Monday, December 21, 2015

How You Start: 5 Strategies Designers Can Use to Get Great Content

Have you ever been given a design project that just isn’t working? It’s not hitting the mark no matter how many reviews and edits it goes through. And its these types of projects that go through many painful reviews. Almost like walking back and forth over a bed of thorns. Sometimes it just hurts.

It can be hard to pinpoint the problem. But most designers know that it's almost impossible to create great design without great content. And great content comes from a clear and focused concept. When the content is clear it lends itself to design that communicates and gets the desired action. When it is unfocused or meeting another goal it is difficult to design for the intended results. It’s arduous and laborious, never really hitting the mark. And it’s ineffective.

Even though there is very little a designer can do to ensure great content from a client or a boss, there are a few tactics that can be effective:
  1. Offer to have the content rewritten by a professional. Find or recommend a professional copywriter to get involved. It's a good idea to get to know a few yourself, just in case. If the client is agreeable, this will usually solve the problem.
  2. Ask the right questions to arrive at a clear concept. Sometimes by doing this, you can pinpoint the core goals. It's not enough to have content. Designers need content that is accomplishing something. If the content isn't accomplishing the client's goals, try asking questions to get the client to think deeper about it. For example, "How well do you think the current content is meeting the goals you desire? How do you think someone would genuinely respond? How can we make this better?" Remember to tread lightly, because they may be in love with the content the way it is.
  3. Create two design directions. One with the provided copy, and one that you freely adjust to work with a design concept that meets the goals. Sometimes this approach is appreciated by the client — even though they tend to stick with what they have provided you. However, it prompts them to consider their approach, and make minor adjustments along the way.
  4. Sometimes there is little room for adjustments, for whatever reason. But your client is willing to discuss how the design can meet the communication goals. This is a good time to get some clarity. Ask the client what is one reasonable goal the design should be able to accomplish. Then design towards that goal as if the content was written with this in mind. Usually when the client sees that the design is accomplishing the goals well, but the copy seems a bit off, they may begin to adjust the content to match. For instance, having an image of a lion may grab the appropriate attention and promotes the desired outcome well. But the content doesn't say anything about a lion. The client might choose to make a stronger connection by adding lion references in the text. This makes the design concept stronger.
  5. If there is no budge, whatsoever, it's time to settle in for a long process of back-and-forth. Adjust the expectations, so there is less frustration from either of you. Just let your client know that without a clear direction the process will take a lot of iterations. It's okay as long as you both understand this (and understand any cost or timeline ramifications).

Photo courtesy Jeshu John, on

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