I was recently teaching a course to junior designers about content strategy. As we set our intentions for what we wanted to learn (a great tool at the beginning of any workshop or meeting), the students asked me for mine. “For the love of God, do not start designing until you understand the content.” I continued, “If I can impress that upon you in the next 2 days, I will have done my job.”

OMG, Chill

Why am I so passionate about this issue? Well, I have 3 reasons:

  1. Design is not as important as content (seriously): I know design is important. But it’s the second-most important thing next to content. Design is a doorway that brings people to your content. Nobody comes to a site to marvel at the design. They need information, education or entertainment. When you design without thinking about the content, you’re designing a building without knowing what will live inside of it. Would you design a stable to hold famous works of art? Probably not. (I mean, I really hope not.)
  2. It’s expensive: Inevitably, if you design first, content will break design. When that happens, either we have to rewrite the content, or we have to redo the design. This results in unnecessary delays and extra costs on a project. Figure out the content you have and that you plan on creating and discuss it with your designers. Everyone will do a better job.
  3. It cheapens content: Content is the least important, most important thing there is, to paraphrase Don Draper. When we design before thinking about the content, we make it a second-tier part of a project. But it’s NOT! It’s the most critical part of a project. Therefore, we have to look at it first and give it the credit it’s due.

Make good choices about how you start your design projects—start them with content!

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