Content design: government versus private sector

13 January 2023

Content designers are in high demand across both government and private sectors. While both sectors can offer rewarding careers for designers, significant differences exist. Opencast content designer Aron Parcsami compares the two sectors – and offers some advice.

Content designers focus on communicating information as simply and efficiently as possible - and they put the needs of users first. As user-centred design professionals, content designers will research both what a user needs and wants to achieve their aims. Those aims will be different according to who the users are – and the sectors they work in. So what are the key differences?
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"In a consultancy with multiple clients you're more likely to get stuck into different types of projects"

Mission and culture

Government organisations generally have a mission to serve the public and address the needs of society. This can involve providing services such as education, healthcare, transportation, or public safety.

In contrast, private businesses (for the most part) have a primary goal of maximising profits for shareholders. That means that they are likely to prioritise activities that generate revenue so could trim costs to improve profitability.

The work culture in government and private organisations can contrast significantly. Government organisations tend towards a more formal culture, with clear rules and procedures for how work is done. Private companies may have a more relaxed culture, for example allowing its people to work remotely or even abroad for a certain number of weeks in a year. Many government departments now set a number of days people should work on site.

Depending on the product or service, a content designer might be asked to create content for a specific user group. If the users have a lot of experience, the content needs to be tailored to their level of knowledge and avoid repeating things they already know to not hinder their workflow.

In government, it’s more likely that a service will be public facing, with user groups with little or no experience relying on content to provide instructions each step of the way.

Either way, of course, it’s vital that the content designer always keeps core user needs in mind for both sectors when they create content.

Regulation and funding

Government organisations are often subject to stricter regulations and oversight than private companies. This can involve compliance with laws and regulations related to areas like procurement, ethics and financial reporting. Private companies may also be subject to regulations, but have more flexibility in how they operate and make decisions.

When it comes to design, a private business maybe more relaxed about the types of components, patterns, colours and layouts used in a product or service. A government project on the other hand, may have more restrictions and will likely be subject to accessibility and Government Digital Service (GDS) assessments.

Stricter regulations in government also mean that a content designer will have to consider legal considerations and policies in certain types of content – so it’s important that content designers work with government policy teams to ensure legal considerations are met.

Government organisations are typically funded through taxes and other public sources, which can provide a more stable and predictable source of funding. In contrast, businesses generate revenue through the sale of goods or services, which can be more susceptible to market fluctuations and changes in consumer demand. This can affect the resources available to employees and the overall financial stability of the organisation.

Job security and career prospects

Government jobs are often considered more stable than jobs in the private sector. It can be more difficult to lay off or downsize employees in government organisations due to factors like civil service protections and union representation.

Private companies may have more flexibility to reduce their workforce in response to economic conditions or changing business needs. Recently, Meta laid off 13% of its employees and Twitter laid off nearly two thirds of its workforce. This is very unlikely to happen in the short term in a government organisation.

Government employees may receive different benefits and compensation packages to those in the private sector. This can include pensions, health insurance and other perks such as education assistance or flexible working arrangements. Private companies may offer more flexible or customisable benefits packages, butmay also be more prone to fluctuating based on the financial health of the company.

Government organisations are likely to provide a very generous pension contribution, but private companies are more likely to give a Christmas or end-of-year financial bonus based on company and individual performance.

Opportunities for career advancement may differ between government and the private sector. In government, promotions may be based on merit or seniority, with a clear ladder of progression. In the private sector, career advancement may be more directly tied to an employee’s performance and contributions to the company.

This can mean that there may be more opportunities for high performers to advance quickly, but it can also mean that advancement is less predictable and may depend on the availability of openings and the business needs of the company. A private business is more likely to have a higher budget for learning and development and you’re more likely to be able to attend external training courses and conferences.

Opencast, for example, has a subscription to the Pluralsight tech training platform for every employee and they are encouraged to seek out other opportunities for their personal development.

Your choice

When it comes to applying for work in public or private sectors, content designers should (like all other professionals) consider what they value most in their work. It’s always important that you enjoy the work you do, are committed to the project at hand – and feel that your contribution is making a difference.

The decision about which sector you go for will depend on your goals and priorities. Both government and private sectors offer fulfilling and rewarding careers – and the best choice for you will depend on what you value most in your work.

In government or a consultancy working with multiple clients – like Opencast – you are more likely to be able to get stuck into different types of project if you feel you need a new challenge.

Opencast is committed to providing work that matters to its consultants. The business has clients across both government and the private sector, so you may well find work here that both satisfies your interests and meets your development goals.

Interested in joining Opencast? Visit our careers page.


Aron Parcsami

Content Designer

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