11 Cooperation Rules for Designers and Content Marketers

Over the years I’ve had quite a few projects where as a marketer I needed to communicate with design teams directly. Sometimes it worked like a charm and the result outperformed our expectations. But often there were issues. We still delivered, but it was more stressful than it should have been.

There were miscommunications and problems that could be easily avoided had we known how to work with each other the right way. That’s exactly why I decided to put together a list of best practices that will help streamline cooperation between marketing and design teams.

What kind of tasks marketers and designers have in common

First, it’s worth mentioning what tasks do marketers and designers work on together. Arguably, marketers cooperate with designers far more than with any other specialists. Simply put, whenever a company needs any kind of creative output, the two departments collide. And here are just some of the work types in which designers and marketers tightly depend on each other:

  • Landing pages
  • Blog content visuals
  • Infographics
  • Competitor research
  • Company presentations
  • Banners for promo campaigns
  • Production of new products

The list goes on, but you get the idea. Whenever there’s a need for high-quality branded content, marketers need design help to make it the best version possible. And whenever a company needs to design a new entity, it’s crucial to evaluate it from a marketing perspective.

One can even go as far as to say that if you want creative work to perform best in the cut-throat environment of today’s web, you need to have designers and marketers put the right and left sides of their brains together.

The 11 rules to follow for efficient design-marketing cooperation

As I was saying, marketers and designers think a bit differently, so there can be massive miscommunications along the way. Below are the rules that I distilled for myself in the last 3 years. These rules proved to make the work easier and more enjoyable for both sides. And this kind of work always brings better results.

1. Use their language

Naturally, marketers are more used to verbally expressing their thoughts and requirements. And designers tend to gravitate towards visual examples and analogies. And this difference can be used to greatly benefit the product they are working on. But first, you need to understand that in order to be heard by your partner you need to try and use their communication toolset.

So if you’re a marketer putting together page requirements for a designer, don’t just practice your skill of writing, look for examples that you like, solutions that can be used for inspiration and anything that can visually show, what is it you’d like to them to make. This is especially good since you don’t necessarily need to gear up on all the design terminology. If you just show them an example of what you like, the designer will know loose leading from tight leading when they see it and you might not.

And if you’re a designer, try to explain your thoughts with words and be patient with us when we ask many questions and request clarifications.

2.Specific requirements and feedback

Both marketers and designers, when creating tasks for one another need to do their best at extracting all their expectations and hopes for the end result and putting them into specs. And when a task is completed, don’t be shy and provide as much real feedback as you can. The perspective of a specialist on the other side of a spectrum helps us look at a problem differently and often results in unexpected benefits for the company.

3. When possible, start with content

This one is controversial, but I’m a strong believer that when creating a website page, or basically any other branded entity, it’s better to start with the content that will need to be displayed. Of course, it may not be the final version, but marketer needs to at least know what message they’ll need to broadcast, what sections they need to have and what content will fill these sections. Then it’s easier for a designer to visualize the data and present it in the most user-friendly and appealing way.

If you’re not convinced that content should come first, let me show an example. The most common case of when design comes before the content are the website templates. You buy a theme with a dozen of neat “lorem ipsum” pages with predefined layouts and start to fill them with your own content. When you inevitably need to adjust the order, size and positioning of blocks the design is instantly off and the page loses all its charm. If you ever used a ready-made website template, you know that that’s exactly what happens. So to make it right, you’d need to have a designer adjustment to the page before the release. This isn’t necessary when the page is designed specifically for the content.

So to eliminate unnecessary iterations and make the design creation easier, I recommend starting with content whenever possible. Of course if the entity you need to create is content-based. If it’s a rock band poster – you can start with design.

4. Proofread final version before sending

Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to avoid all the typos and unfortunate phrasing when sending a larger body of text to a designer. But you can do all you can to avoid mistakes:

  • proofread your work yourself
  • ask a colleague to proofread it
  • revisit it with a fresh eye a day after you’re done.

