Content Infrastructure Design: What Is It?

The situation might be a rather familiar one to anyone in a multidisciplinary field. You’re at an event or conference (glass of wine in hand) talking with some friendly people you’ve met over the course of the day, getting a feel for what it is that everyone does.

You all start taking out your cards and passing some around. In my case, the reaction is usually a curious, “Content Infrastructure Design. Huh. Never heard of that. So, what is it you do, exactly?”

In a nutshell, I help print and digital content platforms (like magazines or websites) by designing sustainable structures and practices off of which they can work.

Sometimes I get a well-meaning, “Oh, so you’re like an editor, right?” Not quite.

True, I started my career as an editor with some larger, global magazine brands. And yes, I am also a journalist and writer. That said, Content Infrastructure Design is more involved than just managing text and writers, or even hands-on creating of content for a magazine or website.

Occasionally someone might say, “You’re a project manager for publishing, then.”

That’s only one part of what I do. Content Infrastructure Design does, at its core, involve project management. However, it also goes beyond publishing project management by holding direct stakes in creative direction, and content creation and management. I regularly find myself directly involved in creative and design production, advising about things like story and image selection, content pacing, text design based on reader behaviour statistics, paper choices, binding techniques, designing and developing documentation systems, and even distribution.

A Content Infrastructure Designer (or CID) has enough experience in publishing and product development to be able to design and optimise:

  • teams
  • workflows
  • timelines
  • product design and features
  • content management
  • creative direction
  • technical specifications
  • digital content production
  • front-end development
  • marketing

so that your content is delivered at its best, and your platform or magazine is an attractive, growing, thriving organism that will still be around in the long run.

I decided to start offering Content Infrastructure Design as a service because over the years I was regularly being asked to carry out a recurring set of tasks for a certain kind of client. These tasks required me to pull together my experience and skills in publishing, project management (often for specific fields like fashion, or markets like Japan), branding and marketing, editorial, psychology, linguistics, localisation, and front-end development.

Many of the clients I was working with for erstwhile editorial or localisation work turned out, after a needs assessment, to actually be wanting to build print or digital content platforms that came out at regular intervals with a certain volume of content, but weren’t sure how to take it from the initial idea to a final reality.

Maybe it was because they loved magazines, but weren’t sure how they were structured or what went into actually putting one to print. In other cases, it was because they had a great concept but didn’t know anything about integrating developer-controlled stakes and other tech-related factors into editorial workflow, content management systems (CMS), or managing a content team.

In essence, clients who fell into this category all wanted the same set of core services; they were all about building a stable substrate from which regular content production could flow in a structured, consistent way. So, I started offering Content Infrastructure Design as a comprehensive package of services for these clients.

Without question, Content Infrastructure Design services should be tailored to meet the needs of each client—whether they’re large-scale magazine brands, mid-level online content platforms, or small-scale book series productions. I believe the ultimate goal of a CID should be to make sure that the platforms they help launch and/or grow can continue to function and evolve in an efficient way with positive results over the relative longer-term.

Some projects see a CID joining in at the point of creating the first issue or preparing for a platform launch. These are often the projects which are mostly focussed on implementing efficient workflows, stable frameworks, and clearly executed best practices. Other projects have one coming in during a shift in branding or concept, which is also a great entry point for optimising existing infrastructures and integrating new ones. Even small-batch projects like a short book series can benefit from CID, allowing the infrastructure build for the first volume to be a template for following ones, saving time, money, and guesswork.

Having a CID build the architecture of a publishing project can be a crucial investment in the long-term success of the publication or platform. With solid practices, transparency for all teams and stakeholders involved, and rolling analysis of workflows to reduce errors and improve delivery, time and resources will be optimised from launch.

If you’re not sure whether a CID is someone you might need to work with for your publishing project, take a look at what to consider when working with one to better understand what clients can expect, and decide what’s best for you. Remember — above all, a good CID will always have the long-term sustainability of the project at the heart of their concerns.

Want examples? Visit anomiseditrix.net to see some projects that have benefitted from my CID work.