Explore good practices and recipes for disaster in the copywriter/designer relationship.
Decades ago, it was commonplace to design cars in one room and then throw the drawings “over the wall” to engineers to build it. The problem with this approach, though, is that what may look great on a sketch board might be very difficult or impossible to manufacture. This methodology has been replaced by concurrent engineering, which is simply the collaboration of designers and engineers working in concert to create a final product that is beautiful inside and out and that can be assembled at a low cost.
But concurrent engineering isn’t just for cars. UX/UI designers and copywriters are also much more effective when they can collaborate and work together—not just pass things off to one another.
In forming any sort of creative partnership, it’s absolutely crucial that heavy emphasis is placed on finding someone you feel comfortable working with—and disagreeing with. You are going to be around your design counterpart a lot throughout the process so you need to work with someone you know you can be honest with, someone that knows your strengths and weaknesses, and someone that knows enough about what you do to know when to ask for input and when to offer advice. For example, a great copywriter that may have valuable insight regarding a menu layout must know at what point to defer to the designer in regard to the overall design. Similarly, designers must recognize when to put design elements second so that the copy and message can shine. It is a two-way street.
The other thing to think about is whether this is someone you would want to go on vacation with, and if you would consider this person a friend. Great things are created by friends, people that trust each other and feel safe sharing ideas—not by just being “coworkers.”
Often times, designers and writers sit in separate rooms. The designer constructs the outline, and then asks the copywriter to fill in the words based on the space provided; meanwhile the copywriter is off on their own crafting copy on a blank page, completely unaware of the design that is about to be passed their way.
This is a recipe for disaster.
Almost always, the designer leaves too little room for copy, and the copywriter fills entire pages only to be told that all the design has room for is a three-sentence paragraph.
All great copywriter/designer duos know the value of working together, and discuss the best route to go about blending their skills from the get-go.
Sometimes, copywriters have really great design suggestions—even though they are not designers. And similarly, sometimes designers can come up with some clever wordplay, or have a suggestion on the tone of voice. You should welcome these things, not avoid them.
One of the biggest mistakes any creative individual can make is to take their title too seriously. If you approach any collaboration with the mindset that you are the copywriter and so anyone who doesn’t have the title of copywriter doesn’t deserve to be heard, you are going to fail. The same goes for designers who can’t fathom taking layout suggestions from someone who can’t even find the pointer tool in Photoshop.
Now, with that said, this goes both ways, and if you are a copywriter giving design suggestions then you need to also acknowledge that you are not the most qualified person in the room. That doesn’t mean don’t speak up—but it also means to not insist that you’re right, no matter what.