We know not all brains work the same — just ask science (or anyone who’s been in a long-term relationship). But “design brains” in particular — meaning someone neck-deep in design or a design-adjacent field like UI — can bring unique approaches to problem-solving, making them indispensable partners when ideating and planning content. Every new content series or campaign brings a unique set of challenges, and a cross-team or cross-functional set of brains = more perspectives = increased creative solutions.
But on a deeper level: This is the age of visual storytelling. How can you tell compelling visual stories if a visual person isn’t crafting them from the outset? Designers can and should be expected to deeply understand the story, and to dig into the source material and digest it alongside editorial. So tap the design brains around you from the start as they will only boost your team’s storytelling acumen.
Say you’re tasked with creating a report that brings to life a distinct investment style or portfolio. You’ll surely start with an abundance of text, but a gray wall of copy is far from ideal. You know you’ll need visuals and speaking in generalities can lead to misaligned assumptions. Instead, a designer can help manage expectations around chart complexity, page count and the like. In one case, while working with a financial services client, this approach helped our team land on illustrative diagramming, coupled with pared down text, explaining key elements of the investment approach at each step along the way. Visualizing the process early ended up simplifying editorial demands and enhancing the user experience.
Making listicle lemonade
Content that consists of a long list can also become wallpaper nobody reads. Perhaps the initial idea was a standard listicle with a single image. A design brain might see an opportunity to illustrate each list item with a simple — animated perhaps? — icon or illustration in a time-efficient manner. In some cases, like this one, an idea might have been scrapped because of the assumed labor or time requirements, but designers might have a trick or two up their sleeve that can make it happen. The resulting product is not just a list but an engaging visual.
Designers are intimately familiar with scale and ratio. They can recognize immediately what it will take to make a piece of content work on all devices. Part of being mobile-first is making sure every chart, graphic, interactive, video, illustration and button can be experienced on any size screen. In this area, design brains are worth their weight in platinum. As concepts take shape, they will flag right away anything that could be a snag down the road. Often, they can go a step further and propose a solution in real time. The value of these early insights cannot be overstated and catching problems before costly hours have been burned can save serious cash.
Sharing interactive insights
New platforms, apps and technologies emerge almost daily, adding to the ways audiences can experience content. When considering interactivity, it’s crucial to get a designer onboard asap. It’s all but guaranteed that today’s design brains will bring some level of development experience to the table. They’ve been down this trial-and-error road before and will see ways to modify the design and functionality of content based on how the intended audience will engage with it, increasing the probability for success. Designers can map user experiences that compel users to return for more, and make sure they are not frustrated with the experience.
Staying in the game
Design brains are always thinking about opportunities to increase engagement. Any time the audience can play with an element, it ratchets up engagement. There are endless possibilities. So, if you’re considering anything like a quiz, an online tool or a gamified infographic, grab a designer, and explain the idea. Chances are they’ll immediately know what will work and what won’t, and will have a few ideas to make it even more engaging.
In the end, reserving a place at the table for designers leads to better content. Making time and space for collaboration and dialogue is the only way to arrive at the best solutions. Call it design brain gain! The results will be better, more creative content and a smoother production process, all of which can boost user experience and impact bottom lines.
How have you seen design brains elevate content? We’d love to hear your stories, or discuss how our team can assist you in your content efforts. Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know!