From Eye to Brain: Content Design & the “Last Mile” Problem

Peter Meyers (Citia)
Location: Broadway Ballroom South Level:
Average rating: ****.
(4.29, 7 ratings)

Admit it: even word lovers think twice before plowing through a massive wall of text. Triaging tweet lists, browsing article summaries, skimming short-form content: it’s all training us to read at a higher velocity. Why aren’t writers and publishers rethinking how they compose content? It’s time to experiment with new ways to make an author’s thoughts compelling, comprehensible, efficient, and memorable.

Design ideas this session will explore include:

  • Multi-sized versions. Different sized servings can satisfy different reader needs. Think, from short to long: executive summary, full article, deep dive into raw sources.
  • Key point extraction. Body text has served writers well for centuries, but its blocky bulk—its wall of type—sometimes slows readers from quickly accessing an author’s big ideas. Why not pose takeaways before a reader starts, giving her a way to decide prior to committing her time.
  • Layout innovation. Are there ways to use page composition and typography to convey meaning? Back in the 1950’s so-called Concrete Poetry did lots of artful experiments; we’ll look at ways the digital canvas lets authors explore 21st century versions of this idea.
  • Picture/prose integration. Our writing tools tend to rigidly separate image and text. The result is a sequential scroll in which the two media types rarely work together. This feels like a missed opportunity. We’ll consider some innovators who have demonstrated the compelling payoff to integrating word and image.
  • Better writing and editing. Calling Strunk & White! Why does it seem that book publishing conferences never discuss the raw material at the heart of our business? We’ll consider—briefly—a tech-free way to improve a publication’s power: sharper, shorter writing.
Photo of Peter Meyers

Peter Meyers


VP, Editorial & Content Innovation, Citia. I write about and help create reader-friendly digital books. Author of “Breaking the Page: Transforming Books & the Reading Experience” and “Best iPad Apps” (both O’Reilly).

I co-founded one of the first multimedia textbook publishers (Digital Learning Interactive, sold in 2004 to Thomson Learning). I’ve also written extensively about the strange and wonderful effects of computers on mainstream culture for many publications, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Wired, Salon, and the Village Voice.

My undergraduate degree is from Harvard, where I studied American history and literature, and I have an MFA in fiction from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. I live with my wife and two daughters in “upstate Manhattan” (aka Washington Heights).


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