Channel your inner Peggy Olson with this latest post from Robin! As a designer I know how incredibly important it is to have good copy to accompany my designs! For me, the greatest piece of advice Robin shares is keeping things concise! I can't tell you how many times I have had to ask writers to edit it down their copy in order to not overwhelm the piece. Robin provides 5 great tips for working with designers and creating copy that both you and your collaborator will be happy with! - Jess
Recently I had a conversation with a friend about the changing world of digital journalism. We talked about how it’s no longer enough to be a good writer. Instead, digital journalists need to be ready to work with strategists, SEO experts, designers, and marketers at the drop of a hat – and sometimes these relationships are maintained remotely, just to make things more interesting. For writers, this means diversifying your talents and maintaining a certain level of flexibility in your work. The question is, how do you learn how to do that?
Since the digital world (obviously) changes dramatically every year, relying on the internet to make your living means being ready for collaborations with people of different skill sets and backgrounds.
This is where design comes in. Whether you’re a copywriter at an ad agency or a freelance writer, design plays a big role in the way that your work is presented in its final format. When given the opportunity, there are a few things that can be done to help make the collaboration between designer and writer easier. Here are some ideas for writing copy with design in mind:
Pulling some quick copy out of your hat for a last minute marketing initiative? For your best work, create a list of 8-10 options. All should be concise and can be variations on a few key ideas. Your goal in this exercise is to get your thoughts on the page, and edit from there. Make sure your final options are short and straight to the point so that the copy’s message comes across quickly and accurately.
Provide multiple copy options
Whether it’s a headline for a story or post, or options for a social media promotion, providing multiple copy options is something most writers are likely used to doing. Submit the three to four best options from your list of ideas (see above) but no more than that. By providing a few copy options, you’re providing flexibility for the layout and preventing unnecessary back and forth between you, the writer, and your collaborator, the designer. Things begin to go wrong when writers provide too many options for copy. This can cause others in the project to second guess their work, as well as the messaging and positioning of the project. Be confident in your copy and select the few options you consider to be the best. No more, no less.
Don’t feel tied to your copy
Writers aren’t known for their thick skins, but being flexible and open to changes with your copy is key and something that a writer of any kind is familiar with. The idea of not feeling married to your work is particularly important when writing with design in mind. There are more hands involved with this type of work, so you should be ready and open to accept and make changes.
Be open to collaboration and clear about your thoughts and expectations for the final result ahead of time. Let the designer you’re working with know what you’re thinking, how you see the end result, and what role you think the copy will play. What’s the positioning of this project? How can the two of you – designer and copywriter – get across the message in a few seconds? Throughout the project, keep communication lines strong. This will help you to write project-appropriate copy, and will help the designer to get a better idea of the work they’ll produce. In the final product, the copy and design need to fit together flawlessly, and the first step to that is clear communication and open collaboration.
Visualize the end result
The copy you’re writing will support the design and vice versa, so it’s extremely important that the words fit the imagery and layout of the design in an organic fashion. If you have an idea of what the final layout might look like, keep this in mind as you’re writing. Visualizing something in its final form is a great exercise in many ways – it can help to reduce anxiety and help in goal achievement. Writing for a particular design doesn’t have to be different – thinking about your work in the final layout may help to guide you as you write.
Looking for more tips? Check out these Writer’s Workshop posts:
I’m Robin – a freelance digital journalist with about seven years working in media. My primary experience lies in fashion, lifestyle and design writing, and I've worked at places like Teen Vogue and Refinery29. In addition to my work, I also write about the independent fashion community (which I love) and chronicle my experiences as an expat on my blog.
I've worked in many sides of the industry – from magazines to agencies to e-commerce. I'll be sharing what I've learned about writing and digital communication both from my professional experience, and from the experience I've gained as a blogger.