Module 1, Part 3 – Content Strategy with Professor Phillip Simon
After giving my own relationship with content some thought, I realized that I have a two-fold relationship with content. First, I am a consumer of content and second, as a designer and digital creative, I am a content creator. Warning: this post is a personal reflection, touching on theory and may differ from my usual practical and exploratory writing on communication subjects.
From the moment I entered this world, much of my experience has been receiving and absorbing man-made media in the form of audio and visual recordings. This would be opposed to non-man made experiences such as nature, the elements, physical growth, and interactions. They have shaped most of my memories, knowledge, tastes and working understanding of the world. Like food and clothing, first I had no choice what I was fed, then I matured and began to feed and dress myself. My childhood memories as a consumer of content included listening to Salsa on my mother’s radio, watching cartoons on television Saturday mornings and after school. Reading books for school. My content choices, like fashion, came to be part of my identity. The music I listened to made me feel like part of a group, just as fashion reflected my sense of self or mood. Growing up in an urban environment, I imagine that media had a large role in forming my mind, opinions and worldview, even when I had physical experiences such as playing sports, somehow they were supplemented and validated by what I saw on screen or read.
As I write this post, I become fully aware that I am a content consumer through and through and content consumption is actually a life function. Later, as I carved out space in the world for myself (my own room, my own apartment, my own house), I began collecting media, mostly music and film in the form of physical media (books, photos, cassettes, VHS, CD’s, DVD’s, Blu-rays etc.) the behavior came naturally, like my parents and grandparents buying records of their favorites music, it became a tradition to play music around the holidays and during some activities. Content I purchased was important to me for some reason, it evoked emotion, was nostalgic or represented some idea I wanted to keep and store. The physical relationship to content was an extension of my memory. A warehouse of triggers that would stir thoughts or bring back moments from my life.
As a father, content became a way of interacting with my children and passing on lessons and values beyond what they learned on their own or from their formal education. The comic book heroes and villains that I met as a teenager are now revisited as blockbuster films we can share. Star Wars is now a multi-generational saga. But I also noticed that something has changed, and my sons do not share the need to collect as I had learned from my parents. Their relationship to media is more ethereal, they are not compelled to “capture” moments, almost confident in their knowledge that the media will always be there on the web, a click away on their devices.
As a content creator, my artistic tendencies drove me to my career. Enjoying drawing evolved into a graphic design trade. Communication became a game, a puzzle of words, shapes, and colors I needed to figure out for my clients and employers. Eventually, print designs become interactive and I enjoyed having a whole new set of technical challenges to solve. I came to frame and manage the content of others as a communication manager: in brochures, ad campaigns, recordings, emails, websites, interactive assets. Content was just part of working. And I needed to work, my parents were immigrants from Puerto Rico, they came to this country with only hope. That meant, to attend college, amass wealth and provide for myself and family, I needed to keep a steady stream of income. If I didn’t work, I didn’t eat and luckily, I had the luxury of finding work in a field I found interesting.
Personally, my own content creation revolved around my portfolio, self-representation, a way of getting the next job, making pitches, arranging samples, describing projects. As you can see from this website, it has been a journey. Now as I complete grad school, I prepare for the next stage of my life and the pressures of the changing landscape. To endure, I will need to produce and share content. Content is currency, content is life, either making my own or helping others share theirs.
In my freelance practice, I have always tried to communicate with clients early and perform a quick audit of their content. Content informs designs. Form follows function and the function is conveying a message and encouraging action. If they are unclear about their goals, mission or tangible benefits from their services, I often offer guidance and advice as part of the creative process. It becomes easier to offer solutions when there is substance to draw from. I love both the message and the medium, the design and the development. I do not see them as separate but rather two components of the final product that feed each other achieving gestalt, an organized whole that is perceived as more than the sum of its parts.
Perhaps as I continue to master my craft, I will offer some content that others may wish to capture, that may be worthwhile, impactful and meaningful. Perhaps as culminations of what we consume and create, we are also individually achieving a form of gestalt. Enrichment of the mind and soul through our relationship to content.
Resources & References
Casey, M. (2015). The Content Strategy Toolkit: Methods, Guidelines, and Templates for Getting Content Right (Voices That Matter). New Riders. Retrieved from https://www.amazon.com/Content-Strategy-Toolkit-Guidelines-Templates/dp/0134105109
The Discipline of Content Strategy. (2008, December 17). Retrieved from https://alistapart.com/article/thedisciplineofcontentstrategy
Content Strategists: What Do They Do? (2020, January 18). Retrieved from http://contentini.com/content-strategists-what-do-they-do
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