Mobile-first, articlization, effective storytelling, long-form journalism, free vs. paywall, responsiveness and fluidity, device independence, tappable design . . .

Is your head spinning yet?

Publication designers today are challenged with not only understanding myriad new terms and content delivery approaches, but also diverse content creation toolsets and platforms. And the demands or targeted approaches of content publishers can be vastly different from one to the next.

Content publishers are relying heavily on their metrics to determine where their audiences are and what they want, and that’s driving their content strategies in specific ways, setting and resetting their course regularly. This can leave a designer in a constant state of reactiveness, always trying to catch up or learn about the next Big Thing just as it’s becoming old news.

As a designer, once you develop your design style skills, they are inherent—they are your style and approach, your secret sauce. But your technical skills are something that needs to continue to grow and adapt, much as they would in any occupation.

Continuing to evolve and grow your expertise of design approaches in relation to publishers’ business needs is a requirement if you want to stay competitive and be where the action is as a designer.

Here are several recommendations for keeping your skills and design approach (and lingo) in top shape:

1) Understand the impending wave of mobile-first, responsive design, and content “articlization” approaches and the impact they will have on the businesses you work with.

Even as the publishing industry moved into the realm of web and digital magazines, content has in many cases remained issue-bound. But that’s been heavily challenged by social media, blogging, and user-generated content, and digital magazine success in its current form has plateaued and declined.

Content articlization impacts a number of things. It sets a continuous pace to publishing content—every day, or even every minute, rather than the weekly or monthly cadence of bundling groups of content as in the past. That impacts scheduling, workflows, and quality requirements.

Idealliance’s upcoming one-day event “Going Mobile” focuses on the challenges and issues around this. Staying connected with organizations like this will help you stay abreast of what publishers are concerned about and what they might be asking you to do next.

2) Hone your technical skills. Really hone them.

Adobe’s newest digital publishing product, Digital Publishing Solution, aims to bust open the regimen of established, stale publishing cycles, providing a platform that can publish content from a variety of sources on a constant basis. And if you haven’t kept up with Adobe Creative Cloud and the broad toolsets it brings to your fingertips, you are missing the mark.

You can learn about both through TFP’s training products as well as through

If you really want to dive into the deep end on your learning, go to Adobe Max. It’s a firehose of technical knowledge across the toolsets, with great networking that really helps you understand where the baseline is for top-notch content creation.

3) Keep up on your reading. Every day.

At Technology for Publishing, we spend a lot of time trying to gather the best news, knowledge, tips, and trends for our readers in our daily blogs. We hear from many of you about the challenges you have and where you need help, and we base our content on that. Check in regularly to see what’s new! You can subscribe to our newsletters here.

We also regularly prepare topic-specific book lists to assist you on various subjects. This month’s feature? Digital design, of course.

Here are several other articles we found to be pertinent to the topic of surviving as a designer in a digital world. They provide great insights from several different angles:

  • The Increasingly Sophisticated Science of Story Page Design
    Michael Rondon begins by saying “the splashy, Snowfall-esque long-form Web piece has changed the role of templates in digital publishing—more and more articles are going off-script with their design. But as those elements become ubiquitous, an expectation rather than an exception for readers and advertisers, it puts a strain on resources.” Read more…
  • Why Digital-First Designers Are the Future of Publishing
    Student Adam Blades, writing for Talking New Media, shares some interesting insights: “Whereas the traditional content creator can assume that their readers can navigate a print product, today’s digital designer must keep the user experience at the forefront of their mind if they are to produce something worth downloading.” Read more…
  • 7 Best Practices for Designing a Mobile User Experience
    Richa Jain shares great tips for shifting your creative thinking and tactical approach when designing for mobile. Read more…
  • Design Online is Becoming More like Print—Why We Think That’s a Great Idea
    AIGA columnist Emma Tucker asks, “Is a beautifully designed piece of print enough, or does a title need to stake its place in both the digital and the physical realm? And if so, how can magazines reconcile the reading experience across these two very different spheres?” Read more…
  • Also, the UC Berkeley Advanced Media Institute has launched a nine-week intensive course on building the next generation of digital media storytellers. It focuses on the strategic implementation and production of digital media content for a web-facing and mobile-first audience. It’s a rich syllabus headlined by some awesome industry leaders.

Surviving as a digital designer today requires a solid sense of what good design is and what appeals to an audience from a reading experience, a visual experience, and an overall storytelling approach. You either have that or you don’t—and too often we see examples that don’t have that! Combine that with an affinity for how to best deliver in today’s digital world and you have the recipe for making magic on-screen.

Easier said than done, but hopefully we’ve provided some good resources to help YOU get there.

CEO Margot Knorr Mancini’s monthly blog on content strategy shares valuable insights and observations from her experiences in the publishing industry. 

Check out her other articles in our Content Strategy section. Also sign up for TFP’s newsletter briefings, including Media Metrics and This Week in Publishing, which highlights our weekly industry news picks and tips to help you stay informed. Have a suggestion for a topic you’d like to know more about? Drop us a note!

Posted by: Margot Knorr Mancini

A thought leader in the publishing industry, Margot Knorr Mancini has helped numerous publishers redefine their missions to become nimble content generators with the ability to repurpose content easily and efficiently. As Founder & CEO of Technology for Publishing, her analytical mind allows her to remain a step ahead of the industry, recognizing early trends and developing pivotal best practices.