Reintroducing Designers to Copywriters

It is common for copywriters to now hear – “It’s the visual age!” – “What they see is what is sold!” – and chief among such genius simplifications is the popular –  “The less you say, the more you’re heard”.

On Behalf of Copywriters

If silence spoke louder than words, NOTA (None of the above) votes – would actually mean something. Bullies in school would cower in the face of silent victims. And all Winston Churchill would have said is “Good Luck Chaps” during WW2, instead of his famous long speech.

Mural in Park Street, by artist David Hollier
Mural in Park Street, by artist David Hollier

Point is – words are important.  The last time humans communicated only in visuals, we were nomads and cave painting was the thing… the only thing. And with the advent of social media and this being the visual age, the prominence of copywriting is declining. “Keep the copy short/crisp/minimum” are the new watchwords for great communication. Many designers view copy as another design element, rather than the message the design must aim to justify. So here’s my feeble attempt to reverse that:

Dear Designers,

People of both our mighty professions aren’t taught how to understand each other. You probably think our jobs are really simple, just as some clients can’t fathom why logo design could be so complex. How does coming up with catchy lines compare with the complexities of logo creation? Here are a few pointers on how we can understand each other better, for the betterment of intelligent advertisement –

Make a Logo and Try Describing It

Let’s assume that hypothetically you make a logo for a brand that sells coconut water – called Cocokiss (#ForcedHumour). You come up with a stunning visual of a cracked coconut shaped like a mouth, pouring forth pristine water. Yes, I’m aware I have no design sense. Now you can describe the logo in technical terms. Or you can get a copywriter to describe it for you as –

“The visual aims to project – Coconut Water – that’s unadulterated, healthful and straight from the lips of nature. It also suggests a gushing waterfall to the subconscious. Thereby it promising a refreshing drink which transports your imagination to lush greenery – with each tasteful sip”

Clever copy-writing that challenges readers

Think of the days when the creative juices aren’t flowing. You create some random shape for a logo on Illustrator. It needs to appear meaningful at all costs… “Who you gon’ call?”

It’s only words… Not!

Even The Donald realises the importance of highlighting the right words. This is why his tweets always highlight emotions he wants to resonate, like – ‘Sad’, ‘Great’ or ‘Bad’. I’ve often had to argue with designers that their typography is great but highlighting the wrong word of my sentence. For example, highlighting ARE in “you ARE awesome” – Is. Not. Awesome.

Similarly, I and a designer friend once made this thank you card for this family we did a homestay with. They had these huge turtles that we loved, so the friend drew cute smiling turtles on the card. I told her to write “Thank you for the SHELLter” – highlighting only the pun. She highlighted the whole word – “SHELLTER”. The family smiled at the card and glanced at the line – thinking it a spelling mistake. *facepalm*

Before & After Copy-Pasting

Just as copywriters will often expertly critique your designs, we expect you to proofread our copy – at least once. It’s understandable if you forget that copywriters are human and thus prone to error. However,  it is imperative that you not forget that you’re human and not a machine incapable of alternative tasks. Look what happens when you don’t have our backs –

The copywriter involved in the design above probably had to actually – “Get a Job”. A new one.

Understanding Long Copy

Yes, Twitter only allows 143 characters and yes Facebook’s ad program will strongly suggest minimum text for maximum communication. However, understanding the difference between causation and correlation is quintessential.  Long copy ads have famously proven to have worked in the history of advertising. This indicates that people are more than willing to read good copy if you visually pique their curiosity. But for that to work – the designer needs to believe in the copy they’re working with. Yes, long copy is preferably rarely used. But don’t abandon great copy because it has a word more than your design expects to accommodate. Here’s a great example of well-designed long copy:

A designer’s job doesn’t begin where a copywriter’s ends

Rather – our jobs should end and begin together.  Some of the best copy validates the visual significance of great designs. And some of the best designs are those that have memorably translated good copy. Thus, it is key to remember that when it comes to human communication, words and pictures complete each other. For example:

Here’s the thing –

We copywriters are being reduced to catchy headlines. Our lifespan shortening by the word count. Designers must learn how to identify good copy by its quality, by its message, and not by its size. Or else good copy is doomed to further dilution. Anything above 3-word sentences may soon be considered verbose.

Is all this just a gross exaggeration? Think again the next time you expect the copy to be simplified. Or the next time you tell a copywriter – “this is intelligent, but I don’t think people will get it”. Writing for an unintelligent audience breeds okay’ish copywriters. In favour of eloquent writing – a funny/pun-ny copy will become the only kind of intelligent copy. Known intelligible words will soon be terribly limited to… (Your Word count limit has been reached)

Copywriters do not like to have extreme restrictions on word-count.


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