Social Design Principals for Reaching Generation Y

Young consumers. Generation Yers. They’re an audience that’s tough to pin-down, equally tough to reach, but incredibly influential. Where they go, culture often follows. To reach them online, you need a specific design framework that takes into account their very unique needs an desires.


Forrester research guru Bruce Temkin and I co-authored a 28-page report diving in depth through consumer data and four Gen Y design principals: Immediacy, GenY Literacy, Individualism, and Social Interactivity. I believe these principles can work as a framework of social design patterns to create new products or craft experiences for younger audiences.

Recently, BusinessWeek picked up on this report and the need to design specifically for young consumers.

BusinessWeek writer Matt Vella and I discussed how, then in an early stage of launch, looked to target young consumers as a key audience. Hulu’s super-clean functionality, and great video streaming capabilities, makes it an awesome online media site. But when it comes to winning a youth audience, start-ups like and RockYou are king. I recently got to interview the Co-founder of Rock You Jia Shen, but that’s not why I’m saying this.

Sites like RockYou don’t just distribute media — they let people interact, share, create, and customize content, which is what Gen Y uses the Web for. So, for all those going after those crazy kidzzz… here are the four essential design principals explained in Forrester Report: The Gen Y Design Guide.

Design approach No. 1: Immediacy.

To overcome Generation Y’s fickle attention and broad use of media, firms need to hook Gen Yers in by quickly exposing value and then keeping them interested over time.

Design approach No. 2: Gen Y literacy.

Because Gen Yers are so influenced by peers and their own communication style, firms need to speak to them authentically and on their level.

Design approach No. 3: Individualism.

Diverse and expressive, Generation Yers respond to experiences that allow them to personalize and customize their interactions.

Design approach No. 4: Social Interactivity.

Since Gen Y consumers are very social, firms should consider enabling them to communicate and express themselves.