The relationship between content and design: It's complicated

Communications projects call for close collaboration between consultants and designers, as their work is interdependent. Consultants sometimes need to see the design to make decisions on the content, while designers need to see the content to know how to move forwards with the design.

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If managed poorly, this situation could end up as a stalemate. But when consultants and designers collaborate effectively, their contributions to the project are mutually beneficial. The result is a product that is more user friendly, more impactful, and conveys the right message.

Although it might seem that the message of a report or website is determined by its content, design can completely transform what is communicated. Most obviously, the look and feel of the document is dependent on the tools of the designer: colour, font and layout. But on top of this, good design can enhance key messages by visually highlighting important pieces of content. This draws the audience’s attention to critical information and ensures that they don’t miss anything important. The consultant’s role here is to liaise with the client and work with the designer so that key messages are brought to the fore. Working together, optimal design and content builds a narrative that engages.

Information architecture is one aspect of the interplay between design and content. In building a website, this involves a plan to organise the content and link it together coherently. This is also a major factor in print projects, and is one of our aims when we create a wireframe, which is a structural blueprint. A wireframe can include suggestions on how certain information could be presented, but ultimately it is the designer’s expertise that transforms a wireframe into the final product.

Good design underpins navigation. Navigation is crucial to content: even if individual sections are well-written, they are useless if audiences cannot find their way around the message. A poorly structured website or report is a frustrating experience for the user, who can’t get where they’re trying to go and leave unhappy, perhaps with a diminished view of the organisation. Good design supports the structure outlined in the wireframe, presenting users with clear paths to the information they are looking for. The greatest work comes from strong teamwork.

At Jones and Palmer, our designers and consultants collaborate from start to finish. If you’re interested in finding out more, drop us an email or give us a call.