A designer is a copywriter’s partner in creative work. When that relationship is good, the work is golden. (If you haven’t, check out our 9 tips for how copywriters can most effectively work with designers.) But when that relationship is not as good, the work can suffer and job satisfaction plummets. Let’s talk about what to do when that relationship is strained.
A strained designer-copywriter relationship like looks like any of the following:
- Designs get changed without you knowing
- Work is presented to stakeholders without you present
- Concepting happens without your input
The first thing to know is that most designers who do things like this—leaving you out of meetings, changing your copy, etc.—aren’t out to get you.
They just don’t know that it’s a problem.
Here’s how you can take control and improve the relationship.
Let Them Know You Expect to Be in Meetings
When you’re experiencing these kinds of problems, the first thing is to simply and clearly address them.
Instead of: “Oh, I’d kind of like to have been in that meeting…” or “Can I be in the meeting next time?”
Try: “Since this is a project we’ve both worked on, I’d like to be included in every meeting. Please be sure to invite me—or plan the meeting with me—next time.”
You need to be direct in your communication and phrase it as a “this needs to happen” versus posing it as a question.
Make It Clear Copy Is for You to Change
Along those same lines, you also need to make it clear that it’s not okay that the designer is changing your copy. You need to acknowledge that sometimes copy needs to change, but that you should be the one to do it.
Instead of: “Stop changing my copy!”
Try: “I know that, like the design, the copy sometimes needs to change and sometimes that has to happen quickly, but let me know, and I’ll be right at your desk to do it. Just like I wouldn’t change your design for you, don’t change my copy for me.”
And, of course, if that still doesn’t make it clear, you can explain that “I need to be able to answer for every single word and every single choice in the copy. If you change the copy, I can’t do that, and it reflects poorly on me, our work, and our collaboration.”
When to Talk to the Creative Director
If you’re still having problems after having been as clear, respectful, and straightforward is possible, it’s time to bring your Creative Director into the mix.
(If there’s no Creative Director on the team, it may be the marketing manager or product manager—whoever you and the designer are reporting to for the project.)
You’re not “tattling” on your designer; you’re just enlisting your Creative Director to help you communicate the problem and come up with a solution. If there’s anyone who knows how important good collaboration between a designer and a copywriter is, it’s a Creative Director.
But what if the problem is with a client’s designer and there is no Creative Director or marketing manager? If you absolutely can’t resolve things with the designer, you need to very carefully and very tactfully explain the problem to your client.
If your client is attached to their designer, you don’t want to make it seem like you’re causing the problem. Just gently explain what’s happening and why it’s a problem.
If your client understands, he or she will have enough clout to make a difference when they step in. If your client doesn’t understand and can’t or won’t step in…well, that’s a scenario in which you need to think very carefully about whether you want to work with this client and designer again.
Have you ever had problems with a design partner? What happened? And how did you resolve it (or not)? Let us know in the comments below!
Last Updated on March 29, 2023
Do you know many copywriters that also do design? Graphic design is my background. I’m trying to break into copywriting. In your opinion do you think it will be overwhelming to focus on both tasks? I don’t want to lose my experience with design software. But I feel like I will never be an expert at either field if I try to focus on both
Nicki Krawczyk says
I have to agree with your gut – if you’re trying to grow your career in both directions at once, you’re in for an uphill battle. (Also, there are very few people who are equally talented at both copy and design. High verbal and visual acuity don’t often come together in one person!) If I were you, I’d focus on one or the other; it’s likely you’ll still have the opportunity to flex skills in the other realm from time to time with various clients. Does that make sense?
Thanks for commenting!