience, resources appreciated

Hi all,

I am a final year graphic design student and study my degree online. Our course doesn’t go into a HUGE amount of detail about target audience [finding a target audience and how to research in-depth - just the basics.] I have done a lot of independent study but am now at a point where I am finding it hard to decide on a target audience.

I have chosen a typographic brief where I need to choose my target audience and suddenly realise that my target audience skillset goes as far as researching for a specific target audience + the basics (demographics/behaviour/etc.) I do know about target audience, and I have learnt about researching for a specific target audience. But I am stuck on the correct target audience for a historical film book I am designing. I have been through multiple books and just can’t decide on a good way to go about choosing my target audience. Is there a good method for deciding on a target audience? Or any resources that detail choosing the right target audience and just a recap of target audiences in general would be appreciated too. :slight_smile: Just to clarify, I am confident in researching a target audience but feeling a bit uncertain about choosing a target audience. It’s my Final Major Project. And I have sat staring at a page with a list of “film and art enthusiasts, film/art students, designers, museums, type enthusiasts” but then that is such a broad audience. I would like to create the book as a book for those who are interested in historical art movements, film, cinematography, typography and art - and would like to focus on young adults and millennial age group (ages 18-35). But just super stuck on this. I need to keep my age range specific. Any thoughts, good in-depth resources about CHOOSING a target audience, and any helpful tips greatly appreciated.


Your post uses the words “target audience” 16 separate times (17 counting the headline), which makes me suspect some sort of spammy ulterior motive. Just for the sake of answering, though, I’ll assume you’re asking a legitimate question.

Just to summarize what I think I got out of your post, you’re wondering who would be interested in or possibly purchase a book on historical films — is that right? If that’s the case, it seems the audience has already been defined. How big that group might be, I have no idea. That’s the kind of data survey companies are hired to help determine.

Not spammy, just overthinking about this brief and tend to repeat myself when I do. I may need to edit it in that case.

Thank you for your advice. I just basically need to pick an audience to design for. It is quite an open brief, and I feel like the options are broad so have been quite stuck. But I’ll keep going with research

Unless I’m really misunderstanding what you’re up against, you definitely are overthinking things and making it much more complicated than it really is. I’ve been doing this for 40 years and, honestly, determining target audiences isn’t that hard — it’s just something that, oddly, lots of people don’t think enough about, let alone overthink it.

Like I mentioned, the target audience for a history book on film is people who have an interest in film, like history and who buy books.


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So I guess your question really is - how do I identify the specific demographics of my target audience?

In real life this is much easier, because you can litterally just ask your client who their customers are, what they’re like and what their ideal customer would be like and they will have these insights.

For the sake of your made-up assignment, I think you could totally choose this demographic to focus on and it would be a super fun assignment.

If you wanted to identify a target audience based on real world data, there’s no silver bullet solution. I would look online probably try to find forums and groups on Meetup and FB on said topic and pull data from that.

Is the purpose to sell books? or to target young adult millennials 18-35?
With a history book on film, why such a limited audience? Are you gonna write it in Hipsterese or limit your movie history to post-1980 or something?

Sell the book. Not the demographic. Like B said, your target group really is people who like film, history, and buy books

Yeah, stop that.

I respectfully disagree. Targeting only serves a purpose if it provides direction. Therefore, better go niche than go generic.

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All depends on how many books you want to sell, ie how much money you want to make. You can go as niche as you want and sell 10 books, or you can diversify even a tiny bit and sell more. Think like a publisher, not an artist.

Where this book is “a historical film book” you have a pretty wide open audience. The theme though is problematic in itself as it doesn’t define “Historical Film” as either “Films that Depict True History,” or the “history of film” in and of itself. That is the first thing to identify. Then identify WHY an 18-35 year old would care unless they were film history buffs and then why not widen the spectrum to anyone interested in film history?

Expanding on it further, from a marketing perspective it can be important to remember that the “target audience” of the product and that of a particular promotional effort need not necessarily be the same. In this case, while the book’s prospective total market may include film enthusiasts in general, perhaps an initial wave of promotion, or even the book design itself, focuses primarily on piquing the interest of those in the more history-oriented segment. The work of prioritizing market segments and contextualizing the strengths/weaknesses of the product in the process is what separates “marketing” from “advertising”.

That’s a very important distinction. Most designers I’ve worked with tend not to concern themselves with either, even though the bigger picture of what we’re a part of typically involves one or the other, if not both.

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I understand where you coming from and what you write has merit, but…

Targeting needs to provide direction. Targeting also does not mean to neglect or even alienate other non-targets. It just means you identified a certain pool of potential customers that you want to aim for and prioritize. A whole market is not a target, as @HotButton also pointed out. That’s why I say go niche. Do your market research to find out the various customer personas, identify your cash cows, stars, poor dogs and question marks, and then choose the best audience to focus on. Niches are wonderful to thrive in - especially with the long tail that the internet provides. And when you need to spend your marketing bucks, you will be glad if you can micro-target as granular as possible.

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Perhaps I’ve misunderstood exactly what you mean. If so, never mind the following. :wink:

In a graphic design situation, more often than not, that target audience has been selected — intentionally or not — before the project lands on our desks.

With a book cover design, for example, we don’t so much choose the target audience as much as we help identify just who that target audience is and how best to engage them.

We can’t generally go back to the author and make suggestions about changing what they’ve written to better hit a promising market segment. The book publisher will do this, but by the time we get it, that audience has already been largely decided, if not precisely identified.

The same is mostly true across the board with graphic design in general — by the time a graphic designer is called in, it’s more a matter of identifying the exact target audience than it is determining whether or not the product should be developed in a way that targets this or that market segment.

Bump up the designer to the level of creative director, and that person might have a seat at the table of what target audience to go after, but down the ladder from that level, it’s mostly a matter of designing with the target audience in mind rather than determining who it should be.

You’re right @Just-B, choosing the target audience is normally not in the scope of the designer. It was just a task the OP had to do for his assignment. But yeah, in reality that is for the marketing department to determine and should then be part of the brief the designer gets.

Anyway, just to reiterate my point again: A target audience needs to provide clear direction, otherwise it’s superfluous to even state one. “Please design this film history book cover for people who like film history books” does not give any clear direction. If someone did some thorough market research and found that “young adults and millennial age group (ages 18-35)” would be the best target audience for a given book, than this gives a much better direction already. The more you can narrow the audience down, the clearer the direction gets. That does not mean that the design should only speak to the target audience - just that it’s designed with them in mind.


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