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Playing a product design role as a content designer -- podcast with Jonathon Colman

by Tom Johnson on Aug 24, 2020 •
categories: technical-writing podcastswriting

In this podcast, I chat with Jonathon Colman about an innovative work model they implemented at Intercom with content designers. In their experimental model, content designers were allocated to one project only, and they expanded their roles to include not only content design but product design as well. These content/product designers engaged on a deeper level to help products succeed.


In my series Reflecting seven years later about why we were laid off, specifically in Part IV: Engaging deep enough to blur the lines between content and product design, I explored a model promoted by content designer Jonathon Colman in which content designers are allocated to one project only. Because of their more specialized focus, these writers play roles that blur the lines between content design and product design.

Jonathon gave a presentation on this topic — titled How we destroyed content design — at the Design & Content Conference 2020 conference. I wanted to interview Jonathon to find out more details and insights about this topic, so I reached out to him for this podcast interview. The podcast is available as both a video and audio recording.



If you prefer audio only, you can listen here:

Podcast topics

Here are some topics we chat about:

  • High-level summary of his presentation, How we destroyed content design
  • The impetus behind the switch to this new model (includes a story with a Shazam-like app from Facebook)
  • Feeling commitment to a product’s success even you aren’t the product owner/manager/designer
  • When and how to disagree and commit on a product’s features when you don’t necessarily buy into the point or purpose of a feature
  • Re-allocating content designers to one project only
  • Deciding how to focus resources and say no to projects that aren’t a strategic priority (and which might not need content design resources)
  • Expanding the role of content designers to include product-design roles, and what exactly that includes
  • Career trajectories and growth patterns, not only for content designers but also technical writers

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About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm a technical writer / API doc specialist based in the Seattle area. In this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, visual communication, information architecture, writing techniques, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out simplifying complexity and API documentation for some deep dives into these topics. If you're a technical writer and want to keep on top of the latest trends in the field, be sure to subscribe to email updates. You can also learn more about me or contact me.