Believe it or not, consumers are aware of when the composition of a piece of content isn’t complete or relevant. So if you’re looking to capture and retain positive attention, leverage copy and design when creating all of your projects. Investing in both will ensure your viewers have something good to read and look all at the same time.
Why Does it Matter?
Almost every piece of content includes both copy and design to some extent. No matter if it’s an ad or a website, both pieces are crucial to the other. The mistake many companies make is neglecting one when they think they’ve got the other covered. For example, not wanting to invest in a copywriter can push a company to write copy themselves and not wanting to invest in a designer can push them to design themselves. However, one without the other is a setup for disaster. Good design alone cannot suffice for missing copy, and good copy can’t make up for bad design. Both elements are necessary pieces to bring a project balance and ensure that the intended purpose or message can be communicated clearly.
And when you really (we mean really) leverage both, your ads could look something like this:
The Chicken or the Egg?
Even if you do pay equal attention to both copy and design, it’s not as simple as just writing and designing away. It’s just as important that you plan on which comes first, the copy or the design–similarly to the old saying, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” Although seemingly unimportant, strategically planning out how each can harmoniously come together is key to meaningful copy and design. And while there’s technically no right or wrong answer as to which should come first, knowing what works best for your team is a good place to start. It’s important to identify your team’s capacity to tackle copy and design, including factors like your resources and deadlines.
For example, if your team doesn’t have a copywriter, you’re more likely to dive into design first, naturally having to later work in copy. On the flip side, if your team has a copywriter, the opposite approach would be to tackle copy first and have a designer work around it. Either way, both the chicken and the egg can come first; it just depends on how you apply your resources and collaborate. As long as you're utilizing both, it doesn’t matter which way you go.
Chicken First: Copy
When starting with copy, it’s important to have some direction, as writing without a roadmap can be a challenge. This is especially true for projects involving both writing and design, where some foundational knowledge of design can be helpful in getting starting. This can include any basic knowledge like UX/UI design or even basic design principles like balance, alignment, repetition, etc. Having some foundation behind writing is key to laying the framework for any project.
This is especially true in instances where someone from your team might nominate themselves as the copywriter, who may not have this fundamental knowledge. And just because you have copy, doesn’t mean it’s complete for the project you’re looking to execute. If your team were to provide a designer with documents full of text, the designer wouldn’t know where to start and what text to use. Sometimes providing too much for the sake of providing doesn’t always cut it or do any justice. This is where copywriters play a vital role in the production of almost any creative project.
Copywriters are widely talented in almost every area of writing who can take an idea and communicate it accordingly. They’re trained to work through the thoughts of a designer while they write, ensuring that every word can be used in the final composition. Things like word count, positive and negative space and non-word elements are all kept in mind as copywriters work through a project. Leveraging their talent is one of the most beneficial ways to push out more quality content, faster. Therefore, starting with copy first is a way to go, but only if you have a professional copywriter to handle the job for you and your team.
Egg First: Design
Like copy, design can easily be worked on before any writing begins. This is because graphic designers naturally have more experience working with copy than copywriters have experience working with design. With the help of things like filler text, designers can easily plan their compositions with copy in mind. This helps balance out their work with the work that’s to come, ensuring that the copywriter in the future has a solid foundation to work off of. This is especially helpful for teams with emerging copywriters or even teams who currently don’t have a copywriter. There’s no need to necessarily push your project off until you’re ready, so diving in egg first can be an option.
While designing a project first before applying copy can be restricting to copywriters when it comes to word count, it’s a great start for anyone needing the framework. So if design is extremely important to your company or if the design is more complex, start with that first. Just make sure to keep your copywriter in the loop when it comes to their turn in adding in their magic. With a few collaboration tweaks and shifts in process, there’s nothing a copywriter can’t do with the proper specifications set in place.
If there’s anything you should take away from this blog post, it’s that both copy and design are needed to produce effective and quality campaigns, websites–and well, almost every project. Great copy with terrible design will lead to bad results, and conversely, great design with poorly written copy won’t perform well either. To achieve optimal results and not leave our audience more confused than sold, both need to work together.
But does the order really matter? As with most things in life and business that require a little extra thought, the answer is: it depends. To claim one way over another as correct wouldn’t make sense, as every company and creative team is different. Depending on your resources, deadlines, and goals, you can better position which comes first–the chicken or the egg. And once both harmoniously come together, you can ensure every viewer received the message you intended to communicate, no matter if a copywriter or designer tackled it first. All that matters is that both collaborated on the project.
Need a copywriter to pull your projects together? Consult with a pro who can take care of all of your creative needs, from copy-to-design or design-to-copy, whichever comes first.