Content vs. Design: Is One More Important Than the Other?

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If you’ve been floating around the digital space for a while, you know the saying “content is king”. But where is a king without his queen? We’re here to argue that design is just as important, and a more fluid approach to pairing the two will yield better results.

Here’s a little history lesson: the term content is king was first coined by Bill Gates in 1996. It was the name of his essay, in which he predicted content would be where the real money is made on the internet.

One of the exciting aspects of the internet is that anyone can produce and publish any digital content. Which, at the same time, is the culprit of it all. We’re presented with an information overload each time we go online, which decreases our attention span drastically.

Approaching content and design as an enhancing duo rather than two separate entities, makes competing for attention much more viable.

Although content is still extremely relevant, it wouldn’t be anywhere without design. So, which is which? What comes first, and is one more important than the other? Let’s establish some answers!

What is content?

First things first, we’ll establish the meaning of content. Precisely what is content?

Content refers to information produced and presented to an audience or end-user. It can have numerous purposes, come in multiple forms and be delivered via different channels.

Examples of digital content are social media posts, blog articles, videos, and podcasts. Although digital content production is what you may think of first, let’s not forget about traditional forms. Books, magazines, television advertisements, etc.

Why is creating content important?

Creating content is a time-consuming task, as it will only benefit your business when it’s of high quality. It should be useful, relevant and informative. As a business owner, your colossal to-do list needs careful curating. Is it necessary to add another task to it? Why is creating content important?

It’s essential to create content since it comes with numerous benefits to help your business grow.

Good content…

  • Brings relevant traffic to your website.
  • Forms a bond between your audience and your brand through storytelling.
  • Encourages your audience to take action and perform the desired conversion.
  • Helps search engines rank your website higher.

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What is design?

If you think of design, you may instantly think of the looks of something. While aesthetics play a significant role in design, there’s more to it.

According to the Japan Institute of Design and Promotion:

“We consider design to consist of the series of processes of thinking constantly about people most of all, identifying objectives, and planning ways to achieve them. We believe that what is realized as a result of this process is one design solution.”

There is so much more to design than just making things look good. Quality design has multiple benefits.

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Quality design…

  • Speaks to your customers by representing your brand.
  • Ensures a lasting first impression through unique graphics.
  • Helps boost sales by attracting more potential customers.
  • Improves usability.

Content vs. design

Where a content writer may argue that content is imperative to design, and a designer vice versa, technically, they are equally important. Think of a beautiful car as the design in this narrative, but its engine as content. One is useless without the other, and only together can they fulfill their purpose.

Without design, your content looks boring. Unreadable, even. Remember, someone once designed the font type you use! On the other hand, your design may not be actionable without content. What is a banner with stunning graphics without a call-to-action?

The power duo

Instead of thinking about content and design as separate entities, arguing about who gets first place, let’s look at them as a joint collaboration.

Don’t pour your heart and soul into writing digital content only to find a couple of mundane stock photos and toss them somewhere between your text. Additionally, don’t spend ages creating a stellar design only to have your text completely miss the point.

Give both content and design the attention they deserve by thinking of them together. This is crucial to obtaining high-quality design and valuable content.

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Five tips for pairing content with design

When graphics and digital content are paired together, a better user experience is achieved. Here are five tips to get your content writers and designers on the same page, ensuring a successful collaboration.

1. Understand the purpose

Your content team may work towards one goal, whereas your designers may work towards another. But when it comes to content design, both must be considered.

Your content may aim to inform readers about a specific topic, whereas your designers create graphics that highlight certain aspects. Once you bring both parties up to speed, they can create an informative piece that accentuates key points.

A great example of matching the purpose of content and design is through infographics. Infographics accomplish both the content and design goals, ensuring effective content design. It grabs the reader’s attention, highlights key points, and educates the audience.

2. Establish a starting point

Even though design and content are equally important, there is still the elephant in the room: which comes first?

We’ve briefly mentioned the content-first approach is favored by many businesses. This approach can offer a framework for design, streamlining the process.

Design typically captures and brings forward the crucial parts of the information. Which only works if your designer has an idea of what it’s about.

Working on design and content simultaneously may lead to two completely different concepts, which must be revised and edited multiple times.

That doesn’t mean you should create all of your content before thinking of design. The process should still very much go hand-in-hand. Once you have a framework for your content, it’s time to get your designers involved!

3. Manage the workflow

We have one word for you here: deadlines. Break up each project into smaller chunks for both content and design. Assign deadlines to each part of the process, and make sure everyone involved can see these deadlines.

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Create a content calendar and establish what design you need. Get into the nitty-gritty instead of jotting down general topics and dates. Establish the goals of each content piece separately. If you have recurring design tasks, such as blog covers, add those to the content calendar as well.

4. Collaborate

If there’s one takeaway, it’s this one. Make sure your whole team is on board with seeing things as a collaboration. Instead of your writers focusing solely on copy and your designers on graphics, make sure they understand the importance of both.

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One way to do this is by opening up a direct line of communication between them. Let writers suggest designs, and allow designers access to the content drafts. Of course, each is a professional in their respective field. But collaborations can spark creativity and encourage some out-of-the-box thinking.

5. Branding is key

Consistent branding is vital to show who you are and get your message across coherently. Make sure both your designers and content producers are fully aware of your branding and the story you’re trying to tell.

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A brand guide is a great way of laying ground rules. With a guide like this, everyone understands how to utilize your brand’s style. While your logo, color palette, and typography may be apparent additions to the guide, consider including the tone of voice and key messages as well. This will help content writers maintain a consistent style, no matter the topic at hand.

Examples of great content design

With these tips in mind, let’s look at some examples where content and design are seamlessly utilized together, forming the power couple that they can be.

Graphic design timeline

We’ve briefly mentioned how infographics are a fantastic way of showcasing your content visually strikingly. Case in point: this stunning timeline created by Seham Hakmi.

Content-wise, there is quite a lot to unpack here. But through clear visuals, it’s a smooth reading experience for the intended audience.

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Travel advertisement

One of ManyPixels’ designers created this display advertisement, a perfect display of design and content working their magic together.

Beautiful imagery evokes an emotion, namely the desire to pack your bags and go on an adventure. The cherry on top is the call-to-action, with a non-traditional approach saying, “let’s go.”

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Presentation design

Another example of content and design playing a crucial role together is presentations. Your audience is presented with a lot of information. Both storytelling and design are vital to keep their attention.

Below is an example of a ManyPixels’s presentation design for Brobs Projects. The branding colors are used throughout. Icons and a hierarchy of information help with readability. Lastly, illustrated graphics are added to make it visually exciting and fun.

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Final thoughts

Content teams and design teams are bound to butt heads. Both consist of competent, skilled professionals in their respective creative fields, so it’s unavoidable there is some ego involved. But at the end of the day, they are working towards the same goals.

A more fluid approach to putting both content and design on the same pedestal, giving them both the attention they deserve, is bound to lead to better results.

We hope our tips will help you shift your focus toward a more fluid approach in content and design!

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Guest Writer: Simone Timmers

May 20, 2022

Simone is a writer, dividing her time between native Netherlands and 'home away from home' Malawi. Whenever not stringing words together, she's either on her yoga mat or exploring any off the beaten track she can find.