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Integrative Design: Meeting the Needs of Digital, Broadcast, and Print Media for Clinical Research Communications

June 2022

Artifical Intelligence

What is Integrative Design?

Integrative Design is a multidisciplinary approach to meeting the needs of strategic communications across today’s wide media landscape. The design, implementation, and delivery of a communication effort can vary greatly depending on the goals of your communication effort and the associated target audiences.

For example, a public health outreach program targeting culturally diverse audience segments with different age ranges requires multiple customized messages across different media types and outlets. A participant recruitment campaign targeting seniors who match eligibility criteria comprises a group who predominantly use broadcast television and trust word of mouth. Presenting clinical data to a captured audience, such as colleagues and review boards, allows for more time to deliver specific detailed information. Each of these audiences use media and process information differently, making it important to design and develop materials that can be adapted to reach all target audience segments.

TRI uses this Integrative Design approach, applying various disciplines that can be deployed and work together seamlessly and simultaneously across multiple digital, social, and print media platforms. These disciplines include graphic design, creative illustration, technical and medical illustration, audio and visual design and motion graphics, video production, web design, email design, and instructional design to develop unique and shared assets.

What are the challenges of today’s media?

Media and audiences who use them are inextricably linked. Each evolves and adapts to the other. As designers, writers, and creators, we must do the same to keep up with media consumption that is diverse and always changing.

Digital online media has become dominant and only continues to grow — this includes informational websites as well as social media, mobile applications, streaming video, and interactive platforms that rival broadcast television and radio. This dominance reaches into all audience segments. Print, though less prevalent in the mix, is established, widely trusted, and when well produced and targeted, directly delivers a message into the hands of the intended audience.

One of the biggest challenges with all media is delivering a message that is perceived correctly as trustworthy and authoritative given all the junk, spam, and information overload. By building strategic intent to the design process and implementation across the media mix, Integrative Design helps focus all aspects of the communication effort to cut through the clutter.

Another challenge is reaching diverse audiences. Diverse not only in their demographics, but in their choice of where to get information. People can be specific and selective in which websites, video channels, personalities, and publications, etc. they choose to follow, use, and trust. Subtle adjustments to design and messaging must address these idiosyncrasies to successfully achieve the goals of a communication effort.

For audiences involved with evaluation and review of clinical research, data visualizations can be a challenge. Data visualizations need to show an accurate, detailed presentation of data, without bias, and use visual structures that highlight relationships, trends, and points of interest to enable easy interpretation and understanding. To achieve this, data scientists and analytics experts work with graphic designers using a suite of data visualization and design software to deliver clear visuals that help facilitate timely review of clinical data.

What are benefits of an Integrative Design approach?

Maximizing the benefits of Integrative Design starts with design staff working closely with project managers, clients, subject matter experts, content authors, and other stakeholders early in the development process to clearly define goals, audiences, messaging, and the media plan, requirements, and specifications. With these details defined, designers from different design disciplines can provide insight, feedback, and ideas for improvements or previously unseen synergies to the campaign. Choices can be made about which assets are unique or which to share across different media. This helps ensure consistent messaging, branding, style, and tone, while allowing flexibility to customize elements and achieve greater reach to multiple audience segments with unique media consumption habits. This also reduces time and cost associated with customization, modification, review, and approval of assets for the current campaign and for associated ongoing or expanded communication efforts.

To illustrate using a simplified scenario, a participant recruitment campaign is attempting to reach an audience with a wide age range. As part of the campaign, a figure is to be developed to illustrate the steps of the procedure involved. Older audience segments respond better to information presented in print. Younger audience segments respond better to dynamic information presented on a website. The figure should be designed for static presentation in high resolution in a print brochure, as well as an animated figure, scaled and displayed in a web browser for desktop computers and mobile devices. Design and set-up of the figure could also anticipate use in future materials or training videos for enrolled participants.

Integrative Design as a best practice

The media landscape will continue to change and evolve as new technology, techniques, and media platforms are introduced and become popular. Applying Integrative Design principles allows flexibility for messaging and assets of a communication effort, adapting to changes quickly, and cost-effectively reaching diverse audiences.

About the Author

Christopher Risch TRI’s Art Director and Senior Designer, has a B.A. in Integrative Arts with a focus on Computer Arts and Design from Pennsylvania State University, and more than 28 years of commercial graphic and multimedia design experience. He has designed, managed, and contributed to a wide variety of print work for advertising, outreach, and direct mail; over 140 web sites, web applications, and interactive presentations; and eLearning courses for various private and public sector clients.

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