Content before Design

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  • slappy

    Surely its logical to work out what you want to say before you start on the design?

    Why then does every one look at me like I just dropped my guts when I ask that we write the content before I do the design?

  • mikotondria30

    Because the design is part of the content.

  • mydo0

    it's like asking for the waiter to come over when you're not 100% sure what you want to order.

    • thats what you do in good restaurants..mekk
  • pango0

    that even a question? content always before design.

  • slappy0

    "We just want to get the ball rolling on the this.."

    • Constant Visible Progress is a business mantra, never mind if we're going down the wrong road...with no map or gasvaxorcist
  • carianoff0

    Been dealing with this for the last several weeks with a client. It costs more money to do it that way. $ometimes that works out for me ;)

    • the Accenture Consulting Approach.. works wonders for some bottom lines....vaxorcist
  • Amicus0

    I hate when content is supplied, but it was probably cobbled together from 10 or more different sources and hasn't been proofread. 19 lots of text changes is certain to result in deadline creep and almost certainly there are still errors.

    Great clients are worth their weight in gold and bad clients should be covered in there own weight in shit.

    • we called this "shovelware" in the 90's..... some people got it,some didn'tvaxorcist
  • Continuity0

    The whole concept/copy before artwork thing was probably the longest-standing argument I had at work, where the marketing coordinator just could wrap her head round the idea that it's a waste of everyone's time to start designing first. Eventually, the argument got won, and I at least get a basic concept first.

  • vaxorcist0

    a cartoon hung in some programmers offices.....

    Just Start Coding and I'll Go See What They Want...

  • vaxorcist0

    This is the constant previsualization paradox Designers face....

    1. It's okay if you're a news website, content is expected to flow in, but at least you'll need some EXAMPLE CONTENT

    2. Many clients hire designers because they can't previsualize, but in order to actually start knowing what content to get, they HAVE TO SEE A DESIGN, otherwise no amount of talking will get it, they're often less verbally aware but more verbally talking than you want.. .aargh... needing a visual in order to get started in their minds eye....and begin to categorize from a DESIGN, not a LIST

    3. Once some clients see their content in a design, they suddenly realize they want something else...that's where the pre-sales process either kills you or rescues you.... it's not about them, it's about the TARGET MARKET

    4. Just like in the print days, mediocre copy was often not detected until it was printed 11.x17 and hung on a wall, many people just don't understand how pasted-together shovelled text from anywhere isn't any good till they see it in a web layout.... maybe a few examples will help, but we HAVE TO REMEMBER that clients hire us PRECISELY because we can previsualize better than they can..

    • #2 is prevalent.manonthestreet
    • how narrow-minded of you to think that design meant web-design...tsk tskmonospaced
    • hmm.... for web, you HAVE to assume content will change, for print, there's SOME deadline for ccntent....vaxorcist
    • sorry I assumed it was a web project.... these sorts of problems seem more web related...
  • Continuity0

    I don't think it's a question of pre-visualisation. It's more a question of clients/marketing types/etc not actually having clearly defined goals, objectives or strategy for a project from which a creative concept can be gleaned.

    • a GOOD account exec nails these down BEFORE anything design-oriented starts...vaxorcist
  • Continuity0

    As an example, I'm just wrapping up a DM campaign for a client with a rather tight deadline. My contact is a copywriter by trade, so when I was briefed for the job, everything from concept to heads to subs to secondary message – along with clearly defined objectives – was provided to me, and I was able to hit the ground running with the artwork. Had I not had any of this, I would have been floundering for a week, trying to anticipate what the client wants, and I wouldn't have been able to do my job effectively.

    In other words, it's not about pre-visualising anything without a concept at all. It's about having all the tools I need to put a concept to pretty pictures and see if that works.

  • i_monk0

    We can't win this war. If they give you the content first, inevitably your design won't work when it comes back from the first round of revisions and they've tripled the body copy, removed the header entirely, insist on a stock photo in the background, added four new sections (which have to look like some flyer they did, which doesn't resemble your design), and need 17 partner logos down the side.

    • why are you assuming it's web design?monospaced
    • you're presuming he is. that description could be a banner or poster as wellregiste
    • ok, I admit thatmonospaced
    • Don't get bogged down in the specifics of an example, it makes you look Asperger-y.i_monk
  • registe0

    i'm in the same boat, slappy, but with a deadline. i can't even get a committal to an outline and all I hear is where's the site? all conversations about their perceived needs as far as copy focus and photography renderings are all met with a no. No ideas in return, just disagreeing with mine.

    I've proposed a few copy strategies following the same tone from page to page with a common end goal, but they won't contribute anything to build from. Like if I gave them a site with the CMS filled with lorem ipsum, they'd understand what to do next. I doubt it, they don't understand what to do now.

    the idea that I'm going to build a framework for their content to magically grow on is absurd.

    I built a cms for them 5 years ago as well. they used it to remove one person from the employee section and never used photographs though the cms supported them and the design was ready for them. they added 11 news items in that same 5 years and never once added to their portfolio section though they're always working.

