Why Thinking Like A Designer Is The Key To Better Copywriting
I still remember the first time I saw something I had written – in this case, a homepage for one of our clients – fully designed. I gasped loudly enough for my boss to hear.
He understood, and told me that one of the coolest experiences I’ll have as a writer is seeing one of my pieces blown out in design.
Years later, he’s still right.
Design made me fall in love with marketing.
Before that first experience, I had only ever seen my words flat on a page, published on an e-commerce website or in a local paper. As part of Square 2’s creative team, I get to see them come alive, to tell a story that’s even more vivid and inspiring than the one I wrote.
Emily Dickinson once said, “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is marketing.”
OK, Emily said “poetry.” But that’s as close as I can get to describing how the intersection of copy and design makes me feel, and marketing gives me the chance to help create that same experience for our clients. Because design may bring my words to life, but together, copy and design bring their worlds to life.
To put it in very professional terms, that is so cool.
Design makes me a more thoughtful writer.
When I’m writing an infographic or a tip sheet, I don’t have the sprawling expanse of screen space I like to have to unravel all of my thoughts on the page. I don’t have the luxury of using 10 words when two will do. Design forces me to cut right to the heart of the matter, without any padding or meandering explanation.
(You can tell this letter isn’t going to be designed because it’s long, wordy and packed with big blocks of text – three things our design team doesn’t let me get away with.)
It’s not always easy for me, a sensitive “artist” who majored in poetry and feelings, to hear that what I’ve written doesn’t fit into design’s layout, or that it’s not doing a strong enough job of telling the story we’re trying to convey. But 100% of the time, working with design makes the piece better.
In content creation, there’s no room for ego.
Design also asks me to shake to life the visual part of my brain.
When our clients struggle to determine what truly makes them unique in their space, we tell them that creative itself can be a differentiator. When copy and design come together to elicit emotional reactions from prospects or customers, that’s a brand experience — and it’s one of the most powerful ways companies can set themselves apart, without even getting into their products or solutions.
And it’s true. I was a devoted Samsung Galaxy girl for quite some time before I bought my first iPhone, but I still had an affinity for Apple, solely because their ads were engaging, disruptive and aspirational. Eventually, I became a customer.
To curate that same creative differentiation for our clients, our writers and designers need to work in lockstep. Even the most poetic top-level messaging is still just words on a page until design gets a hold of it. It’s the juxtaposition of evocative imagery and audience-focused language that creates the full story, the inspiration, the emotion.
So the vision has to begin with copy, a lesson I’ve been learning over and over again. It’s not good enough to hand a webpage or an infographic over to design and ask them to do all the work of bringing it to life. Part of becoming a better writer is trying to become, at least in some small capacity, a designer.
Because while it may seem like it at times, design isn’t magic. Every writer can relate to the frustration of being asked to “whip something up,” as though what we do requires a KitchenAid and little to no thought or effort, but I’ve been guilty of doing the same thing to design. Writing without giving any consideration to the importance of white space, page flow or user experience does a disservice to the designer and the work itself.
So while I’ll never be a designer myself, I owe it to my team and our clients to start thinking like one.
Design, for your creativity, for your dedication to finding just the right imagery, for your no-fluff honesty, for turning words into works of art and for making marketing (feel like) magic: Thank you.
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Posted By Author Lauren Sanders
Lauren is a senior copywriter at Square 2. She originally joined the Square 2 team in 2018. When she left to work on an in-house marketing team at a fintech firm, she always knew she’d come home someday – and she was right. She has a B.A. in English with a concentration in creative writing from Cedar Crest College and an MFA in creative nonfiction writing from Goucher College.