That Time a Famous Illustrator Taught Me About UX Writing

Or, Christoph Niemann’s Guide to Meeting Audience Needs

I was so excited to see Christoph Niemann’s talk for the 2017 Master Series Award and Exhibition — and I didn’t even know his approach to design would translate 1:1 to writing.

In the midst of his aesthetically pleasing slideshow, he used an aesthetically pleasing flowchart (which I have recreated below) to explain why the first step in design is to understand the context in which your audience will view your work.

That is to say, taking a user-centric approach. Sound familiar?

He divided all audiences into 2 groups: Those who want something from you, and those you want something from.

Someone wants something

Then, he broke each of these audiences into 2 types: Those who have all the time in the world, and those who are in a hurry.

Hope these colors don’t hurt your eyes

Finally, he showed what kind of work each of these audiences might need, expect, enjoy, or find useful from a designer.


Writers of all kinds — but especially UX Writers — can, do, and should take the same approach: consider context first to cater your writing to your audience’s needs or wants at the moment of delivery. My writers’ version of his flow chart is below:

Look out for my novella “The Adventure’s of Log Lady’s Log”

As a UX writer, you want your audience to perform a task, but they won’t want to spend more than the minimal amount of time to get it done. That’s why it’s so important for UX writing to be clear, concise, and actionable.

Make it helpfully snappy!

I love this simple model for deciding content’s style and purpose, and I love that it came from the mind of an illustrator. Has a designer or illustrator ever taught you about writing? Let me know!

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