The reason why it’s so important is that often the layouts on the page and overall good look of the sections depends on the volume of text in them. If you’re going to change those AFTER you’ve sent the alleged final version of the texts to a designer, you may very well expect their rightful annoyance.

So keep in mind that design looks best the way it was intended. And the best way to ensure it is to provide your designer with the content of highest possible quality.

5. Ask all the questions you have

When it comes to cooperation between designers and marketers – guesses and assumptions are your greatest enemies. The more real questions are asked, the higher the chances that you’ll be on the same page and deliver the optimal results. It’s better to ask a silly question than to uncover a misunderstanding too late in the process.

So try to verbalize all the important information about the content you’re working on. Everything goes: from your understanding of the target users and a big picture role of the page for the website to possible changes that will need to be made in a couple of months.

6. Always discuss deadlines to align expectations

We’ve all been there:
Even though the deadline was yesterday, the work you needed to be done isn’t ready yet. It’s maddening, but you’ll be even more disappointed if the work isn’t submitted to you since you didn’t clearly discuss the deadline.

Of course, you can just say that you need something ASAP. But keep in mind that both designers and marketers can go too deep into the rabbit hole. The thing is that you can improve upon creative work pretty much endlessly. And the longer you work on something, the more imperfect it’ll feel to you. So limiting creatives with deadlines is a good thing.

Even if it’s obvious to you, it’s worth reiterating that any type of work(design or marketing) needs to have an agreed upon deadline. And preferably it should be documented via email and during a meeting with more than two people in the room. This isn’t to show that you disrespect the other party. On the contrary, if you do respect them, discuss and come to an agreement on mutually acceptable rules of cooperation and work submission.

7. Discuss possible revisions beforehand

Creatives are often slightly hurt each time someone asks them to adjust the work they did. But sometimes it takes several iterations to get a page or any other content polished. It’s worth discussing beforehand that a task may be moved from “Reviewing” back to “ToDo” as many times as it’ll take to create an acceptable solution. That that goes both for marketers and designers.

8. Ask for opinions/comments/feedback

I know how hard it is to ask for help and accept critical feedback sometimes. Especially if the person critiquing you isn’t working in your field. But in a professional environment, you have to fight your impostor syndrome and embrace any feedback and comments that may come your way. Designers and marketers have a dramatically different vision and understanding of data. So don’t be afraid to point out the things you don’t agree with in copy or design and ask why it was done this way. More often than you think, you’re thinking inside a box and a suggestion from outside may very well help you.

9. Involve each other in discussions

I’m not saying that designers and marketers should sit in during all the scrum events of each other’s departments. But it might be a good idea to involve designers in marketing meetings where you discuss informational architecture and other things that may influence design. This way if you come up with an idea that contradicts some ancient but crucial design best practice, you might save dozens of work hours which would be required to uncover the problem otherwise.

10. Get a grasp of each other’s work

From my observations, more and more marketers start to get a pretty good grasp on design terminology and tools and designers, especially UX, tend to study the marketing books. And it’s a great practice that brings the two closer together and helps them speak the same language.

Even if you’re not working with each other directly now, the two fields are getting closer together, so it definitely can’t hurt study the basics. Just like HTML and CSS knowledge isn’t the most important thing for both designers and marketers, but it certainly helps. So read up to have a basic understanding of design principles and tools that your colleagues are using.

11. Avoid one-time freelance

I learned this one the hard way. But in retrospective, it seems obvious that a one-time freelance contractor, no matter how good, will not be able to dive deep into your project and deliver the result you need. So if you have to outsource work to freelancers from time to time, I strongly recommend to start building relations with several people, or one company, rather than use a different person each time.

Final thoughts

The competition for the eyeballs and minds of users online keeps getting more fierce in all the business domains. This means that design and marketing teams will have to work even closer together in order to deliver messages and experiences to the audiences in an optimal way. The lessons listed in this article proved to be effective in my experience, so I highly recommend to implement them in your work process. Do you have any other advice for streamlining cooperation between designers and marketers? Let me know in the comment section below!