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Opinions - Should designers write? Should writers design?

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by John Fountain

 

*The part of the job I've always enjoyed the most is the bit when I sit down with a designer and try and crack the idea. Call me unhinged if you want, but I quite like it when it gets difficult. When the deadline is looming, when the magic formula is difficult to find and when you hit the wall. That's the time I love the most. Why? Well that's when you find out if you're any good or not.

Of course it can be a challenging, bottom-twitching time and try as I might, sometimes the ideas just don't come. But there are a few ways round this and one of the best I've found is to change the way my brain usually operates. By that I mean I stop trying to write headlines and messages (that's my default setting) but start thinking of visual images. And just by going through this change in process, something usually opens up.

Now when I say this to other writers some of them look at me strangely and say something like, "I can't do that, I can't think visually, my brain only works with words."

Vice versa, there are designers that I've worked with that get all uppity with me if I start suggesting images and visual solutions. They look at me as if I'm trying to do their job, get defensive and I can hear them thinking, "You just come up with the words pal and leave the design of the thing to me."

For me, I think it's vital that creative folk, be they responsible for words or pictures, work together and contribute jointly to the creative product. A copywriter who doesn't understand design, who doesn't understand the vocabulary, who doesn't write to enhance the final result isn't contributing a sufficient amount. The same goes for designers.

This is generalising but I often find many designers think on the surface. They try and make things simply look better rather than communicate better. They don't get under the skin of the problem - as writers have to. This in turn leads to a feeling that some designers don't 'get' words and what they can do. Their eye is tuned into style and not content. They run scared of words. Too often they look at them as objects that clutter up a layout.

The simple answer is if you love ideas, and our industry is built on them, you need to love working with words and pictures, no matter what your job title.



John Fountain is a copywriter.

Visit John Fountain's website
Twitter: @fountainjohn

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