There is a long history of designers and copywriters clashing when they’re “forced” to work together. Just the first page of a Google search yields the following results:
The breakdown of the age-old feud usually boils down to this— Copywriters are inflexible and blind to the needs of a designer (e.g. overwriting, unwillingness to adjust work to fit designs, not taking chances) and designers place too much value on the visual effects and composition over the hard-produced words and/or information by writers.
Here’s the thing, I’m just a kid who wants to “parent-trap” my separated parents back together. The best version of the world is where cleverly crafted words and stunningly crafted visuals get married.
Just like in a relationship, each side has their successes and flaws. But as a whole, they unite to form a total powerhouse couple. In an age where the average attention span is decreasing by the second, articles like this, albeit clever at times, will most likely fail to capture the full attention of the average viewer. Gorgeous visuals will capture the attention of the average viewer for a second (if we’re that lucky), but without much context, will be easily forgotten (or scrolled past), faster than your eyes can blink.
When we combine the clever, impactful context that copywriting skill can bring, with the attention-grabbing, visually pleasing skill of a designer, we have birthed the wonder child. If you’re wondering what it’s like to see these two worlds make love, click here and here.
So how does the designer learn to understand the skill behind great copy (and possibly learn it for themselves)? With research and practice of course.
I do these 4 things every day to marry my copywriter dad with my designer mom.
I study collaborations by the greats. When I see a gorgeously executed concept, I don’t passively enjoy it. I actively search for the formula behind the curtain. How do the visuals exemplify the copy? How does the copy support the visuals? What is the code for the balance of these two components? Look at this poster by the iconic Paul Rand.
I write consistently. The same amount of effort I put into improving my design skills every day, I put into my writing skills. Just as I practice manipulating and bending visuals into purpose every day, I also practice the manipulation of words to grab attention and evoke emotion. When I put the daily work into both skills, I learn a little more about their needs and boundaries each day.
I read labels. Every product that touches my hand gets a thorough evaluation. How is the design laid out on this package? What is the voice of the brand that comes through on the bottle? Does the voice support the design? And if it does, how the hell did they do that? Asking the important questions. . .
I read shit that has nothing to do with design or branding. I read a lot of articles and books. 75% of them are about mierda. “I’m not sorry that I’m too much to handle” or “Are you failing your furry friend on the food front?”. Yeah. . . you get the type. But how did these articles pull me in? What is it about the headlines, captions, and entire body that made me read the whole thing? Most importantly, what is the biggest thing that stuck with me from the article?
It takes a lot to be a great designer. It takes a lot to write great copy. I’m certainly not one of the greats in either area, but I’m working on it. At the end of the day, I just want to understand and produce the genius behind smart copy and smart design. Then, maybe then, I’ll have my own wonder child created by the holy matrimony of writing and artistry.