You Be You: Creating Content material for the Gen Z Design Aesthetic

Creating digital content material that resonates with Gen Z—these born between the late Nineties and the early 2010s—might be difficult. The primary digital natives, members of Gen Z are a discerning bunch. They’re additionally essentially the most various technology within the US, making it unwise to design content material for this group with a one-size-fits-all strategy.

As members of this cohort enter the workforce, they wield great shopping for energy. They account for nearly 40% of the world’s client inhabitants, and have lots of of billions of {dollars} to spend.

Understanding the Gen Z design aesthetic and its origins might help you create profitable digital content material for this group of younger shoppers. In my expertise as a digital designer creating content material for the gaming-console firm NZXT, I discover sure approaches resonate with this demographic.

Introduce a Relatable Character

Traditionally, advert campaigns had been marked by direct calls to motion that urged shoppers to buy primarily based on a mix of worth and product options. Nevertheless, at present’s younger adults choose a extra partaking strategy to advertising and marketing, and analysis exhibits that our brains higher connect with character-driven storytelling.

Model characters work particularly properly on social media, the place the overwhelming majority of Gen Zers—additionally referred to as Zoomers—spend their time.

Hub-and-spoke graphic. Title reads “How Gen Z Teens Use Social Media.” The center of the graphic is a gray circle in which the text reads, “The percentage of US teens (13 to 17) on popular social media platforms.” The hexagons, clockwise, starting at 12 o’clock, read: “YouTube 95%, TikTok 71%, Instagram 62%, Snapchat 59%, Facebook 32%, Twitter 23%.” The source for the information is Pew Research Center, “Teens, Social Media and Technology 2022.”
YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram are the favored social media platforms amongst Gen Zers ages 13-17.

At NZXT, I labored on social content material utilizing the character Pucci, a purple plush toy that provides clients a humorous reference to the corporate. Pucci was designed to echo NZXT’s square-shaped magnetic organizer, Puck, and goes on adventures which might be documented on social media to maintain clients engaged with the model. With this character, NZXT humanizes its merchandise and connects to its Gen Z gamer viewers. A bonus of making a personality like Pucci: It may be changed into merchandise for added engagement—as an illustration, we held a fundraiser and gave Pucci merch to donors.

In case you’re working for a model with a longtime character, you don’t have to create a brand new one for social media; typically, adapting an current character for Gen Z might be profitable. In 2020, the insurance coverage big Geico gave its iconic gecko character his personal Instagram account. Although the character had been a staple of TV commercials for 20 years, the corporate knew that to attach with future clients—at present’s novice drivers—it needed to create a character-driven social media presence.

Language-learning platform Duolingo attracted media consideration and nearly 5 million followers when it created a live-action model of Duo, the corporate’s owl mascot, and gave him his personal TikTok account. The tone is irreverent, and the content material has little to do with the corporate’s core enterprise, which works properly for Gen Z audiences who aren’t keen on overt promoting strategies.

@duolingo yesterday, at present, at all times and without end. 💚 #Duolingo #DulaPeep #DuaLipa #thisisforlife💗💘 #comedy #development #office ♬ som authentic – ✧∘* ೃ ⋆。˚.

Language-learning platform Duolingo turned a life-size model of its mascot, Duo the owl, right into a social media star on TikTok—the place he has 5 million followers and nearly 100 million likes.

Harness the Energy of Nostalgia

Partly due to Gen Z’s expertise with unpredictable life occasions—many noticed family and friends lose properties through the 2008 mortgage disaster, for instance—this demographic tends to romanticize the pre-social media period and responds to up to date variations of previous traits.

Magnificence TikTok is awash in up to date variations of decades-old kinds, together with a revival of the well-known Seventies “Farrah Fawcett flip” coiffure. As digital natives, members of Gen Z effortlessly scour the net for fashions popularized by earlier generations after which make them their very own.

Capitalizing on this affinity for nostalgia, French clothes model Maison Kitsuné made an Instagram submit that garnered greater than 4,000 likes by alluding to the Gen Z development of taking awkward household pictures with mates and companions at mall photograph studios. This fad is a nod to ’90s and early 2000s mall tradition—when households would go to studios to take pictures with ultra-soft mild and cartoonish backgrounds.

Once I’m designing for a Gen Z viewers and want reference materials, I look again to earlier a long time. Outdated pictures, scrapbooks, yearbooks, memorabilia, and different ephemera are treasure troves of visible inspiration.

Evoke Nostalgia With Typography

Typography is among the most recognizable markers of explicit instances and locations, and it’s a easy technique to sign the aesthetic of an period. As an example, it’s laborious not to consider mid-Twentieth century California when taking a look at designs that use Halau or Palm Canyon Drive, or to conjure up a picture of the Outdated West whenever you see Clarendon Ornamented.

