Hello there. You may have seen this post a few weeks ago but I had to remove it till the lastest issue of Eight:48 came out. Anyway, it’s out now so here’s the post again. Deja Vu eh? Over the new year I was asked by Eight:48, a rather swish design magazine, to write a piece for their ‘Future of design’ issue. No, really, I was. No, me neither, not a clue but they did so I did. Anyoldhoo, it occurred to me that some of you may not be regular subscribers to Eight:48 and thus may miss out on my pearls of wisdom. And, at £6.00 a copy, I can’t really expect you to rush out and buy it. So, in a spirit of sharing, ( and in no way as a cheap, tawdry way of sticking content onto the blog without writing anything new ), I’m putting it on here today. Have look, see what you think and if you agree, disagree or really couldn’t give a monkey’s one way or another, feel free to leave a comment.
The future of design. What’s copy got to do with it?
Hello there. My name’s andy white and I’m a copywriter, have been for about 25 years all in all. Now what, you may be asking, is a copywriter doing writing an article in Eight:48, essentially a design publication full of the thoughts of designers? It’s a fair question and in all honesty one I’ve been asking myself right from the point I was asked to write it, to the point where I now find myself sitting at what should really be a macbook pro but isn’t, to write it.
It’s like this. Maybe a copywriter really does have an observation or two about design that may be worth listening to. Personally, I did a degree course in ‘Graphic Design and Communication’ at Wolverhampton Poly, ( or, as it’s now more impressively known, ‘The University of Wolverhampton’ ), so perhaps that gives me the right to stick my metaphorical oar in. Admittedly I spent a lot of the three years it lasted well off campus but I was there when it mattered, sometimes even staying long enough to learn a thing or two about Typography, Photography, Printmaking, Illustration and all the other stuff the course covered. More than that though, I like to feel that I’ve always been aware of the role that good design plays in just about every aspect of our lives.
Maybe it’s in the road signs that direct us to where we want to be, the posters that make us want to visit a gallery, a cinema, a gig. The signage on a pub, club or restaurant that draws us inside. And it’s probably here that design affects me most. As a copywriter you see, I’m primarily an advertising writer. I’m in the persuasion business. My role is to write all the spectacularly clever words that convince people to do what my clients, and me, want them to do. It’s not always sinister, money grabbing thought control by the way. I write quite a lot of stuff for a few charities too, ( naturally I don’t like to talk about it ), so maybe my soul will be saved after all. But, getting back to the point I was in fact trying to make, there’s an area of my life in which design and copywriting collide and when it’s done right, it’s a thing of beauty. In my opinion, ( and in a cunning, if contrived, way to link to the theme of this issue ), the future of design, and of copywriting, is when the two come together to create a piece that is as effective as it is visually appealing.
One of the agencies I feel consistently gets this right is Manchester Agency LOVE. Now, before you call me biased, I’d like to point out that I don’t work for LOVE, never have, ( Ok, one of it’s founders, Phil Skegg, is a mate from way back but don’t hold that against him ). I simply mention them because I admire the way in which they make the words complement the design, the design enhance the words. Let me give you some examples.
Now they’re lovely aren’t they? Some great words, some great visuals. But what really makes them all work is that the copywriter and the designer have obviously worked together. Ideas have been passed back and forth, jokes have been made, maybe arguments have been had and conciliations reached. But what’s clear is that the end results are both beautiful and effective. Each one makes me feel good about the product and they do that by combining the right copy with images that make you want to stop and look. And really, who’s to say that the copywriter didn’t come up with some of the visuals, the designer with some of the words?
That’s how it always used to work in the agencies where I started my career. Places like McCann Erickson and Publicis, where an Art Director and Copywriter worked as a team to take a brief and create an ad or design. In my time I’ve been unlucky enough to work with Art Directors who thought that the two disciplines were completely unattached, lucky enough to team up with one or two who realised that both parties have something to bring to the table. I’ve even heard of Ad agencies where ‘creatives’ and ‘copywriters’ are considered to be two completely different entities.
But look at it this way. Have you ever read something that didn’t bring some kind of a picture to your mind? Ever looked at a picture that didn’t inspire the words to describe it? It’s impossible to separate the two or, to my mind, it should be.
So lets not get too bogged down with who does what in the future. Lets not say that the designer draws, sculpts, paints and creates while the copywriter brings along some words. It’s entirely possible that the copywriter may have some beautiful images to share, the designer be in possession of the greatest headline of all time.
It’s not that important who does what really, is it?
So there you are then, I hope you enjoyed a Manchester copywriter‘s views. If you didn’t, at least you can console yourself with the fact that you didn’t spend six quid on it. I spoil you, don’t I?