Libraries and Content at Code & Creativity

On Tuesday, Code & Creativity held its third gathering of web designers and developers in Chattanooga. If you don’t know, the event is aimed at fostering the community of web professionals within the city by connecting them with each other and providing a forum for sharing ideas and passions. Each event consists of talks from industry leaders followed by informal Q&A sessions. In the words of the organizers, Tuesday’s event “mash[ed] up the worlds of branding and libraries with two spectacular talks.” And spectacular they were.

The featured speakers were Nate Hill, Assistant Director of the Chattanooga Public Library, and Kate Kiefer Lee, a writer and editor at MailChimp and the founder of their voice and tone resource center, They provided attendees with a glimpse into the changing face of libraries and invaluable tips on how to use voice and tone to create brand content that resonates with human beings.

Before I jump into sharing some of the highlights and takeaways from Tuesday’s talks, let me just say this: if you work in the web, whether it’s as a developer, a designer, an SEO, or a marketing professional, and you haven’t attended Code & Creativity, you’re missing out on a wonderful opportunity to learn from others and network within the industry.

Okay, now on with show…

Nate Hill

The central idea behind Nate’s presentation was that libraries are changing. They’re no longer just about providing access to books and encyclopedias. Now, much more than ever, they’re about providing the tools and training necessary to access available technology and digital information. And according to Nate, there are some exciting things going on at the Chattanooga Public Library that fit right in with this shift:

  • The 4th Floor is a 14,000-square-foot space that is used as a lab and educational center for technology, design, and applied arts. In addition to housing equipment, the space is also used for educational programs and events. Its hours will soon expand from 2pm until close, Monday-Friday.
  • Open Chattanooga, a program designed to make government data accessible and useful, launches on December 16th. The hope behind the program is that by making this data readily available to the public, citizens will empower themselves and collaborate to address community issues.
  • The library is working to get iMacs equipped with Adobe products set up on the 4th Floor, making this technology available to students and community residents that might otherwise be unable to access or afford it. The space currently holds a vinyl cutter and a 3D printer, and Nate encouraged everyone to come try them out.

During the Q&A period following his talk, Nate asked us all to bug the library about technologies and tools that would be useful for them to add. He said they’re reactive about that stuff, so if you’ve got an idea, let them know!

Kate Kiefer Lee

Kate knows her stuff. As someone who works with content almost every day, I found her talk incredibly informative and inspiring. There were tons of useful tips throughout her presentation, but here are just a few of the points that really hit home with me:

  • Voice and tone are two different things – It’s important to remember that tone is not voice. Voice reflects a brand’s values and standards and does not change, while tone reflects emotion and is constantly changing.
  • To find your brand’s voice, know your company – Ask questions. Why was the company founded? Who are your customers? What does your company do? This information is vital in determining how you create your content and, more importantly, how you communicate. Voice guidelines should include things like your company’s mission, its brand traits, and its customer types.
  • Match your tone to your content type and your reader’s emotions – There is a time and place to be funny, and there’s a time and place to be serious. Know which content types you can inject humor into and which ones call for a more straight-faced approach. Empathize with your readers. Get inside their heads and try to imagine what they’re feeling at that moment. If they’re happy, how can you use content to help them stay that way? If they’re stressed, how can you help make their day better?

Kate’s presentation included real-world examples of companies that got content right and companies that got it wrong. Some were from MailChimp, and some weren’t. Regardless, they all served to illustrate her point that voice and tone are crucial to creating effective content and building your brand identity. If you want more of Kate’s tips on content, check out her blog.

Time Well Spent

My first experience at Code & Creativity was definitely time well spent. I learned a ton from the presentations, and with so many people from various local companies in the room, there was really a sense of community at the event. It was also great to see a less-traditional design and development topic like content being discussed. It was right up the alley for people like me who work with designers and developers but don’t code on a daily basis. I’m excited to see Code & Creativity continue to grow, and I can’t wait to see what they’ve got lined up for the next one!