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By Design: My Role at Command C

By: Mary Barbour

I’m rolling into my sixth month here at Command C, which seems like a good time to reflect on what it’s been like for me, as  a Fiction Writer, to get involved with a web design team. I’ve learned a lot these past months and been met with many perks and many  challenges (like how I’m currently resisting  the urge to use allegory and metaphor to further explain this feeling).

Sara and I crossed paths through a 3rd-degree connection – one of those “Hey I have a friend who has a friend who runs a rad company who needs a copywriter!” kinds of things. I’d worked at tech startups before, but, let’s be honest, writers are not usually the people you want fiddling around with your hard drive. Sara had a different approach to her business, though. She told me right off that she  wasn’t interested in hiring “technical writers.” She was adamant about wanting Command C to be a well-rounded group of awesome, creative people, each of whom bring something unique to the team and, in turn, to our clients.

In the first few weeks, I got to know the team and was indeed impressed by how diverse everyone’s talents and interests are. I got the sense that everyone took an inherent satisfaction in their work and was proud of running the kind of business that wants to better the world in all kinds of big and little ways.

For me, everything was smooth sailing at first. Blogging about Content Strategy was a cinch, and having a whole new Facebook audience to entertain is something an author gets pretty excited about.

Then came Month Two. I was slated to post about common industry terms on the blog, so I dove in and started outlining my thoughts. But wait…UI vs. UX? Wireframing? Information Hierarchy? Guided Path Experience?! I began to feel like I was sitting in the back row in Advanced Calculus again, wondering how my TI-82 could possibly need so many buttons and how anyone could ever learn what they all meant.

After the initial fright, some very enlightening research, and lots of helpful phone calls and Q&A with Sara, I realized a couple of things:

1. A new form of work you’ve never done is 1000x less scary once you just jump in and do it.

2. Web Design is, conceptually, incredibly intuitive – at least the basic understanding of it. Sure there are incredibly technical elements that must be left to the pros (cue Sara and Tiffany nodding), but the fundamentals are about communicating to an audience in the most effective way – i.e. thinking about what is a site trying to do and then figuring out how to get there. So, thinking about “information hierarchy” as a way of getting all the important stuff to the foreground, seems kind of like outlining a story before you start writing it.

After this breakthrough, everything started to fall into place.  I realized that the technical lingo exists to make ideas and innovative solutions easier to talk about, but the creativity and imagination behind it is something that extends to all kinds of artistic endeavors. Command C’s approach is to make the web more human and less overflowing with tech jargon. Having a diverse team of smart, creative, engaged people is what enables us to understand a wider audience than we’d be able to if we were all super tech focused in our passions.

I’m glad to be gaining some insight into a new field and to be acquiring knowledge about cool things like responsive design and parallax scrolling.  It’s important to remember that, while you can devote yourself fully to being an expert in a certain field, joining forces with experts in other fields helps to achieve that perfect left-mind/right-mind balance, which ends up benefitting both your own work, and your team as a whole.

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