The emblem for the German sweet Trolli, one in every of Gen Z’s favourite manufacturers, evokes childhood nostalgia with bubble letters, a typography type that always seems on packaging for kids’s merchandise. Famous person singer and mannequin Dua Lipa makes use of the liquid metallic font—harking back to ’90s design and the unique Matrix film—on the cowl of her album Future Nostalgia: The Moonlight Version. And at NZXT, our staff capitalized on Gen Z’s affinity for the previous by making a Valentine’s day social marketing campaign that paired the Atari font with 8-bit graphics to convey the texture of a basic arcade sport from the Nineteen Eighties.

Screenshot from an Instagram post of two square purple Pucci characters drawn in a classic pixelated arcade style. One holds a valentine. Above them in Atari font, reads “You’re the missing key.” Next to it are comments and 5,157 likes.
A social media submit by gaming {hardware} firm NZXT makes use of font and imagery harking back to a Nineteen Eighties arcade sport.

Perceive the Function of Influencers in Gen Z Design

By some estimates, Gen Zers common almost three hours a day on social media, and 83% of Zoomers store on social, making social media influencers central to any content material technique aimed toward this demographic. A current Morning Seek the advice of report finds that 72% of millennials and Gen Zers observe influencers, and 1 in 4 Gen Z ladies say they most often find out about new merchandise from influencers.

Conveying authenticity, one in every of Gen Z’s core values, is important to the success of social media influencer campaigns—which succeed as a result of they make folks really feel as if a buddy is suggesting a product. In case you don’t have the funds for a big-name influencer, think about using a micro- or nano-influencer. Using these influencers—who’ve fewer followers however increased engagement charges—is growing. Direct-to-consumer make-up firm Glossier and rainboot firm Sperry have efficiently harnessed the attain of smaller influencers, with Glossier saying it considers each buyer an influencer.

Regardless of the research displaying that Gen Z calls for authenticity, firms are starting to experiment with AI influencers. These social media personas behave like actual folks with their very own kinds and tastes however are, in reality, digital avatars managed by PR or advert companies. Because the metaverse expands, count on designers to be concerned in creating subtle digital influencers.

Make Content material Customizable and Collaborative

The Gen Z cohort likes its sense of individuality, gravitating towards merchandise and experiences that make them really feel distinctive. Customization might be particularly interesting to this demographic. As an example, offering the chance to tailor avatars, emojis, and digital stickers is a good way to foster Gen Z engagement.

Snapchat’s Bitmoji is among the most recognizable merchandise on this house, permitting customers to create cartoonish avatars of themselves to make use of on Snapchat and different social media. For one marketing campaign with NZXT, I designed character stickers that clients might use to decorate their posts on Discord, Slack, and different social media platforms.

On the identical time, the Gen Z viewers likes to co-create social media experiences, customizing them with different customers. Hair care firm Operate of Magnificence created the #ShampooShakeUpChallenge: Within the marketing campaign, a video would start with an influencer shaking a bottle of product to the beat of the music, then transition to the influencer after utilizing the product. The marketing campaign struck a notice of authenticity as a result of it featured a shared exercise, and almost 75 million folks seen the hashtag.

Place Values Entrance and Middle

One of many major hallmarks of Gen Z is its concentrate on activism. 9 out of 10 Gen Z shoppers imagine that firms have a duty to take a stance on environmental and social points, and greater than 70% of this group say they solely purchase from manufacturers that align with their values.

Trend manufacturers are responding to this demand by specializing in sustainability and touting these efforts of their digital content material. Levi’s sustainability push has saved it the favourite denim label amongst Zoomers lately. Although a longtime chief in sustainable manufacturing, the corporate now options its practices in social media content material, with posts highlighting efforts to supply different fibers and implement greener delivery practices. Out of doors sportswear firm Patagonia, a current addition to the YPulse checklist of Gen Z’s coolest clothes manufacturers, devotes its Instagram to movies of out of doors areas needing preservation; its tagline because the firm’s founder transferred possession of the corporate to 2 local weather nonprofits is “Earth is now our solely shareholder.” The corporate’s homepage additionally focuses on profiles of individuals dedicated to preserving the atmosphere.

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A submit shared by Patagonia (@patagonia)


Out of doors clothes model Patagonia demonstrates its dedication to the atmosphere by producing social content material about defending the pure world.

Authenticity Reigns Supreme

Specializing in nostalgia, storytelling, and social points is essential for firms hoping to draw Gen Z clients, however nothing trumps authenticity. This tech-savvy and hyperinformed technology can simply discern insincerity in a model’s visible design and messaging. Nevertheless, content material that demonstrates a real consciousness of Gen Z’s aesthetic preferences and societal outlook can earn a loyal following amongst this up-and-coming technology of shoppers.

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