Design Make or Breaks: What visually engages the Latino audience?

Cultural insights for designers looking to engage the Latino community.

Like art, the design of a brand’s visual identity is subjective. Although other factors speak for the brand itself, what do visuals say on their own? Do they communicate the right message to the right audience? These are common questions that designers must consider when developing a new brand concept. For designers looking to engage a Latino audience, overlooking cultural influences of design may make or break a brand’s identity.

As mentioned in my blog, Latino Branding Power, it is often difficult to identify specific visual preferences that appeal to varied audience like the Hispanic community. Latinos are diverse in culture, nationality, and acculturation. Therefore, relying heavily on traditional images like sombreros, maracas, or tacos, may promote stereotypes that have a negative effect on marketing and promotions. Visual communication needs to deliver value based on subjective and empathetic insights about an audience’s beliefs and attitudes.

Here are a few ways designers can deliver more value to their Latino audience.

In a culture where linguistic barriers often exist, graphics may be a main point of reference. The blog, ¿Ask Marivi? explored this idea further from the perspectives of designers that specialize in marketing to Latinos. The issue of literacy is a popular topic as many Latino consumers communicate at different levels. Those who arrive to the U.S. typically have lower levels of literacy and may be less likely to find or ask for products by name. They may even be more apt to recognize a brand by particular logo or graphic.

Hispanic Festival 2015 poster design

When Vias collaborated with The Hispanic Center of West Michigan to design a fresh look for the branding of the annual Hispanic Festival, we considered the impact of a culturally relevant images. By incorporating elements that evoke familiarity among Latinos, and recognition among non-Latinos, the new branding delivered value to many patrons.

Subjective insights offer the most depth for connecting to Latinos, but are there particular design elements that provide guidance for marketers and designers?

When it comes to design and visuals, there is a fine line between adapting art and images that are culturally intelligent versus appropriating those that are stereotypical and patronizing. At Vias, we strive to produce the former.

Color by culture

Color is a design element that holds value for cultures and nationalities throughout the world. The London based design firm Information is Beautiful, created comprehensive infographic to show how various colors indicate different feelings, emotions, and ideas.

As illustrated by the infographic, colors have broad associations in Western American culture. In South America, the use of color is much more specific and defined. For example, while green is often used to symbolize success and good luck, it is the color of death in Latin and South American cultures.

When used strategically, colors can be a powerful tool to convey an idea or message. Being able to see through the eyes of the target audience is crucial as it will help to avoid any negative association.

Know the written and unspoken rules

By looking for inspiration in concrete data to narrow down the Latino audience, designers are able to gain control over who they are targeting. For designer Luis Fitch, this strategy has proven to work in his favor. Fitch is the owner of the Minneapolis based Latino branding firm, UNO, where he utilizes the ethnographic process called “filtros”. A video presentation from Fitch at the 2008 AIGA Business and Design Conference introduced me to this concept. Through this process, design strategy is determined through “filters” based on a consumer’s country of origin, level of acculturation, and level of economic acculturatiion. Fitch focuses on measurable data from sources like the U.S. Census that are free to use and easily accessible.

Another memorable example came from Sebastian Padilla, Co-Founder and Creative Director of Anagrama from the 2016 AIGA Conference. The inspiration for his unique take on the traditional Mexican taqueria came from “the worst possible places on earth.” However, there was a method to his madness. By staying true to the unspoken rule that “the most delicious taquerias are the ones with the worst branding” and combining that concept with a popular “hipster” flair, Padilla created the “ugliest logo ever” that turned out to be a huge branding success.  Putting a twist on a stereotype has the potential to increase the brand’s value by making it more memorable and engaging than its competitors.

AIGA, the Professional Association for Design, is a great tool for designers to discover new or trending concepts from fellow designers.

Behind every great design is a designer with an empathetic understanding of their audience. They are mindful of which visual elements best speak for the brand’s visual identity, and deliver a greater value than what stereotypical trends can offer. As the topic of Latino appeal becomes more popular in the design world, Vias encourages all designers to look for inspiration within the Latino culture.

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