Designing visual havens: Exploring the role of visual communication design in fostering sense of belonging in community brands

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Bachelor's thesis
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Bachelor's Programme in Design
58 + 18
Communities have long been crucial for individuals, offering a sense of safety and belonging that often addresses needs unmet by capitalism. These communities rely on symbols and visual materials, yet little is understood about their creation, functions, and meaning within these groups. It is clear that emotions significantly influence the use of visual materials by communities, but a comprehensive understanding of these connections is lacking. This thesis investigates the potential role of visual communication design (VCD) in nurturing a sense of belonging within communities. To establish a theoretical foundation, the study delves into psychology and sociology literature, dissecting the mechanisms behind societal senses of belonging and community formation. Simultaneously, the lens of VCD is applied to unravel the intricate web of visual language, exploring its functions, meanings, and implications. However, a significant gap exists in marketing literature regarding non-commercial brands, essential for comprehending VCD in non-commercial contexts. To address this, a new term, "community brand" (CB), is introduced, aiming to define brands focused on fostering belonging rather than profit generation. In an effort to validate and contextualize the applicability of this novel terminology, six visual designers were interviewed, shedding light on their practices in designing with communities. Furthermore, these insights revealed information about their design processes, frequent challenges, and potential improvements. This research culminates in a case study of Nuoret Designerit (NuDe), showcasing how VCD contributes to nurturing a sense of belonging within a CB. NuDe's visual elements hold deep emotional significance for its members, serving as strong symbols of community. In conclusion, this study's theoretical framework, the development of new terminology, expert interviews, and the NuDe case study offer insights into the interplay between belonging, CBs, and VCD. This thesis serves as an initial exploration into the realm of CBs through the visual design lens, aiming to spark further research in this field.
Leinonen, Teemu
Thesis advisor
Veselova, Emilija
visual communication design, sense of belonging, sense of community, branding, nonprofit branding, graphic design
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