Humans of dxw: from bra fitting to content design
It feels good to find a job that combines things I love thinking about: words and people
Before I was a content designer, I was:
- an English literature graduate with more rejections in my inbox than spam
- a bra fitter
- an unpaid intern for a magazine, then a staff writer on minimum wage
- a content person in 3 different places, writing about barbering, mental health and holidays
I always wanted to do something with words. The something part of that sentence took me up to a decade to figure out. I’m probably still figuring it out.
I’m alright at English so I’ll just keep doing it
School, Scholastic Book Fairs and my local library, Blue Anchor Library, fed my love for words. English was the thing that made me sit up and pay the most attention at school.
I just figured I’d keep doing English until I couldn’t anymore. I really enjoyed most of it (not you, Chaucer). Doing Maths and Physics showed me what I could do very badly. English was my path of least resistance. And finding an adult job I could do English in… I’d worry about that later.
My dad is a chef and my mum is an accountant. I would be awful at either job. People would be eating very average food. Companies would go out of business.
So I carried on learning about words by doing English Literature at university and then spent the start of my career unlearning some of it, because regular people don’t want things written the way lecturers sometimes do. (In case you’re wondering, content designers don’t need an English degree. Half of our team doesn’t have one.)
Don’t tell anyone, but I don’t know if I want to be a writer
When I finally got my first writing job, I was over the moon. I couldn’t contain the excitement I had about all the different ways I could arrange words. But something kept happening in each writing role I had. One day I’d wake up and feel disillusioned about the content I got to create every day.
Do people even read what I write? And an even scarier question to ask: if they do read it, do they think it’s any good?
Feedback from peers could be positive but I didn’t know if the 400 or so words I’d slung together actually helped anyone choose the right hotel in Dubai or safari treehouse in South Africa (never been to either).
I know some excellent writers who can craft a subscribe-worthy newsletter, an Instagram post worth double tapping and a hotel description so good you’ll part with some precious annual leave days. These fine writers love their craft and I do too.
There was just something missing. Some days I felt like the expectation was for my brain to be a pasta roller, something to push a brief through and out pops some good content. Do any of the words make a difference? I want to know what the person eating the pasta thinks.
Bra fitting and user-centred design: a venn diagram
Before I got my first writing job, I was a bra fitter. I wanted to try bra fitting because of the awful experience I’d had as a customer in a different shop. The person meant to help me was brusque and didn’t hide their impatience at the awkward teenager they’d been burdened with. And knowing what I know now, they didn’t even get my size right.
When I started learning about user needs and content design, I noticed all the similarities between designing around user needs and bra fitting.
You’d start by asking open questions about what the person needed and wanted. What kind of bra were they after? Did they sit down a lot for work?
Then you’d bring in the bras, or prototypes, if you will, for the person to try on and whittle down. Throughout the process you’d ask more questions: How does it feel? Is it comfortable? What’s not right about it?
Writing something you’re proud of is fulfilling. But it doesn’t warm me quite as much as knowing you really helped someone.
After years of creating more content rather than questioning whether people actually needed it, it feels good to find a job that combines things I love thinking about: words and people.
Burnout and quitting led me here
As I ummed and ahhed about how I’d write this, an apparent core memory popped into my head.
I was in the Lake District, watching my friends play questionable pool in a basement instead of being outside. To make things even more interesting, I was talking to a friend of a friend about work.
We’d both just quit our jobs and bonded over how we felt simultaneously glad and uneasy about it all. Neither of us had anything lined up (but we were both privileged enough to make that decision anyway).
I quit because I had burnout and after that came 6 months of thinking about what I wanted to do. My travel writing experience and lovely former colleagues gave me the chance to do some freelance work to fill the time and bank account.
Then I found the content designer role at dxw. A job all about words and people. I get to think about them both and how to get the right combination so that people are happy and the words don’t make anyone mad or sad.
I’ve been here almost a year now and I love it.
Chanel Diep charts her path from bra-fitting to designing user-centred content.