BEST PRACTICE

Copywriters and Designers Speak Different Languages. Here’s Why That’s a Good Thing

Emma By Emma, Resident virtual assistant and data lover, Extra Mile Marketing

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Extra Mile Marketing · Copywriters Corner with Matt, Maria, and Rabail

Behind every project lies an invisible trail of first drafts, scrapped ideas, and design dead ends.

Overcoming hurdles in the creative process requires collaboration and an openness to new ideas. No matter which stage of a project you’re working on, whether it’s brainstorming initial ideas with a client, writing or reviewing engaging copy, or building a captivating design, that openness can spark inspiration that leads to more impactful marketing materials.

So, how should teams navigate varying approaches to completing a deliverable while essentially speaking different languages?

To kick off 2023 on a collaborative note, our copywriting and design teams discussed how they effectively communicate despite diverging processes, both among themselves and with clients.

 

What’s your first step on a new project?  

Copywriters: There are a few key questions to consider with our clients before jumping into copywriting. These are:

  • Who is the intended audience for this deliverable, and what is a compelling business story that will engage that audience?
  • Should the final deliverable reflect your recent marketing assets, or are you looking for something different?
  • How will this asset be used in market, and when will it go live? (i.e., part of a paid social campaign or linked on a branded landing page)

Then, there are the parameters we discuss internally, such as the due date for the initial copy as well as the first designed draft. Once the stage is set, we can get down to researching and outlining.

Envisioning the final product is crucial to the copywriting process.

For example, writing copy for a social media calendar requires a much different approach than an eBook. A monthly social media calendar can strike many different tones and covers many different aspects of a product, while an eBook is often a laser-focused, in-depth story about a specific element of a company’s product or service.

Designers: Research is also crucial to us when starting any project.

This includes reviewing the brief and any additional information that we have from a client, such as brand guidelines and previous deliverables that are similar to the project we are working on.

This helps put us in the right headspace to meet a client’s needs as best as we can. From there we start developing concepts and vision boards that the client can review.

 

How do you structure a copy draft to communicate your vision in a way that designers can understand?

Copywriters: We understandably focus on the writing tone and style. You don’t want to write humorous, pun-filled copy for a pharmaceutical client that uses modern, minimalist design concepts.

To this end, we review the client’s brand guidelines, especially those concerned with the brand’s persona and design formatting. This helps us know when to suggest cues for a call-out box, when to use larger fonts, and where to place calls to action. By providing detailed formatting instructions, the designer can easily take our copy and run.

 

And on the flip side, what is helpful to you as designers when working with client-approved copy?

Designers: From the beginning of the project, we’re sharing sketches, mockups, and inspiration with the copywriters.

Once a client selects a direction from our concepts, we build out the rest of the deliverable using the copywriter’s design notes and the client’s branding as a roadmap.

We also like to leave time for feedback and suggestions, relying on a copywriter's perspective to better integrate text and design to produce a more cohesive piece. 

 

How do you make sure one element does not overpower the other? 

Copywriters: An inclusive review process helps make sure all stakeholders in the project can be heard. For example, a designer may have valuable feedback on an infographic during the initial copywriting review process that could help streamline their own timeline.

We don’t see our roles as copywriters ending as soon as we have our copy approved by a client. We love providing photography suggestions that we feel go well with our words as well as thinking about our copy visually and providing design notes around text emphasis and sizing.

Then, once we see a design draft, we can help designers make copy tweaks that improve the flow of the asset.

Designers: Just like the copywriter said, communication is key to striking the right balance.

We find that having these conversations directly helps us better articulate our vision than exchanging email threads.

For example, if we’re reviewing a chunk of text and think it could be better represented as a graphic or diagram, it’s much easier to make that suggestion while we’re both looking at the same document at the same time.

While working on a solution sheet for 3Cloud, we would schedule working sessions with other stakeholders. This ensured our design meshed well with both the copy as well as the overall client vision.

During these face-to-face conversations, it was much easier to work through feedback and ask questions. Emails have their place, but sometimes just getting in the same room or on a quick Teams call makes things move much faster.

 

What’s one thing you think all copywriters or designers should know about your process? 

Copywriters: We see words as images. We want to paint a vivid picture of what we’re writing about well before the design process even starts.

Watching our copy transform into a technicolor deliverable through design only enhances our appreciation for the entire process.

For example, in our recent social media campaign for Wolters Kluwer’s TeamMate auditing software, we utilized a wide array of imagery in bringing those posts to life. We realized which of our taglines worked best when paired with corresponding imagery. 

This allowed us to home in on those phrases and flesh out the rest of the campaign.  

Designers: Good design works with the copy and not against it.

On the same social campaign, we wanted to compare the internal auditing process with deep sea diving.  The copywriter tagline “Dive Deeper” gave us a lot to work with, so we paired it with submarines and snorkelers to show how easily customers can explore new depths with the right software.  

Conclusion:

As you can see, even though copywriters and designers speak different languages, that’s not a bad thing.

Here’s how they can use that to their advantage:

  • Communicating during every step of the project
  • Embracing different creative perspectives as strengths and not weaknesses
  • Reaching consensus with the client on a common vision
  • Taking a hands-on approach to all elements of a project and being open to feedback
  • Don’t be afraid to revise, revise, revise

 

 

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