27 July 2022 |

Content & design team collaboration

By Tracey Wallace

Last week, I shared my blog UX component deck to help everyone’s design and developer teams build better, more scalable blogs that convert. You can get that here if you missed it. 

What that deck doesn’t cover, though, is the daily collaboration between content teams and design teams. As y’all know, one of my content mantras for my team is:

Finally, how we present is just as important as what we present. Our content has two seconds to convince someone to continue reading, watching, or listening. The way we present our findings communicates to our audience our level of investment and seriousness about our goal. Our content must inspire and educate without overwhelming—in both the design and the copy. 

This is important, and custom blog design is one of the best, earliest opportunities to reinforce brand aesthetics and authority, as content is commonly one of the first ways folks are exposed to the brand. 

In addition, here is what we know about readers:

This means that content design matters even more than content quality. Full stop. Creating a high-quality, thought leading content program requires collaboration with design so that every piece has the most impact. 

Blog UX is only one way that blogs come to life, and large UX changes typically happen maybe once every other year, if you’re lucky. More often, what is in your control as a content marketer is the tactic designs of each individual piece. 

And to really have an actual say over those designs, you need to build a great relationship with your internal design team, or your freelancers. 

And, to do that, you need to outline what it is you need from them, when, in what kind of regular cadence, and more. 

Here are the elements I include as I build relationships with graphic designers: 

Blog hero images:

Blog hero images consist of two images that are often the same, though can be slightly different: 

  • Meta-image: This is the image that gets pulled through on social. Ideally this is a gif-version of the hero image. Doesn’t need to move much, just a little, enough to get noticed as folks scroll through on social feeds.
  • Hero image: This is the hero image for the piece of content, often the first thing someone sees when they land on the page. It needs to be custom, and interesting enough to encourage them to read on. No stock photos, please.  

Timing & planning:

All of the above should be requested on a monthly basis for the content that is upcoming in the following month. Its critical content teams are working 1-2 months ahead of their calendar live dates so that other teams have enough time to do their highest-quality work. I recommend requesting several generic images per month, as well, so that you can slot those in where other content might fall through. 

Examples I like: 

Quote cards & pull quotes:

These are quotes from experts, partners & customers that a content team wants to turn into shareable social graphics and/or use in the blog to help with scannability.  

Timing & planning:

Quote cards & pull quotes can be turned into templates in Canva that the content team regularly uses to create these custom assets. Ideally the template consists of at least three different variants. Those variants are what you need a designer to create. After that, the onus is on the content team. 

Examples I like: 

Data & charts 

Often, the blog will feature data & charts from Statista or other places on the web that the content team wants redesigned in the company’s branding (with proper citing, of course). Or, there will be data & charts from company decks that need to be better designed, or redesigned, for a reading audience on the blog. 

Timing & planning:

A piece of content needs to be near final to know what will be included. Once a draft is in (at least 2-3 weeks before live date, put in tickets for the designers to update the charts. 

Examples I like: 

Downloadable assets:

If you have to choose between white paper and deck––always go with a deck. This serves multiple purposes:

  1. You now have a gated asset for performance and lead gen. 
  2. You now have a deck you can present at conferences and on webinars. 
  3. The utility of a deck for readers outperforms a white paper, in that readers can screenshot data and use it in their own decks to move internal ideas forward (with your brand earning loyalty and trust as a result). When we do this, we win their hearts & minds, and their future business. 

White papers / decks should:

  • Repurpose an existing brand template to speed up time to design
  • Have a clear table of contents page 
  • Include pull quotes throughout prior to sending off to design
  • Include bullet points and bullet styles (numbered and unnumbered). Folks scan these, too!
  • Have clear header styles and text that is readable! (Too small of text on white papers is my #1 edit to design teams, y’all. It’s been this way for a decade. People scan, yes. But they also need to be able to read if they want to!)
  • Use call-out boxes for special information / highlights 
  • Have a CTA page at the end––likely including a company boilerplate. 
  • Include an author(s) page, with author(s) headshot

All of this should be included in your brief to the design team. This means you need to have the content finalized, and reformat it differently than you blog posts. Make it easy for the design team to help you out! 

Timing & planning:

The content team will get final content over to the design team 3-4 weeks before the gated asset’s launch. 

*Remember, this is only the white paper design. If your team is also responsible for the content landing page, then you’ll also need images for that page based on your landing page template, as well as a meta-image for in case folks share that page out. 

Monthly content newsletters 

Monthly content newsletters need:

  • A new hero image, ideally a gif or custom graphic, and something thematic with the featured content in general
  • Image for each of the featured blogs / marketing resources: This can be repurposed from the hero section above. No need for brand new graphics here. 

Timing & planning:

These are pulled together on a weekly basis, so design heads up is about 3-4 business days. This request is only for one net new asset. 

All right, that’s it! Next week, we’ll look at content repurposing so that you aren’t always creating net new white papers or net new blogs. 

Fun fact, long-form blogs can be whiet papers, or can create 3-4 shorter form gated assets. AND, existing white papers can probably be pretty good blog posts, too. See y’all then! 

A note of this advice:

You do you! 

One content marketer’s best practices aren’t always right for another one, though I do try to distill out the main concepts and core practices I believe everyone can benefit from. That said, you must use good judgment when deciding whether to take advice given from folks on the internet. I am an expert, and this advice comes from my direct experience, but I am not smarter than you, and I have nothing to gain or lose because of what you do.