On the Edge of Your Seat — The Designer and Writer Duo

Written language is a key elements for many forms of modern design. Ineptly named, copywriting is not about copying but rather communicating in an original way. Connecting your imagination to the sentences you shape every day is a mind game you play with yourself in the private space of your brain.

This week a particularly complex subject was confronting two of our senior strategy people in the presence of the client. We were all struggling to understand the topic yet reticent to offer a left field analogy to add to the understanding. 

So often people struggle with the literal when a metaphor can absolutely nail that special moment of real understanding.

We can usually only understand something new in relation to something we already know.

 Imagine the sales hike for The Economist when this went up in Times Square. A brilliant example of the designer and writer duo, it is a powerful statement devoid of photography.

Imagine the sales hike for The Economist when this went up in Times Square. A brilliant example of the designer and writer duo, it is a powerful statement devoid of photography.

Whilst copywriting is a creative process there is no room for your personality, in that the copy that you write must express the brand’s voice. The British Economist magazine has a highly intelligent audience; they’re wonderfully consistent in their understated wit. Very different to Cat who want to be just as no nonsense in a blue-collar way with a completely different brand voice.

A good way of developing brand voice is to build up a profile or set of archetypes that best represent the audience or customer. It's not about how you would like to hear it but rather how they would like to hear it.

A kind of back to front writing.

Getting into character is one of the hardest things to do as a writer. It's really no different to acting. When you see it done brilliantly it's an absolute joy. Any copy should be as clear and digestible as possible. Avoiding long words, it's not about dumbing it down; it’s more about clarity of expression.

  John Travolta and Samuel L Jackson rose to fame as   Vincent Vega and   Jules Winnfield, well scripted urban thugs in Tarantino's Pulp Fiction.

John Travolta and Samuel L Jackson rose to fame as Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield, well scripted urban thugs in Tarantino's Pulp Fiction.

Design and copy come together in typography a true craft with generations of tradition. Great designers pay a lot of attention to the copy, absorbing the content and reflecting it from a typographical point of view. Like the writer it's what works best on the page, and this match is the true expression of brand voice. 

Typography can bring into play not only emotions, but also physical responses.

Typography is used to communicate tone of voice, personality, age, gender and mood, and it can be easily manipulated. If, instead of this serif font that so successfully represents this woman’s personality, we used a slab serif, suddenly the character changes, as does the emotional impact of the statement.

Judging simply by the font, the narrator is no longer definitively female; she is no longer in their mid-60s, and her mood is not merely pompous, but could be described as verging on angry.

It’s a great example of how quickly the tone can shift with a simple change of typeface.

Typography is powerful in attracting attention a building brand recognition. For a writer to have their work set and designed beautifully is a tribute to both the designer and the writer. When these two skill sets in a studio are in sync and you see the words literally spring off the page, it’s real magic.

 'Words look much nicer when they're hand lettered' — Alison Carmichael

'Words look much nicer when they're hand lettered' — Alison Carmichael

The brand’s use of written and visual language is it’s primary form of expression and by controlling and managing the particular voice you build long-term relationships with your customers, as The Economist has.

The brand language and voice mustn't chop and change to suit the mood of the day.

It needs to be set in the future and not be fashionable, but rather forward thinking. Crafting messages and adopting a style which is ahead of its time. These days with so much to read, none of us want a commentary of where we are now. We want the words to transport us to a new place.

Graphic design provides the brand identity and copywriting the brand’s personality. There are many styles but for me taking a story driven approach helps to navigate the chaotic intersection of brand strategy, content and creativity.

In the past we as strategist mostly had to be clever, but today we have to be helpful in ways that are ever changing. Unpeeling the platforms, the behaviours, the cultures and the currencies that clients need to know.