Copywriters and content designers

We spend a fair amount of time talking about the term ‘content design’.

That’s ok. It was used in the beginning as a conversation starter.

So it is doing its job. But there’s still some weirdness around the term and I have had a number of conversations recently where there’s some snobbery about whether you are a content designer or a copywriter. I’d quite like to knock that on the head.


Different, not better or worse

I was a copywriter. I started at Ogilvy’s and Saatchis. Traditional, ad-world copywriting. I don’t see content design as better – I see it as different. Personally, I have a very analytical mind. I love data and evidence. I see the discipline of content design, in the way we developed it for GOV.UK, as being steeped in research and reflecting whatever the audience want and need, rather than what the organisation wants to say.

Some copywriters do that. Some editors do that. All content designers do that.

Content design is comforting

My audience will tell me everything I need to know.

They’ll show me the language to use.

They’ll tell me what information they need.

At what time.

On what channel.

In which format.

I find it comforting.

To be honest, I find it a massive relief.

I don’t need to have all the answers.

Content design is the discipline of finding what your audience wants and giving it to them where and when they want it, in a way they can digest it. Content designers will not publish whatever the organisation wants. It’s about having research to make sure that everything published is entirely user-centred.

The way I used to do copywriting was to draw people in using only the ideas in my head. I would pull my audience through a literary path of imagination towards a product I wanted to sell.

Different start points. For me, copywriting is inwards, out; content design is outwards, in. (If you see what I mean.)

Some people have both skills, some excel at one.

There’s a place for both.

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