Design With Purpose

Design with purpose

As writers, we sometimes forget about the other side of the equation. Layout and design is another important consideration when we want to make sure our message is seen and understood.

First, let’s look at the difference between art and design.

Art is interpreted. Design is understood. It’s two different things. Design is about communicating a message. Art is measured based on individual taste. It’s different viewer to viewer. Design is consistent. Good art is a talent. Good design is a skill. You can learn it and hone it and get better at it.

Art is created for sake of expression. Generally for the artists enjoyment. Design is created for the sake of focused communication. As a designer, your job is to communicate a specific message. Designers are amplifiers, usually on someone else’s behalf. Normally, you aren’t doing it for you, designers work for a business or cause.

Design can propel a business towards success. Design can change people’s minds. Design can change the world. Good design can truly change everything.

Always design with purpose. Know our audience, message, and goals. You are solving a problem. The answer to who is your audience is never “everyone”.

You are all creative, but you need to start thinking like a designer.

The type of file matters.

Do you know the difference between Raster and Vector?

These terms are about how much information is contained and where it will be displayed. Information is stored on color, contrast, etc.. Resolution is determined by # of pixels per inch. Just a fun fact, the human eye can’t distinguish much more than 300 pixels per inch. Raster is a fancy term for grid. Can’t enlarge them easily. Logos should be vectors. Vectors are easy to resize.

As a communicator, you also need to determine how your information translates from a printed piece to information viewed on the web. Some formats and files work better in different platforms.

Print Web


300ppi 72ppi


Color is also important. Color can give meaning and information as well as create emotion. Think about an eye on the stove glowing red. Your brain automatically translates that to mean it’s hot.

It’s also important to know what market your piece will be viewed in. Some colors have universal meanings, but some vary culture to culture.

It’s important to choose the right words to communicate your message. However, utilizing design as a tool can increase that understanding and make it more effective.

What’s in it for me?

fraction of selection model schramm

I read the latest newsletter from Ann Wylie this morning. (If you aren’t familiar with her, you need to be – check out her site.)  In our daily life, messages and information bombard us constantly. As communicators, our goal is to get our message heard, and remembered. Ann shared Wilbur Schramm’s Fraction of Selection model.

He says readers make the choice on diving into our information by asking themselves: “What will I get out of this?” and “What do I have to put into it?”

According to Ann, this means the harder it is for someone to understand your writing, the less likely they are going to spend time reading it. You’ve also got to give them a reward for investing their time with you.

What’s a reward for reading? It’s you, delivering information to makes the reader’s life better or it’s entertaining to them.  It’s even better if you can do both at the same time. I’ve been trying personally to be more intentional with this in my own writing. It really makes you think about the concepts and ideas you are putting on the page. Will someone benefit from the idea? Will it help them achieve a goal? Will it make things easier? If I can’t say yes to those questions when I write, it’s time to delete and try again.

Professionally, I’ve been incorporating more video into our communications. I think this medium allows us as communicators to hit that target easier. People are relying on their phones and tablets more and more to get and retrieve information. Using video allows us to tell stories not only with our words, but with visual images that capture the attention as well.

Being strategic with our storytelling is vital. According to Hubspot  information paired with a relevant image is retained longer by the viewer than those reading the information without one. Hubspot also noted in 2017,  74% of all internet traffic consists of video content. Just using the word video in your email marketing increases the chance someone will open the message.

Schramm’s communication model is even more effective in today’s digital world. As we compete against more and more messages, it’s up to us to create content that provides our followers, readers, and viewers with something real and relevant. Using video is a great way to get noticed. The “what’s in it for me” messaging is key to getting heard and remembered. By pairing the right visual, with information showing real benefit, we’re increasing our chance of successfully delivering a message creates action.

When the words won’t flow

When the words won't flow

Maybe you sit down in front of the keyboard and words flow effortlessly for you anytime you need them to. Lucky you! If you’re like most of us, there are days it’s hard to get the ideas in your head onto the screen. Each piece of writing has a life of its own. Some jump on the page, others have to be fermented and coaxed into existence.

So how can you make sure quality content is delivered each time?

  1. Keep a journal of ideas. Tear out stories that intrigue you. When you are having a hard time coming up with ideas, spend some time looking through your idea stash. I keep a running list in the notes section of my iPhone. When inspiration hits, I jot it down. If you do this, pretty soon you’ll have a long list of writing prompts to get you started.
  2. Maybe your ideas hit when you’re out for a walk or run. Use the voice recorder on your phone and record your ideas. This short message could get you past a block in your current project or maybe it’s the next feature for your newsletter. Ideas tend to flow easier when we aren’t focused on the problem. That’s why it’s important to get them down no matter where they show up.
  3. Procrastination is a 4-letter word. Ok not really, but you know what I mean. Don’t add unneeded stress to the writing process by putting it off. You know the deadline. Set aside plenty of time to get it done. Life will always throw something in the way – doctors’ appointments, children activities, unexpected meetings and phone calls. If you schedule blocks of time, you can make sure these interruptions don’t keep you from producing. If you feel the procrastination trap pulling you in, think about how good it will feel to check the assignment off your list.
  4. Don’t compare your writing to others. Everyone has their own style. Don’t let your fear of not measuring up keep you from writing.
  5. Make sure your writing showcases your personality. If you love what you do, make sure it shows through in what you write. Others will pick up on your enthusiasm and enjoy reading what you are producing.
  6. Read what others are writing. What tone of voice do they use? How do they set a scene? Why do you like their writing?
  7. Notice the power of words around you. When you see an ad that speaks to you, think about why it got your attention. Does a campaign tell a story? Does it cause you to feel certain emptions? Think about your writing and how you can use these elements to make your message stronger.

Writing requires patience and practice. Don’t get frustrated when the words are slow to flow. Try out a few of these ideas and see if you aren’t soon filling page after page.