Content Design London

A new course from CDL: How to work in the open

18 May 2020

By Giles Turnbull

Content Design Content Process

You’re designing your content, you’re iterating it all the time. You’ve read Content Design and contributed to the Readability Guidelines. You’re doing all the good stuff.

And you might have found yourself having to explain your actions to others. To bosses or funders or colleagues or peers or potential new recruits or a thousand others. They need to understand the skills you have as a content designer, and the value that content design can add to an organisation. Talking openly about your work requires skills and techniques that often overlap with content design, but aren’t always the same.

Hello, my name’s Giles, and maybe I can help.

I’m CDL’s first guinea pig

In a blog post summing up success in 2019 and plans for 2020, Sarah said that one of the goals for the year ahead was “evolving our courses”.

As part of that, I’m going to be piloting a brand new course under the CDL banner. The working title is “How to work in the open”, and the first session should be happening later this summer (coronavirus permitting, of course).

It’s a new experiment for CDL and for me. Like Sarah, I used to work at the Government Digital Service where I was part of a creative team helping to explain GDS’s work and approach to the outside world. We made, or helped to make, lots of graphic designs, videos, presentations, and blog posts.

Since leaving the civil service I’ve done a bunch of other things, including editing Content Design. Almost everything I’ve done professionally since then has been based, to some degree, on what I learned by being part of that team and that organisation. In this course, I’ll try to share some of that knowledge with you.

Sort of content design but not

Working in the open shares many things with the realm of content design, but the two things are not the same. For one thing, there’s rarely a set of user needs to meet. That takes a bit of getting used to. You need to blend some of what you know about content design with a little bit of propaganda, a little bit of advertising, a smidgen of journalism. There’s a lot more room for creativity and new ideas; on the other hand there’s more scope for making bigger mistakes, in public.

In the places where the realms overlap, there are ways you can use everything you’ve learned from reading Content Design to help you come up with creative and effective ways to talk about your work in the open. Even when some of it is commercially too sensitive to share at all. In this course, I think we’ll be covering things like:

  • how to use a blog as an external team brain,
  • how to use presentations well, and when not to,
  • how to make or commission good video content,
  • creative ideas that make people think about your work.

… and more. We’re working on a full course plan and we’ll publish it soon.

Keep an eye on our Eventbrite page for this and other courses.

Thanks for reading this far, from this guinea pig. Maybe see you soon?


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