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 at–all at the same time.
Copy & Design: The Powerful Duo
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:
Which Comes First?
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. This is especially true for projects involving both writing and design, where some foundational knowledge of design can be helpful when getting starting. This can include any basic knowledge like UX/UI design or even basic design principles like balance, alignment, repetition, etc.
Knowing this information can really help in cases where a copywriter may not have a design background. 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 what text to use. Sometimes providing too much for the sake of providing doesn’t always do any justice.
This is where copywriters play a vital role in the production of almost any creative project. These professionals 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.
Filler text is a great tool to balance design with the copy 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 at hand is more complex than the copy, it's a good idea to start there.
If you choose this route, 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.
As with most creative work, the final answer is that there's no right or wrong answer to whether copy or design should come first. This is because every team is simply different. Depending on things like your resources and goals, you can better determine which is best to take off running.