When 2+2=5…or How to Be Greater than the Sum of Your Parts

Hi there, my name is Katie Santo. My coworker, Logan Johnson, and I discovered something pretty, well, magical that I’d like to share with you…


Just hear me out.

Logan and I work together in the Digital Communications Group at New York University; he as a graphic designer and I as a training facilitator. Our team oversees several services that help clients (administrators, schools, departments, etc.) communicate digitally with their target audiences.

One of our most popular services is the Adobe Experience Manager web content management system, which for simplicity sake we refer to as the CMS. Users are able to easily create and update a web presence for their respective departments with minimal interference from our team. In my role, I onboard new users with accounts, provide them with the necessary training, and leave the creative process to them.

Logan is often tapped with creating graphics and design mockups for high-visibility emails and webpages. His subject matter expertise is sought by many of our CMS users for their own web content, however, he usually doesn’t get the opportunity to work with them outside of any special projects.

CMS users are asked to provide feedback on training content and their training needs on a regular basis. I found that CMS users felt that they had a knowledge gap in terms of how to create web content that, to put it simply, looked good. Around the same time, Logan shared with me his secret wish list for CMS users to know more about designing for the web to help improve the overall quality of the NYU website.

And thus an idea was born.

We took what we each had to offer and used our combined knowledge and skill sets to create a hands-on learning opportunity for CMS users.

As a university, NYU prides itself on its innovative learning opportunities and welcoming environment. It was with this mindset that Logan and I approached the creation of a new design-focused training class. We asked ourselves:

  • How can we help CMS users better understand this material?
  • How can we create a positive learning environment?

The format is simple: after explaining some basic principles of user experience and design, Logan shares blank webpage templates for sketching out ideas. I share best practices to be used as a framework when creating content. CMS users sketch out a sample page and talk through their choices. Logan and I are then provide helpful feedback—whether to reinforce positive design choices or offer suggestions for how to present content.

I can provide technical details: do’s and don’ts for using the CMS, knowledge on how to get the most out of particular page building tools within the CMS, and accessibility resources.

Logan brings a designer’s eye: the thought process that goes into the “why” behind a webpage, an understanding of how colors work together, and the inspiring message that we’re all secretly designers.

Together, we have found a way to educate CMS users while also helping each other develop professionally. Logan has taught me about creative briefs, the importance of sketching out ideas, and inclusive design. In return, I’ve given Logan more public speaking opportunities and a better understanding of how our CMS works.

So essentially, Logan and I have found a way to make 2+2=5… the ultimate mathematical magic trick.

Katie Santo is a Web Training & Content Support Specialist at New York University. Follow her on Twitter at @heyjustkatie.

Logan Johnson is a graphic designer at New York University. Follow him on Twitter at @loganalexanderj.