I blame my husband’s cousin who lives in Israel for getting me addicted to Draw Something, an electronic form of Pictionary. You draw pictures based on a choice of three words the game offers.
For example, you have a choice of fan, Superman and Ringo. It’s up to your skill as an artist—and as a communicator—how well you can translate through drawing the word of choice. If your opponent—or in this case, your collaborator—guesses the correct word, based on the picture and letters the game offers, then each of you earns a certain amount of coins.
You can use these coins to purchase more colors for your drawing palette or for bombs. The bombs allow you to eliminate letters when you’re guessing in case you’re stuck.
How Language Changes Us
What’s amazing about this game is that you can play it with any friend anywhere in the world. You can also play with strangers—and this is where it gets fascinating. I currently have 14 turns in with HeatherH. I have no idea who this woman is, where she lives, or what she finds interesting. I think she lives in Canada, because when she drew bleach, she drew a bottle with a label I didn’t recognize. Based on the letters and the shape of the bottle, I was able to infer it was bleach.
What also makes Draw Something very individual is what your primary goal is when you play. For example, the aforementioned cousin is a graphic designer and an incredibly talented artist. When she draws something, it’s like a Picasso. When I draw something, it looks like napkin scrawl. However, I understand that the point of the game is not to create a work of art—it’s to communicate enough of an idea to the other person so that they can guess the picture. She feels differently—which is why she hates playing with me.
All of this Draw Something has also reignited my passion about language. When I was drawing a fan for my sister-in-law, I drew a Chinese fan—the type that you get handed at summer parties. But when I drew the word “fans” for my husband, I drew a stadium and the stands to show fans. Context is so critically important, and Draw Something has made me rethink those decisions about word choices.
As digital marketers, writers and strategists, our responsibility lies in communicating with our users. Using the right choices of words—and not just keywords or keyphrases—but words that will resonate and help our customers pick our brands is all about context. For me, Draw Something has reinforced that WHO you are writing and creating content for is ALWAYS where digital communications starts.
I’m sure about this, because once I started playing Draw Something with my 11-year old niece, I’m more careful about which words I pick. “Will she know what this word means?” Ringo will have no cultural resonance for her. I’m pretty sure she knows who Superman is, though.
Start with the Who
The start of every project is: who will read this, who will use it, who will share it, who will care about it. Persona development is so important to all of your projects, so make sure that you are engaging in it at the beginning of each project, using your overall institutional personas as starting points. If you need more information about creating personas, read these other articles about persona development:
- The Foundation of a Great User Experience (UX Magazine)
- Five Factors for Successful Persona Projects (User Interface Engineering)
- Develop Personas (Usability.gov)
- Mobile Content Strategy: Creating User Scenarios (CMS Wire)
Have you played Draw Something? Has it inspired any changes in the way you think about language?