The art of audience appreciation

The art of audience appreciation

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I spend a good chunk of my time (outside Peppermint, of course) reading children’s books to my two-year-old daughter – again, and again, and again! She intently (yes; slightly surprising for one who flits from one curiosity to the next in a millisecond) listens to every word and, on the 50th time of reading, re-tells the tale in a way only a toddler knows how.

While the words stick firmly in my memory, I’ve never really sat back and appreciated the illustrations that so perfectly frame each story. Not until now. On Friday, publisher Walker Books announced the winner of its annual illustration awards, which is run in partnership with Anglia Ruskin’s Cambridge School of Art and its MA course in children’s book illustration.

As an official storyteller (in our household, at least), I was intrigued to see who the runners and riders were – those vying for what was a particularly paltry financial prize, but the priceless chance to collaborate with the well-known publisher of children’s books. The winner was Viola Wang, who was awarded the top prize for her ‘fresh and original’ work that had an ‘intuition for the child’s perspective’ and sought to ‘explore and express the rich variety of our world’.

Viola Wang

Viola Wang

As an art A-level alumnus (Class of 1998), I obviously have a sympathetic eye to critique such work…the intensity of colours, the composition, the multicolour lino cut print…! While I have a modicum of knowledge to appreciate her style and technique, it’s actually her motivations that intrigue me more.

Judges praised her work for embracing the ‘multicultural environment’ of London; she expressed her desire for the children who read her books to ‘experience a wide range of information and views, so that they will grow up with their own opinions about – and solutions for – the world around them’. Her intentions are certainly seen in the ‘Ugly Club’ front cover and perhaps more subtly so in ‘The Goat Who Didn’t Wash’. But what interests me more is the admiration she has for her audience; her ability to portray something through printmaking that is understood and admired by the many little people who stare longingly at her illustrations while their parents tell the tale that surrounds them.

We talk day in, day out about audiences – like Viola, we explore what makes our clients’ targets tick, so we can illustrate to them the benefits of buying a product or service. The ‘art’ and skill of getting to know them, of truly understanding what motivates them and what stirs their emotions, transcends many disciplines – whether it’s illustration, fine art, marketing, digital, or packaging.

Perhaps what I love most about Viola Wang and her highly commended compatriots (see below) is not the colour, composition, or use of lino print, but the care and attention they pay to the end user – children.

As communicators, we must respect our audience. Whatever their age, whatever resonates with them, our job is to tap into their psyche and talk to them on their level.

I’m sure in years to come Viola Wang’s work will adorn our book shelves. But, for now, I will sit back and admire her work and let it serve as a reminder of the importance of audience appreciation.

If you would like to know how we can help you communicate more effectively with your target market, email [email protected], or call 0161 941 4252.


Heera Cha

Marina Ruiz


Flavia Zorilla Drago