Every time we start a new project there is one common question: who is the target audience? You may call them clients, customers, or users. But regardless of what we call them, we need to know something about who they are and what they want. This information decides both what is presented to them and how it is presented.


Roles: Clients, Customers & Users

I define the roles as clients have customers and/or users. A customer receives a product or service and expects some follow-up customer support. A user receives some product and/or service but does not expect customer support.

An example of the difference between users and customers would be WordPress themes. If you buy a theme from Elegant Themes, you would expect support if you run into an issue. Whereas if you download Responsive from themeiD, you would not expect any support. At Elegant Themes you are a customer, whereas at themeiD you are a user.

As a designer I have developed profiles for my clients, they are individuals, small businesses and non-profit groups needing design services. For each of my clients I then work with them to develop profiles for their customers and/or users.

Basic Profiles

The basic profile will define what information is important, guide the selection of fonts and colors, and set the tone for the whole project.

  • Gender: Men and women respond to different styles & colors.
  • Age: Young people are drawn to bright colors, while older folks prefer a more muted palette.
  • Lifestyle: Are your customers active outdoors folks or marathon gamers?
  • Background: Is our target audience downtown hipsters or rural farmers?
  • Purpose: Do you need donations for your non-profit or are you selling shoes?
  • Role: Is this person a client, customer or user?

If you have a knitting group composed of older women, you will only have one profile. However, if you have a martial arts studio then you will need profiles for kids, parents, women and men of multiple ages. You could easily end up with six or more different profiles.

Profiles Influencing Design

Once you have your customer and/or user profile(s), these will dictate the design. Here are some common affects that a profile will have on design (these are for north american audiences, other countries will vary):


  • Men like strong designs including bold and dark colors. Men also respond well to spartan designs, geometric patterns and bold fonts. If your audience has a lot of caucasian men, you also need to keep color blindness in mind.
  • Women respond well to florals, pastels, harmonious color palettes and italic fonts.


  • Kids love bright primary and secondary colors.
  • Young adults like bright colors, but more sophisticated than the primary colors. They enjoy shades and variations.
  • Middle aged frequently enjoy jewel tones indicating status and prosperity.
  • Older people prefer more muted color palettes and earth tones. These bring a sense of calm.


  • Outdoors loving folks enjoy earth tones, textures, and blue skies.
  • Business people frequently like blues and blacks, clean lines, and an overall sense of value.
  • Military members are frequently comforted by camo-green, black, and navy blue.


  • If your target audience for a website isn’t very internet savvy then having all of the options onscreen would be a better choice than many submenus.
  • If you target ecologically aware coffee drinkers than an organic paper would be a wise choice for a business card.
  • If you have a newsletter for dog lovers, then including a lot of dog related photos and icons would connect with your readers.


  • Donors for non-profits want to see what your organization is about, why they should support it, where their money would go, and how to actually make a donation.
  • Shoppers want to see your inventory of merchandise, compare various items, search for something specific, and they need to know how to purchase.
  • Patients for a dentist office need to know what the hours are, where the office is located, information about insurance plans accepted, which specific dental procedures are offered, and of course it is always reassuring to see credentials.
  • Patrons interested in a music festival need to know when it is, where parking is, how much the festival costs, which artists will be there, and of course that there will be food.


  • Clients need to see how your product or service will add value to their customers and/or users.
  • Customers want to see how you will support them after they purchase your product or service.
  • Users want to quickly get to the product or service and want to see what features it provides.

Combining Profiles into Designs

When there are just one or two profiles this is quite easy, but when there are many profiles to consider the job becomes markedly more complex. In the first example above of a knitting group I would use textures inspired by yarn, earth tones, and try to convey the feeling of a warm cup of tea by a fireplace. In the case of the martial arts studio I would use brighter colors in some neutral blue tones and present an over clean and confident feel.

If you’d like to talk more about profiles, leave a comment or contact us!

Some Final Resources

  • Disclaimer: some links in this blog contain links to affiliate sites.

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