At a first glance, content strategists and designers seem to work in different fields and on different subjects. Yet, as an information designer exploring the field of content strategy, I am seeing more and more similarities. And I am on a journey to build bridges.
Creatures from different planets
The work of a designer is simply explained, and pretty much everybody can tell you what a designer does. Even though there are different types of designers (some make clothes and others the packaging of your favorite soy milk), they all work on very, very visible things. On the other hand, the work of a content strategist is pretty much invisible to the normal human being. I am sure, most people don’t know what a content strategist is doing all day long. But just as content strategy, really good design is invisible. If it works and the designers did their job, no one notices it. Take for example the signage of an airport or how google search results are displayed. That’s in fact also design – but with a big focus on solving problems, rather than focussing on just looking pretty. And this is what I mean by good design – it supports the users on their task. Just as good content strategy does.
The bigger picture
Moving from the big HOW to the big WHY. Both a content strategist and a designer do their job for the same fundamental reasons. To solve a business problem and help the users fulfill their task. And while doing that – keeping their work within reasonable pricing and realistic technical possibilities. A designer, who solely focuses on solving a business problem without keeping in mind what the user really needs, is going to set up a nice looking problem. And the same accounts for the content strategist. When he focuses on user needs alone while forgetting about the business problem. So both need to find the balance, the sweet spot.
Talking past each other
Have you ever listened to a designer presenting their ideas and concepts to you and thought “What the hell is this dude talking about?”. This happens quite a lot, and the reason for that is simple. The designer did not think of the receiver of his presentation. Knowing who your stakeholder is and addressing those people on their level is key for a successful pitch. Which then results in commission. And it is especially important when it comes to complex, multi-layered projects and environments. And both designers and content strategists tend to work in those. A good designer knows this and will adjust. Just as a good content strategist will. Otherwise, stakeholder-confusion is imminent, and trust me, you don’t want that.
Oh beautiful interdisciplinarity
As a print designer, it happens quite often you get asked questions like: “Do you also do web design?”. And almost every designer (especially the younger ones, looking at myself here) answered those questions with a confident “YES”. That truthfully spoken is a “NO, but I’ll gladly try”. This behavior leads to the designer becoming more and more of a design-allrounder. And even though you are not responsible for doing the web design itself all the time, but you deliver assets for this website for example, you know about the environment. Since you did it on a project before, you have an instinct about what is possible, and what is not. And this will make a project smoother from beginning to end. Smoother means more efficient, which means less wasted time and feedback loops, which means less money wasted. And this is something everybody involved will appreciate.
Content strategy and design – a lovestory
In the end, the most powerful connection between content strategy and design is content itself. Oh dear, do I love a project, where the creation and delivery for content is well planned and executed. And man, do I hate projects, where in the middle of it, the responsibilities for content are unclear. Then the project is beginning to be a mess. People start blaming each other and in the end, everything will eventually get done. But at a much higher price (mostly paid in nerves and tears). And it will for sure not look as pretty as the designer drafted it. That is why a good designer cares about content, and a good content strategist cares about design. <3