Which comes first, the copy or the design?
Like the old chicken-and-egg conundrum, the answer is variable. As a freelance copywriter and content provider, I’ve been brought in on projects at different stages – from the very beginning to the bitter end.
It’s often the case that an organization will hire a copywriter as an afterthought: “We have these great pictures,” or “We pretty much have the writing done. Can you just put some sizzle in the steak?” In fact, good design and good writing often require many of the same elements: variety, structure, perspective, engagement, and wit.
A savvy writer can really help in the “concepting” phase by helping to articulate your vision. And your project will ultimately be much stronger if you allow the copy and design to be developed collaboratively, fostering a stronger symbiosis between words and images.
The “Mad Men” model
Any fan of “Mad Men” is familiar with the traditional creative process in advertising. Picture a group of sleep-deprived young men (plus Peggy Olsen) with drinks in their hands tossing around ideas. Nine times out of ten, the creative director (Don Draper) was a former copywriter. The designers and art director were in the room, but usually to offer visual ideas to back up the writers’ creative concepts.
Now, in the digital age, I’ve found that most advertising creative directors are brought up from the design side. That’s because our readers have changed, from people carefully reading magazines and newspapers to those skimming and swiping through websites, postings, and Tweets. We have fractions of seconds to make an impression on those restless eyes.
Brevity is the soul of wit
As our culture of communications evolves, writers need to say more with less space and fewer words. Whether your project is print or digital, your readers increasingly have shorter attention spans. You often don’t have a full page to make your case. Rather, you need to convert the reader into a customer (or donor or volunteer or fan) in a few pithy lines. As Mark Twain famously said, “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” Ask any writer – it’s harder to write short than long.
Seven things a good copywriter can bring to your project:
Finally, should you find yourself in need of a good writer for your next project, give me a call. I’d love to discuss how I might add value to your organization’s messaging. 707-963-3790