The Role of Design in Content Marketing

content-marketing-services-santa-cruz-02Content marketing is all about communication: getting our message across to followers and customers. But how do we do that effectively? Ah, the age old question, right?

We are a visual society. I doubt that’s news to anyone. Like it or not, words mean less than images to today’s customers. Reading about this shift in societal norms makes my inner writer cringe; writing it is far worse. I worry that one day all words may disappear completely. Nevertheless, it’s the world we live in, so content marketers must adjust or become obsolete.

ID-100149Contrary to popular belief, however, people do still read. They just don’t like reading a screen full of only words. Your content is far more likely to be read and absorbed if it includes infographics, fun pictures, interesting product shots – anything that appeals to our sense of sight.

Over and over, we hear that images are essential to great content marketing. It’s true. But how do you balance the words and images to make the content you create as appealing, and therefore readable, as possible?

Infographic-Design-Elements-VectorFair warning: I am NOT a graphic designer. I have so little artistic ability I can’t even draw a blank. So if you’re looking for words of wisdom on how to create magical designs, with color balance, alignment, etc., you won’t find it here. Instead, you’ll find them in this helpful guide from Hubspot. (If you don’t already subscribe to their free blog updates, sign up today. No, I wasn’t paid to say that. I just like their stuff.)

However, as a content marketer, I have worked with designers for years, seeking the exact balance between words and pictures for everything from blog posts to emails to social media, all essential elements of successful content marketing and effective communication.

There are four basic rules about imagery I’ve learned along the way:

  1. It must be attractive.
  2. It must be useful.
  3. It must be easy to understand.
  4. It must be fun.


Catch readers’ eyes. Grab their attention. Make images memorable. And make them appealing. Nobody wants to look at ugly images. This means they need to look good, which calls for a level of professionalism, or at the very least appeal. Infographics, for example, need to be ultra-readable and logical, not a free-flowing lump of random facts. Quality matters if you want to create credibility. This applies not only to the imagery but also the copy. Boring copy = bored readers who will move on, thank you very much. Bring great copy and great design together and your customers will sing (your praises)!

Swiss Army KnifeUseful

We’re all looking for information. Your customers and followers want to learn from you. Create images and copy that tell the story and answer questions. Infographics are perfect for this, but photography and illustrations can also tell the story in a fun and informative way. Of course, we are assuming that you have done your research and already know what your customers want because you are a good marketer, right? Cater your messages to those findings.

Easy to Understand

simple-014.jpgKISS, right? (Not the rock band.) Nobody wants to struggle to understand your message. Truth is, they won’t. Once they meet resistance, they’ll quit. There are too many other distractions and options competing for their attention and too many other places to find the same information. The point of your blog or content is to not only provide useful information but also to become the new go-to source so readers will come back and share your knowledge with their friends. There are a thousand ways to communicate the same idea, but there are a million ways to communicate it poorly. Just like PowerPoint slides done right, infographics should be clean and simple, with minimal text for maximum impact. Too much text bogs down the message. Plus, people won’t read it anyway, so what’s the point?


47036176-fun-picturesLike it or not, your very serious, business-focused content is competing with the entertainment world. How many times have you been reading an article or blog post and gotten distracted by a Facebook status update or Tweet? You hop over there to catch up on the latest, make a few comments, share, retweet, post, laugh, and next thing you know it’s half an hour later and you might or might not get back to the original article today. It happens to everyone. (I checked Facebook twice while writing this paragraph.) Your content needs to be engaging and fun enough to grab your reader’s attention and keep it. Or at least make them want to come back and finish.

But what about in a B2B environment? Fun? Really? Yes! Forever we’ve been told that B2B marketing should always be serious, sober, right to the point. Nothing fancy, nothing fun. Hogwash. Good B2B marketing still appeals to people. Decisions to buy are still made by flesh-and-blood people with emotions. Sure, the dollar figures are typically higher, but the basic human emotions are still the same. Don’t believe me? Have you seen the Cisco Valentine’s Day spot? Talk about B2B marketing with a twist!

In the world of content marketing, it’s important that people like your brand voice and how you communicate with them. Visually memorable content grabs attention and keeps it. Boring content gets thrown away or ignored. Set the stage with memorable content, and as they say in the entertainment industry, keep ’em coming back for more!