There has been much talk about millennials – but who exactly are they? And why does graphic design need to reinvent itself to match their demands?

Also referred to as Generation Y, this is a sizeable demographic. Certainly not one that digital design can afford to overlook. In both the UK and the US, millennials represent one in four of the population. According to the Guardian newspaper, that’s a hefty 16.2m people in Britain.

It’s also potentially the most discussed generation in history. Largely due to the arrival of big data, which has provided us with an ever-growing capacity to collect, sort and use in-depth information on this generation’s every habit and preference.

Main motivators for millennials

Before we get to the more obvious common denominator – their avid use of all things digital – when considering website design or product branding, keep in mind that millennials have grown up in a period of great change. And not always the good kind.

Social, political and financial changes have destabilised them, causing them to be more cautious.

Millennials tend to be more “savvy” – they have more tools and more astuteness in researching and comparing, and are therefore more sophisticated in buying processes. They are also much more immune to marketing-speak. In fact (not least thanks to identity theft and other cybercrime) they are often a great deal more untrusting than their predecessors.

Connectivity, content and sharing

According to the trade periodical AdAge, millennials are spending an average of 25 hours per week online – increasingly using mobile technology.

It’s believed that around 91% of the UK population has a mobile phone – and they use it to comment and share every detail of their lives.

Online content is clearly vital. But Gen Y also seeks convenience and functionality. The Internet of Things is taking a grip of their lives, so they value (and increasingly expect) connectivity.

There is much talk of them being as addicted to social media as previous generations were with alcohol, drugs and gambling. They certainly share copiously, building communities of followers and crave approval from friends.

Therefore, they don’t just base their socialising and purchasing around digital communications; it influences their lifestyles and informs their decision-making.

This is a natural progression from having the tools and opportunities to endorse, review or condemn products and services 24/7.

And it’s why the personal recommendation is more powerful in the digital, mobile world of millennials.

Tell me a story – but keep it real

Image sharing and telling their own story – promoting even mundane daily tasks to visually shared experiences – means that to Gen Y, being able “picture” things have never been more important.

All types of graphic design need to be in tune to the “don’t just tell me, show me” generation.

This is why infographics feature so heavily in all forms of content – social media, websites and advertising – as they are a great way to satisfy the thirst for “don’t just tell me, show me.”

Caution, connectivity, ease of comparison and peer confirmation, make millennials more responsive to “authenticity” in brand identity – keeping it real.

Laid back, stripped down, natural and transparent – having the reassurance that they know what they are paying for. Better still, is if the brand identity also offers a lucid and believable back story.

This means that storytelling has become a huge influence in brand marketing – what is behind the brand development, exactly who is the product or service aimed at, who thought of it?

Language and lifestyles matter to Gen Y

As already mentioned, this is the “show me” generation, who seek endorsement in many aspects of their life. Around 84% of millennials acknowledge that user-generated content influences buying decisions to some extent.

It also means that they want to know the brand is authoritative, informative and responsive – but on their level, understanding their language and underpinning their lifestyle choices.

Experiential marketing has become more common and brand development increasingly involves positioning and visualising products and services in terms of the “experience” they offer.

Bob is a Bristol branding company that speaks the lingo of the millennial consumer. We know what this demographic looks for. We use our expertise, insight and digital fluency to create graphic designs that can wow even the most sceptical of Gen Y.

Photo: Selfie by Why Not Linh Vu licensed under Creative commons 2