Remember the last time you made a design dummy for a magazine that everyone liked? Or the last time, you built a stunning web-design you were proud of? So no matter if print or digital – your project went well. Everybody was impressed (even your boss) and expectations for the final product were high. But what you didn’t think of actively were content expectations!
What are content expectations?
Unconsciously you implemented specific quantitative attributes about the final content in your templates. This is just a byproduct of designing pretty much anything. Expectations about content, that in most cases wasn’t even created yet. So bad content from a designers perspective, is content that does not meet quantitative expectations such as lengths of headlines or copy. As a designer, you mostly get drafts and ideas rather than actual content to start with. Real content still needs to be created, accumulated, bought and also delivered by the people responsible for it. Which is so NOT you, my dear designer friend. So if you just stay within the borders of your own expertise, you patiently wait for the content. And boy did I have projects in the past, where the delivered content did not meet my expectations. This resulted in me reworking the templates, fitting too much content on too little pages, throwing stuff around and getting frustrated.
The final product then was not as pleasing as intended and expected, even though you worked hard on it. Character lengths were off, picture resolutions did not hold up to print standards and some content elements I planned for so carefully, weren’t delivered at all. But that’s not a designer’s problem, right? Because why should you as a designer care about content? Well, turns out, you should.
The key: communicating content expectations
What I described until now is a one-way-process. There has been little to no communication between design and content BEFORE content creation began. What you need to do is tell the people creating content, what quantitative dimensions you need to realize the product in a way your client (and probably the boss of the content creators) saw and liked it before. Because turns out – content creators may just not know the medium as well as you do! Put in the additional work of counting out character counts of your design. Explain why you cannot cram 4000 words on every page of a 48 page image-brochure, as this will result in the reader being visually bored out and confused. Talk about the requirements a picture has for print. If they understand the importance, they may put in the work to deliver the content the right way. Let them into your knowledge. Start a dialogue. You do not know where these people are. Maybe they never wrote copy for the web before. Will they still do it? Absolutely yes, you cannot influence that. But you can give them tips and tricks of what you learned.
Of course, this is a lot to ask – since content is not your problem. But every designer want’s their creation to be as stunning as it can get – and to get there, you need to make content your problem.