I am a strong, accomplished writer. And over the years I have written nearly every kind of print and digital content and collateral imaginable, including advertisements, annual reports, award entries, bios, blogs, brochures, bylined articles, case studies, catalogs, direct mail, feature articles, magazines, newsletters, Op-Eds, presentations, press materials, proposals, sales materials, social media content, speeches, style guides, surveys, talking points, technical articles, videos, websites, and white papers. Through this broad body of work, I have established myself as a talented copywriter, both in-house and as a freelancer.
As both a copywriter and a marketing communications professional, I have been fortunate to have worked with some amazing designers. They have helped turn my vision, or my interpretation of my client’s vision, into a reality that often exceeds expectations. And given the importance of creating content in today’s marketing landscape, working effectively with designers has taken on even greater significance. In fact, I wrote about this in my Pop-Up blog.
While I am not a designer, I have managed the design of each of the aforementioned deliverables, directing and supervising the work of some immensely talented designers. I have also managed the design of other communications materials that did not require the services of a copywriter, such as corporate logos and identity as well as displays and signage. And given the limited resources of my current company, I have started learning Adobe InDesign so I can create basic collateral like this.
But it is important to note the distinction between designers and other communications professionals. Not all communications professionals are even good at writing copy, let alone have the ability to provide full-service design support. Similarly, few designers are good copywriters. And I have yet to meet one with the ability and resiliency to generate earned media coverage, or effectively accomplish any of the other tasks that most marketing and corporate communications professionals can do.
Design is a different profession, and it requires a unique skillset. Designers need an in-depth understanding of the principles of design along with proficiency with software like Adobe InDesign and perhaps even the ability to write computer code for digital design work (this article in Fast Company explains the various nuances within the design world, with an emphasis on design in the digital realm). On top of that, designers – like writers – need to have some inherent talent, some natural ability. In this case, an “eye” for design.
While I have plenty of talent as a writer, and a portfolio to prove it, I don’t have that eye for design. I know what I want, and usually how I want it to look and function, but a talented designer can always improve on that, thinking of things that I hadn’t even considered. Plus, they know how to use a variety of software and other design tools to manipulate and bring things to life, whether in print or digital form.
As a freelancer, I have done some rudimentary design work, when clients didn’t have the budget to bring on a designer. And while having worked with some great designers over the years has given me plenty of insight into how to design things, I remain limited by my lack of access to and training in the software tools professional designers routinely use.
I am, however, a quick study and have a history of proactively learning how to use digital tools and techniques related to the communications profession. For example, I have been working with designers to create and manage websites – including mapping out the site and writing the copy for it – for more than 20 years. But early on I recognized the importance of the internet in the evolving communications landscape, so I taught myself how to build websites and use content management systems.
Now, as a freelancer, I have become proficient with WordPress, currently the most popular website builder and content management system. I still cannot write code, which would give me greater flexibility in terms of customization, but I can provide basic web development services and support. In fact, I created this site as well as its sister copywriting site on my own. I am in the process of designing, developing, and writing the content for a site for another communications agency using WordPress. And I also created this site for a client using SquareSpace, another popular website builder and content management system.
Whenever possible, I prefer to work with a professional designer, whether for a piece of printed collateral or something digital. As I have hopefully explained, design is a true specialty, and the work a talented designer can create is usually well worth the added investment.
In addition to leading the design of the aforementioned deliverables, I have also managed their production. In effect, I managed the project from inception (often even identifying the need for it in the first place) all the way through to distribution and measurement – the full lifecycle.
This also requires a mix of talents. You need to know the target audience, be able to understand and clearly communicate the creative concept, and know how to maintain a schedule and manage everyone’s expectations. You will also need to have a good understanding of everything from the design process to printing or whatever digital form it will eventually take. And, of course, you will need to have a good eye and an exceptional attention to detail, because ultimately you are responsible for the finished product – ensuring that it is not only delivered on time, on budget, and on strategy but also error-free.
People who specialize in this are often referred to as producers. And while not all designers, copywriters, or even marketing communications professionals have sufficient experience to oversee the production of such a wide variety of projects, I have a long, proven track record of successfully doing so – both in-house and as a consultant.