Generating content

Because you’re a designer, not a writer

Spend more than a few months as designer, and one of the first things you will realize is that a far larger portion of your job turns out to be writing content.

I have learned over the years that when people say they want a website, or brochure, or infographic, whatever it is they’re asking for, what they mean is they want you to both design it and come up with the content, and it can be like pulling teeth to get what they want to say out.

“We need a website!”

“Awesome — happy to help”

“Can you just put something together? Something simple, clean.”

stares at blank screen.

So here is a set of prompts to that you can curate to give to whoever you’re working with to help them generate content.

Content Prompts*

  • What’s the one thing you would want someone to know?
  • What’s the one thing they should do?
  • Who are you trying to help?
  • How does this make the person who will be using this better?
  • What problem does this solve for them?
  • What are your core values?
  • If you could only have headlines, what would they say?
  • What kind of credibility does you or your business have? Years of experience? Awards? Certifications? Testimonials?
  • What impact have you already made or hope to make?
  • How does what you produce, make, or do, work?
  • Where are you located?
  • How should people get in contact with you?
  • Someone asks you about your website in the elevator — what do you tell them? Bonus points if you actually do this then record their questions and how you answer them.
  • What do others have to say about you, your product, or your service?
  • Do you have teammates to feature? What do you want to say about them? What details do you want included?
  • What products or services do you provide?
  • Why are those better than your competitors?
  • What social media do you have?
  • What is the story behind you, your product, or your service?
  • How long have you been doing this?
  • What options do you have?
  • Do you have pricing tiers? What is different about the tiers?
  • Are there important numbers to communicate? Number of locations, number of satisfied customers? Number of options? What are they?
  • What videos or imagery do you have available?

Content type specific

  • Are you considering a blog? Are you really sure you want a blog?
  • Why should someone read your blog?
  • What topics could you write about?
  • How often will you publish?
  • In-person? Online? Hybrid?
  • What is it? What will the atmosphere be like?
  • Who is speaking? What is their credibility? What topics?
  • Who is it for? (Everyone is never the answer). Why should someone go? What will they get out of it?
  • When is it? Where is it?
  • What format is it? Lecture? Panel? Interactive workshop?
  • Who should come to this course? (Everyone is never the answer)
  • What problem do they currently have that this course solves?
  • What will someone learn?
  • What pre-work is there?
  • How long should it take?
  • Who is teaching?
  • Why are they qualified to teach?
  • How long have you been doing this?
  • Do you have any certifications?

Other helpful tips

  • Using words like “you” and “your” instead of words like “we,” “us,” and “our” is a great way to speak to others and communicate that what you have is for them.
  • Consider writing out a short version and a long version to every question. This gives you different options for content design.

A few caveats

  • This list is not comprehensive and is not meant to indicate any particular order or importance of content.
  • Some questions may seem redundant, but I find that asking similar things in different ways will help elucidate different angles.
  • This does not remove the work of designing the content — this is where your expertise as a designer comes in!
  • This is not meant to generate final copy — it’s something you both can work from to edit and revise.

Ashley Crutcher is a Digital Designer at InterVarsity located in Madison, WI. She tweets at @ashleyspixels and enjoys cuddling with her furkiddos, working with yarn, ringing handbells, and thinking too much about everything.

Digital Designer

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