Walking through a supermarket is a multi-sensory experience designed to get you to spend as much as possible. The first thing you see walking in are fresh, vibrant fruits and vegetables so that by the time you reach the junk food you won’t feel as guilty picking up your favorite cookies, knowing you’ve satiated your guilty conscience when you picked up those vegetables. As you continue walking the aisles, the manager on the loudspeaker promotes the day’s special; a machine next to you spits out coupons of products you wouldn’t buy, and a friendly someone behind a table is offering samples of a new coconut ice cream. The message is clear: buy, buy, buy.
Using multiple modes of communication allows you to reach a wider audience. Multimodal is a portmanteau combining “multiple” and “mode”. It is the use of multiple methods of communication, and using them the right way can be effective in communicating a message. There are five modes introduced by the New London Group, a collection of education and literacy scholars: linguistic, visual, aural, gestural, and spatial. Each mode has its pros and cons and customizing the use of these modes for specific messages is the key for effective communication.
The linguistic mode is simply the use of language, and this can be through written or spoken language. Using the linguistic mode for communication, one should take into consideration the following:
- word choice
- delivery style
After identifying your key audience, you can now direct the language of a message to target that audience. For example, a newsletter to employees of a company may contain jargon pertaining to that field. A newsletter may also have a more formal style of writing because its intended audience are professionals.
The visual mode is immediate, and it may be one of the most effective in getting an audience engaged. A restaurant’s menu has various professional photos of their popular dishes to entice your palette. Going back to our supermarket, you may notice that discounts are marked in red. The visual mode incorporates various aesthetic aspects including color, style, and composition.
The aesthetic components of any composition is not all about color and decor. It can be as simple as the way a page is formatted, the length of the paragraphs, and even the font. One thing to keep in mind is that these components were deliberately chosen by the creator and these decisions are telling of the creator, and the audience will see this.
I remember a day at the gym; while I was in the middle of my workout, I heard the song “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” from the Frozen soundtrack, playing. I actually love the song, but I remember thinking, are they serious? I’m working out. I want to feel the intensity and this song was just not congruent to the gym environment. The aural mode is the use of sound. As in the example, the wrong sound can ruin an experience.
Gestural mode pertains to non-verbal communication. Your body can be as loud as the words you speak. If you are videoing yourself it is crucial to understand what your body is saying. A good message can be obscured by bad body language. A few of these non-verbals include your affect display, hand gestures, and body posture. This does not mean you need to stand tall with every confident non-verbal on full display. Having too much confidence can make you seem arrogant.
The spatial mode is the use of space. This space can be the spacing of different elements of a layout design on a piece of paper, like a brochure; and it can also be the use of space in a video composition. How you use space tells your audience a lot about who you are. For example, if you are interviewing someone, the layout of the objects in that room can either distract an audience, or lead their focus toward the host and guest. A resume is also a perfect example of how important the spatial mode is. Every square inch on a resume is prime real estate to put vital details about yourself. Having a resume with a lot of white space is ineffective because it is lost opportunity.
These modes are tools to use for any project, and their use should have careful consideration in a composition. Not every project will use every mode; however, there will always me multiple modes in use. This blog post uses at least four, arguably all of them. Understanding your audience is the first step in effective communication. With this understanding you can now customize a project using the proper modes.