In many ways, the collaboration between a copywriter and a designer can make a project…or break it. Today, we’ll talk about a few tips for making the most of your most important partnership.
1. Recognize that copy is just as important as design, and vice versa.
The first step in creating a good partnership is to understand that both of you hold importance in creating your work. And, while design and copy are important on their own, they are best and most effective together. You and your design partner should be equals as you create your work.
2. Do your share of the work.
From concepting to speaking up in creative reviews, you and your designer should be contributing equal amounts. Even if a project is image-heavy and very light on copy, you still should be contributing your fair share as you concept, review the layout, and present your work to the key stakeholders.
3. Speak up with copy—and design—ideas.
Just because you’re a copywriter, doesn’t mean you can’t have ideas for design. In fact, you should. Though actually designing is probably not your forte, you should have ideas for visual ways to represent a project.
When concepting, feel free to express those ideas loud and clear. When reviewing the project in layout on your designer’s computer, you can still offer ideas, just be tactful and collaborative. You don’t want to come across as telling him/her how to do his/her job, just as offering ideas.
4. Go back to the brief, again and again.
As you and your design partner are coming up with concepts, be sure that you never forget the purpose of your project. Everything you need to know about your target audience, the benefit to them you’re trying to convey, the business objective and much more is right there in your creative brief. You’ll also find that referring to the brief can often help smooth over disagreements about directions or ideas.
Get creative, but don’t lose sight of the creative brief.
5. Be prepared to change your copy in layout.
No matter how perfect you get your copy in your Word document, know that it’s very likely going to have to change once your design partner puts it in layout. It can be very difficult to estimate how long your copy needs to be while you’re writing it, and you may also find that headlines or line breaks just don’t work in layout. Be prepared to be flexible and tweak your copy on your designer’s screen.
6. Learn a few design principles.
It’s not an absolute must, but a strong suggestions. Learning a few fundamentals of design—things like balance, symmetry, alignment and, most especially, typography (how type is designed within a layout)—can only serve to help you as a copywriter and to improve your collaboration with your designer. I’m particularly fond of a book called Design Basics Index by Jim Krause for its straightforward and example-laden explanations.
7. Get on the same page before you present.
You should always, always regroup with your designer to give your work a look-over before you present it to a larger group. You need to see how any design changes have affected your copy and be sure that everything is accounted for. The worst scenario is to present work to a group without having seen it first and then to look unprepared when you can’t answer questions about it or when you see mistakes.
8. Don’t give a free pass to change copy.
There are some designers who think it’s not a big deal to change copy themselves. They’ll say things like, “Oh, I just cut this line because we don’t have room” or “I got rid of the subhead so that the picture gets enough prominence.” This is a big problem, and you need to nip it in the bud immediately.
This copy changing isn’t done maliciously; your designer just doesn’t understand how carefully you have planned every single detail in your copy. Should this happen, ask your designer to call you over to make the changes yourself. Let him/her know that you’re always happen to drop everything and take a look whenever they need you.
And, if you really need to drive your point home, you could nicely say that you wouldn’t change their design without them, so you’d ask that they not change your copy.
9. Give weight to their copy suggestions.
Just as you’ll develop a good eye for design the more copywriting you’ll do, your designer has probably developed a good ear for copy. If your design partner has suggestions for copy, give them their due consideration. Their expertise isn’t in copy, but they could still offer a great deal of insight and some excellent ideas.
Your turn! How do you work best with a designer? What tips do you have to share? Let us know in the comments below.
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