Your Designer Is Your Friend

I started my career working in an advertising system in which copywriters were paired with art directors in one creative team. Together, they’d help ensure a product looked and sounded its best, but they also acted as checks and balances on each other’s work. In other words, my art director partner helped make sure my writing made sense and I helped make sure her designs made sense.

Nowadays, depending on where or how you work, you might not have a ‘traditional’ team situation. You might be grouped with a content strategist, a UX person, a visual designer and 3 random folks who represent the client’s needs. If you freelance, you might be working in a vacuum writing copy from your living room, while some other creative-type designs or develops a webpage from their favorite coffee shop 3 time zones away.

As the way we work continues to change, it can be harder to make friends with your design counterparts. But it’s important that we do, because good design matters more and more to the work us writers do. Here’s a few reasons why working closely with your visual friends will ultimately make your work better.


Your copy doc isn’t sexy no matter how you structure it. Many clients - from small time businesses to big budget corporations - are filled with brand managers who seriously get terrified by copy docs. A great designer (or typesetter) takes your words and brings them to life on a page. Big, bold lettering makes an impact. Bold Helvetica in Microsoft Word does not. 


A great UX designer can help give me a template that’ll inspire my best writing. Sure, I may change their structure to tell a better, more concise story, but having that starting point helps me get right into the creative part. The same can be said for the visuals. Visuals also tell a story. Magic happens when your words and their visuals line up.


At the final stages of a project, I’m typically scanning the prototype to see if the story makes sense and the grammar is consistent, but I’ll also check to make sure the visuals are helping support it the best way possible. Visual designers will primarily look at the page and think about where the eye goes, and sometimes that means your headline ‘looks funny.’ Roll with it, because together, we catch each other’s mistakes and refine each other’s work.

As writers, we can often feel like we’re the oddball of the creative team, surrounded by ‘visual’ people. Our focus on content might make us feel more aligned to the team strategist, but remember that you’re designing words and you’re all on one team. Personally, I always welcome the help of a good designer. We’re really not all that different, and we can both benefit from the other’s point of view.


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