Michelle Zamora

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What does writing have to do with design?

After I graduated with a degree in Nutrition, I had to come to terms with the fact that I didn’t want to be a Nutritionist and I didn’t see myself in any other position in the field. I did some traveling and I started writing more consistently. Mostly I was journaling but finally swallowed my insecurities and made my first blog post. It was a big first step in conquering my fear of putting my thoughts out there, of writing, or getting actual feedback.

Content management is a lot like journaling and creating written archives about one’s own thoughts. Like content strategy and IA, journaling is a way of writing and reading what’s there so you can determine what should remain and what should be forgotten, or forgiven. In the words of Margot Bloomstein in her article on Content Strategy, IA and a thorough content inventory are ways to determine “What’s in and what’s out,” she continues, “How can you plan for the future if you don’t know what you currently have-or what you need?”

It is not a small task to be able to understand basic IA and content management, absorb massive amounts of content in various organizations and forms, and translate it into a working spreadsheet. UX and IA expert Karen McGrane confirms, “We have a responsibility to teach people the basic principles of user experience design, user research and information architecture,” all of which require a skill set in written and verbal communication.

As a visual designer, I love pretty, shiny things and I love big white spaces, but stories and aesthetics are not enough. Many pretty things are often shallow and without structure or depth of meaning. A true understanding of a website from the inside out requires comprehension, critical thinking, and writing. Without these skills, the design falls flat—the thing that the stakeholders and users will actually see and use.

I’m on board with Karen McGrane in all her supposedly nerdy attributes. “It’s exciting!” she exclaims, “It’s Gutenberg-level stuff.” How great is it that we get to figure out why. That we get to figure out how the system works or why it doesn’t. “It’s pattern recognition,” it’s intuition, it’s interest in a system with the deep motivation to learn more, for whatever reason. Maybe it’s a really interesting topic, maybe it’s a really attractive pay off, or maybe it straight up fails at doing its job. The desire to know as much as you possibly can about a system, to break it down into all its various parts, and attempt to understand why it is the way it is or how you can improve it’s functionality is an amazing challenge—one that I too, along with Ms. McGrane, am happy in accepting.

Resources:
You Won’t Finish This Article: Why people online don’t read to the end by Farhad Manjoo
Incorporating Content Strategy into Your Information Architecture by Margot Bloomstein
Karen McGrane on the future of content strategy by Creative Bloq Staff
If you don’t think you need to write good, then you’s an idiot by Mark Busse
Looking Beyond User-Centered Design by Cennyd Bowles
Content Marketing: Is your design killing your content? by Jim Connolly

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