Oct 9, 2018

Five Content Development Tips from a Designer

In communications strategy and content production, we’re often laser-focused on our words. What topics should we cover? What words should we use? How do we align content with our values? This can often lead to design playing second fiddle to copy. To avoid this at Conveyor, we work side-by-side with our designers to ensure that content and visuals work together to tell stronger, more impactful stories.

Here are five tips from our designer extraordinaire, Paige Buda, on how to ensure that your content development process sets your design team — and your clients — up for success.

Get Tactical With Typography

"When you’re building a document, pay particular attention to hierarchy,” says Buda. “Especially if we’re collaborating early on, I take a lot of guidance from how copy is bolded, bulleted and laid out on the page.” Writers and strategists have access to a solid set of visual tools to arrange, differentiate and define a document’s contents, and these should be intentionally leveraged for consistency and clarity. It doesn’t matter whether you prefer to use bold text, headlines, subheads or a mix of the three — just guarantee that your team does it consistently.

Got Ideas? Speak Up

Agencies often work within strict hierarchies and silos, and many designers and writers are loath to offer one another feedback. But collaboration is key. “Chances are the writer has some great insights into what the client wants to prioritize or highlight, and that’s great to know as things move into design,” says Buda. “Everyone works best when we’re expressing our creative concepts to the fullest extent. A little bit of overlap is fine — I’ve given writers some terrible headlines! But some have worked out well.”

Be Flexible

The other side of the collaborative coin means listening to your designers when they offer feedback on copy. Sometimes a headline can be shortened, or an orphaned word could be rephrased for a more cohesive look and feel. These are insights that only arise once copy has been laid out, and the designer gets to examine the project as a whole. “We shouldn’t be afraid of stepping on toes if there’s a good rationale,” says Buda. “That applies to both writers and designers.”

Deliver Final Copy

“This sounds obvious, but sometimes content is still getting reworked right before it ships to the client,” says Buda. In general, writers should strive to deliver final, proofed-and-ready-for-layout copy to their design partners. While some content changes may crop up in design, you should always do your part to make the handoff as efficient as possible. “The export and package process for some assets can be time-consuming, so having to do it two or three times gets to be a burden,” adds Buda.

Stick To The Timeline

In many projects, design is one of the last steps of the process. “Designers inherit any delays that happened earlier, and those add up,” says Buda. It’s important for writers to ensure they’re staying aware of all timelines, and not making work harder for the people who come after them in the production process. “A lot of production work requires a good, consistent workflow, and timing delays can be compounded if there are multiple steps. Holding yourselves and your teammates accountable is crucial.”

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