Sep 14 2017

Content is Queen: A Case for Content-First Design

A letter without a message is just a blank piece of paper in a fancy envelope. (And who wants to look at that?)

How Design Communicates

When we build websites, draw logos, and make marketing assets, we’re using our (awesome) creative powers to help our clients share their message.

We use colors, shapes, letterforms, photo assets, and spatial relationships to communicate visually and optimize the message. You could say that design is a method by which we package and deliver content in a pleasing and accessible way, so that everyone who receives your message wants to learn more, sign up, buy, or donate.

Your Message + Our Design = People Compelled to Act!

Making Sense and Looking Awesome

When we know what content we’re working with, we can create intentional, purpose-driven design to showcase the message — tailored just for you. We don’t just drop your content into off-the-shelf themes or templates. Every design is customized for each project’s specific needs, which we help you uncover through Discovery and research.

Dialing in your messaging is so important here in the early phases of design. Whatever it is that you want people to hear from you, you’re going to need some words. The right words, even, that say what you mean with precision!

But Copywriting is Hard!

For most of us, even when ideas come easily, it can be challenging to commit them to precise, effective writing. We know that the Internet has a short attention span (are you even still reading this blog post?), and the pressure to get to the point and pack in all of the critical information is real.

A bit of planning now can save you from a big mess later.
Photo by Alice Achterhof on Unsplash.

Often when you get into the thick of creating or editing your content, you will likely find that the words and organization change shape — you might need a second level of subheads, or block quotes, or inset boxes, or so many other things! These may seem like minor changes, but they can have a big impact to the overall way your content behaves on a page. If you’re designing for print, the addition of a subhead can add pages to your final count, or require a whole cascade of other visual changes to make the document work and feel cohesive.

Enlist help with your copywriting if you need it. A great editor can help you shape and refine your message without adding a ton of time to your project or to your financial investment. Approaching your designer with ready-to-use copy will save you time and dollars in the design phase.

Get Real

In book-publisher school, I learned that a nascent book moves from editing to design to production — in that order and in only one direction. While that’s a really great system, I have literally never received a project to design that was content-complete while working in the actual world.  For the first few years, it really bothered me.

By now though I have consigned myself to the reality that content may will change a bit during the design process, and I’ve committed to having some grace about it. When a client sees work that they’ve only known in a text editor come to life in a webpage mockup or sample chapter, some new revelations about aesthetic preferences and/or how the content is working often crop up — that’s a normal thing that we expect and build into our process.

So what should we all do? As a client, you should approach your designer with as much ready content as you can — this includes written copy, photos you have the rights to use, and anything that the designer won’t be creating such as logos, forms, and barcodes. Make a plan with your designer that clearly states who is responsible creating, editing and gathering each piece of content. Create a timeline. Understand that your designer can only get so far into a project without your real content. The closer your content is to completion when we start, the more seamless the design process, making the final product that much better.

Whether you are still working on your content, or it’s all ready for design, Team Upswept has your back. We’re a comprehensive creative studio, offering copywriting and editing services, graphic design, photography, as well as web and print design. Get in touch to learn more!

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