    All I learned is that the president of the company is not above attempting to download files and editing them locally. even going so far as using the file manager within the hosts website to do so.

    fact 1. make every bit of the text on the site accessible from the cms.
    fact 2. crop and size images server side
    fact 3. reading minds comes in handy

    Continuity, are you available? can I email you? I may be able to get you in touch with some people that need some help. They have a current website which is an abomination of a former company president art direction then coded and cms for a site that was then edited (read: hacked, broke, taped, glued) and filled with content all written internally. the facts are there in plenty, the service benefits overlooked for capability I think. I don't know I don't do this stuff.

    They recently acquired a new logo/color scheme and are prepared to move forward in a more sales oriented tone, not a newspaper ad, but more so than the current educational site. if you're interested let me know.

    Good luck to you slappy, I feel your pain. All you can do for sanity is not design anything and just sit back and listen to all the input you can until you're inspired. Never force ideas, they come out looking, well... forced.

    Regardless of content, if the design is not inspired it will be lacking with or without the support of well written copy.

    I leave you all with this...

    "If the muse comes to your bedside, don't tell her you'll fuck her later." -- Allen Ginsberg

    • I'm available as of Monday; you can mail me the details of this to the address on my site, and I'll see if I'm able to do it for you.Continuity
  • vaxorcist0

    LOVE the carton.. lots of insight....

    I think designers can previsualize the way that fish can breathe underwater..... it's natural for them...

    Some clients are like human swimmers, they can hold their breath and go underwater for a minute or so, thinking for a while, then come up for "normal air"

    Some clients are like dogs who fall in the water off the end of a dock, they paddle furiously till they reach the shoreline and shake all the water in a rather funny and curious way

  • vaxorcist0

    I do remember a smart account planner at an agency I worked for once.... If he were to hear of this, he'd say that the account staff didn't get the project started on the right footing....

    So, I'll go on a tangent and list a project management strategy that's a bit of a hybrid from some agencies I worked at.... possibly more from an ad agency perspective than some others, but I hope it's useful....

    1. What's the business objective? ... how do we define success or failure? any metrics?

    2. what's the target market? name 2 or 3 example personalities, list some central insights into their buying triggers, turn-ons and turn-offs...their hopes/fears/wants/etc... note that they probably have a very different worldview from the client and make sure the client knows this damn well, you may have to remind people of this part.

    >> NOTE that focus groups can be done at the START of a project, to learn these central insight buying triggers and such in your target market, but NEVER at the end! Focus groups exposed to final creative can become like the Gong Show or the judges on "America's Got Talent"

    3. Are there one or two ideas we HAVE to get across, otherwise the project is a failure, or misdirected? Articulate these VERY clearly, and check for this along the way....

    4. Who approves what and when? who provides what and when? what happens if early milestones are missed? how do we decide to revise a decision if we have to?

    Finally, make clear the difference between "Prescriptive Feedback" and "Descriptive Feedback".. the first is trying to take your job, it should beyond illegal, the second is great, tell me how this makes you feel, I might learn something meaningful...

  • kingsteven0

    was discussing this earlier after seeing a document going out of the studio in irish to an english-speeking designer to set in irish with no translation... ridiculous.

  • sigg0

    I always put it like this... Henry Ford would never have walked into his designer's office and said "Build me a car damnit!" and walk out.

    The designers would have to ask "2 or 4 door? Coupe, Sedan or Convertible? v4? v6? v8? SUV? Maybe a van? There are about a million questions, details and direction they'd need before they could start building the car. Would they need to know if the shifter should be carbon fiber or wood grain, or if the cluster should be mounted center or offset? No, those are details that come later after being informed by the design, but you get my drift.

    You can't just build SOMETHING and shoehorn content into it later. Yes it can be done, but I guarantee it's not going to be a great product. Content to an extent, dictates design. As the design progresses it dictates the refinement of content.

    End of thread.

    • nice analogy.. we used to say "if you order a submarine and later want it to fly, it will not be pretty or cheap or fast"vaxorcist
    • but beware, some people think all X's are the same, don't know if their car is v6 or 4 or v8vaxorcist
  • maikel0

    The problem is that what you client think he needs, mixed with what he wants hardly ever has anything to with what he really need.

    Designers' talent lays on finding and explaining to them what they need in such a way that (a) the client will not be reject it (b) will be somewhat visually attractive...

  • capn_ron0

    I personally love when a client has all their content (thinking for print) and gives me the green light to adjust and modify as i seem fit. I think it makes a project run that much more smooth. I have also done a ton of projects where there is no content and I finish the priject and still wait for content. So weird to me. I have also had projects that just fall through the cracks because the client never could finish the content. A finished project on my end and the client didn't give me anything. I still get paid, so what do I care.

  • monospaced0

    I've been in both situations and have had mixed outcomes. My big pet peeve is working with draft content, designing for it with assurances that it is close to final, and then have it change so drastically so close to the deadline that it no longer fits the design. It's frustrating because I/we push for better content and aren't silent on the fact that it influences the design in big ways. We are vocal about the dummy copy we intend to have supplied, and when it is it's sometimes 3X longer than we had bargained for. It's frustrating because it feels like the client ignores the "big picture" design despite their ability to argue over its smallest insignificant detail (like a highlight text color).

    Conclusion: content after design works IF the client is willing to make it fit. Content before design can fail if they aren't willing to change it. Anyway, good luck guys.

    • I've had this happen... copy written in a cave, decisions made without context....vaxorcist