Designing content

On giving a message its form.

Designing content

Comedian Dave Chappelle, in his acceptance of the 2019 Mark Twain Prize said, “There’s something so true about this genre, when done correctly. That I will fight anybody that gets in a true practitioner of this art form’s way. Because I know you’re wrong. This is the truth and you are obstructing it. I’m not talking about the content, I’m talking about the art form.” He was referring to comedy and how it’s been having some contentious moments lately. It’s also a reminder of how the art form can be as important as the content of it.

Any idea you want to share or message you want to communicate requires a certain level of presenting. It could be in the form of art, or it could be educational. If you’re giving a talk, you have slides. And even if you don’t, there is some performance involved in how you speak. In a book, there are chapters, pages, headings, images, a cover, fonts, etc.

When you plan a marketing campaign, you start thinking about presentation: in what form to convey your message.

"When you plan a marketing campaign, you start thinking about presentation: in what form to convey your message."

Tweet This

Presenting content

To present is to design. When it comes to written form, like an email or a website, the components you have to work with are writing style and tone, layout, and visuals.

For writing, besides the author’s voice in the text itself, there is conscious formatting that develops: concise points, either in paragraphs, or with bullet points, or further separated with headings. In an email, there’s a subject line as a title, and an optional footer or signature. On a website, there is a page title, along with a header and footer to provide context. This article has a title, subtitle, intro image, subheadings, and pull-quotes.

Layout is the space you have to work with and making your content easy to digest. Email and the web have certain dimension restrictions specific to each. Then there’s desktop vs mobile, tablets and other devices. Visually, it's images, design elements, and styling and formatting of text.

"To present is to design. When it comes to written form, like an email, the components you have to work with are writing style and tone, layout, and visuals."

Tweet This

Utilizing context

Often, the form you design, becomes a format, a pattern, or template, that you reuse. For marketing, it’s branding based within a certain context, a marketing channel. An email newsletter, or this blog post, are examples of templates for a series of messages.

The template becomes like a canvas for a painter, a set of purposeful limitations to work within. It also works as a foundation that provides consistency to your audience.

Ultimately, content needs form to provide context. And it depends on its form to be more clear and impactful.

Here’s the Dave Chappelle quote again, as designed content: the quote highlighted to stand out, with an added photo of Dave Chappelle at the event, all formatted to fluidly adjust based on the screen you're reading this on.

“There’s something so true about this genre, when done correctly. That I will fight anybody that gets in a true practitioner of this art form’s way. Because I know you’re wrong. This is the truth and you are obstructing it. I’m not talking about the content, I’m talking about the art form.”

— Dave Chappelle
Acceptance speech, 2019 Mark Twain Prize

Photo of Ovi Demetrian Jr By Ovi Demetrian Jr

Share the blog

Tweet | LinkedIn post | Facebook post | Email a team member

Get updates sent to you

Blog posts are included in our monthly newsletter along with additional design and content production articles and resources Subscribe →