Many content marketers treat the design team as if it were a vending machine: insert copy, press button, get graphic.
They place design at the end of the content creation production process. As a result, nearly all content is planned through the lens of a writer. A typical creative brief is set in stone by the time it makes it past a tyrannical project manager and reaches a designer.
Nonetheless, design is arguably the most important aspect of content creation. Readers may never consume the text if the layout is wacky, the text is difficult to follow, or the graphics are a strange mismatch.
If designers were given more leeway, they could transform the staid text ideas that are frequently published as e-books or blog articles into engaging content formats.
Sometimes, simply doing things differently gives your content a significant competitive advantage.
So, how can you tap into your organization’s latent design potential?
Designers should be involved early in the process.
It is critical to recognize that no two designers are alike. Some people are better equipped than others to be brought in early in the process. A creative director is probably used to pitching ideas, but a production designer is often happier when given strict instructions.
1. Invite designers to meetings for planning purposes.
Include your design partner on (almost) every planning call. Yes, I am aware. Their project manager will be furious. It appears inefficient. But you’re adding a second brain and a second set of eyes, and they’ll see things you can’t. Lumiere does this frequently, and we come up with a lot of interesting ideas.
2. Encourage designers to pursue their interests.
Allow time for your design team to come up with their own ideas. Schedule a meeting with your designer and your subject matter expert to discuss concepts. Lumiere frequently assists businesses in transforming mundane interstitial graphics into something that explains and guides.
3. Allow time and funds for your design partner to bring in experts.
The best designed projects are the result of a collaboration between highly skilled, somewhat limited visual experts. Recognize that your designers may require the assistance of specialists outside of their team.
4. Remember to get the project manager’s buy-in.
Involving designers early in the process may be viewed as wasteful or as a departure from the waterfall process. Get your project managers on board with the idea. It’s worth the effort if you can involve your designer early on and give them the freedom to say, “What if we did X instead?”
The value of collaborations with designers grows as you work together more.
So, open the design vending machine this week. Invite your designer to lunch, give them a seat at your next content brainstorming session, and watch what happens when they aren’t forced to color within the lines left by non-designers.