Live a content life

April 26, 2021

This weekend I spent some time on 2 (maybe 3) content design tasks. The first was building a workshop on an introduction content design and readability for an online economics teaching team. The second was preparing for a content design job interview. 

I spent a lot of time re-reading and rethinking about Sarah Winter’s “Content Design”. I hoped I was going to get some deeper insights, maybe some new models of thinking as the paradigm unveiled itself further. I supposed I might create some models, and illustrate, or even animate them. Surely some pithy dictums would reveal themselves and I would be able to illuminate with clever examples to unfold deeper secrets. 

I got nothing. 

Back in March, the Content Design London Twitter account announced “Reply with what you had for breakfast and I’ll tell you what content design rule or guidance you are. Sarah”

I collected all the rules together in a Google Doc. I confess I wasn’t particularly interested in people’s breakfast choices. I have a Bifidus yogurt and Tetley* tea when I wake up, and soy milk porridge when I’ve done some creative work. 

I read through the rules and guidance, and categorised them under these loose headings

  • Ways of thinking
  • Clear content
  • Purpose of content
  • Research
  • User needs and thoughts
  • Content designers
  • Content organisation
  • Iterate to the end

They read like aphorisms, axioms, proverbs or maxims. These are rules to live a content life. They are simple. 

Simple to

  • read
  • understand
  • do

I’m not saying they are easy. Far from it. It’s hard work, and that’s what we are (t)asked to do. 

As always we do the hard work to make it simple.

So why did I get nothing from reading “Content Design” again? Oh no, I got more than nothing.

I got enlightenment. 

The book “Content design” isn’t trying to create a new paradigm, a new sexy prototype that can be trademarked and copyrighted. Content design doesn’t need a complicated model to describe it. It’s simple. Sarah’s purpose with the book, and the training, was to open up content design in the same way that content design opens up the web.

And as we know,

"The web is for everyone"

Tim Berners-Lee

*I haven't been able to restock on Yorkshire Tea during the pandemic. I'm sorry.