A Smallish Book about content design

Me and Chelsea Larsson are writing a book together and publishing excerpts from the book as a fortnightly newsletter. Follow along!

When you tell people you are writing a book, they respond with rude questions like What is your book about?” And Can I read it when it’s done?” And I never know how to respond.

So here we go!

What is your book about?

The smallish book” is the world’s first and last philosophy book about content design by Chelsea Larsson and V. Sri, two eccentric content designers who think they are smart and interesting.

Err… what’s content design?

Content design is the principled use of language to help people do things.

Content design is everything it takes to harmonize language and design in a user experience. (A definition of content design)

But it’s more than just computer stuff. It’s a handbook for anyone using language and design to help people do things.

Like, what kind of things?

Content design helps people do things like use software or navigate a website. Or find their way through a video game or a scavenger hunt. Or make sense of a museum exhibit or the award winner envelope at the Oscars.

Yes, it’s a job. There are people who think about how language influences the way people move through an experience. They are called UX writers, content strategists, or content designers, but really your job title does not matter.

So this book is about…

…about you and everything you bring to the practice of content design.

Each of the 12 chapters begins with you.

Can I read this if I’m not a content designer?

If you’re the kinda person to notice a weird information hierarchy on a restaurant menu, or a process in the airport that could be three steps shorter, or some signage that’s unclear, then you already think like a content designer. Welcome aboard.

Everyone does some form of content design in their life. This book is for anyone interested in communicating more clearly and making better sense of the world of words.

Is this a rah-rah, feel-good, everyone should be a writer book?

No, it’s a call to action because our world could be ƒūçKé∂. The world desperately needs more principled thinking about language, because as things get more internet and meta our world is becoming increasingly, language.

I mean that literally. As we move away from the real world” and into screen world, our experience of reality becomes mostly… words.

[Insert doomsday quotes about AI furbies]

To be clear, we are not advocating for more meta. Chelsea and I want the opposite: less meta, less internet, fewer screens.

Content design helps us think more clearly about the paths and signage of the digital world. Even if you’re not a content designer, you should understand how it works so you can demand better design.

Content design? What is that again?

Let me get technical for just a sec: Content design is a combination of user experience (UX) design and human centered design (HCD) and lots of West Coast work ideas formalized in the 1970s, and LANGUAGE, a mind-blowingly abstract framework that is completely human created and used by every person that has ever lived.

Now our minds may be adapted for language, but writing (and reading) is not something we were designed” to do. We created writing to make sense of the world, and in turn, writing helps us make the world more complex. Written language is a tool that lets us hold” and process concepts and transmit them across time and space.

Think about how metaphors enable us to borrow understanding from one domain and map it onto another. Sandwiched between.“ Or how portmanteaus let us juxtapose two disparate ideas in one portable concept. Pastafarian.” Language is powerful.

As the world becomes more internety,“ content design becomes a way to think thoughtfully about our digital reality and make sure our world is logical and true. It’s about designing a world that is accessible to all and fair for the people who use it.

Is this a linguistics book?

This is not a linguistics book. V secretly wishes he were a linguini, and Chelsea doesn’t care (Chelsea: I do!”). For the purposes of this book, we’re philosophants. (Chelsea: I heard we wear flossy pants.“)

What’s this book about, one last time?

This is a book that brings together what two content designers believe about language and design and how we think writers of all stripes can shape the world. This book believes” what we believe. To that end:

This is a book that believes that our socially constructed world is pinned into place by language.

This is a book that believes that we can change the world to look like whatever we want and the principled use of language and design can help.

This is a book that believes that all it takes to change the world are some clearly presented ideas and motivated people.

This is a book that believes there are twelve delicious slices in the content designer pie that is you.

This is a book that believes that thinking like a human can make you a better writer, and that thinking like a writer can make you a better human.

And yes, you can read it when it’s done. Coming soon!

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