Tuning in with the copywriter — Frank derFrankie Neulichedl

Tuning in with the copywriter

We have seen in the last lesson, that a copywriter is important and necessary to get good copy text and headlines. Working together with a copywriter on the other hand is sometimes harder. Here a few tips on how to get in sync with the copywriter.

Is the copywriter on your level?

Copywriter like graphic designers and art directors are not all the same. Some are good, some are mediocre, and some are bad at their profession. You, as the art director, must know the difference between a good and suitable written text and a bad one. You "direct" the project as a whole, so it's your responsibility. You don't have to be a writer to note the difference between good and bad texts, but you want to read some good books or newspapers to get the feeling for a well written piece. Don't tell me, that you are a creative mind that has no use for the novels and ordinary newspaper - if you think like that you have already lost. As an art director you must have a broader view. So when you choose a copywriter or you start to work with one, read some texts he has already written. This way you see if you can talk and communicate on the same level or if you have to take the lead.

If not - you take the lead

If you find out that the quality of the texts are not as good as hoped or the copywriter is not used to the advertising/creative writing you have take the lead. You have to give him examples or guidelines he can follow. I collect great advertisings or brochures which I think have not only a great layout but also have great text. You can use them like you would use a mood board. The copywriter will be thankful and the results will benefit. Give him also the creative brief, it's also a guideline he has to stick to and tell him how long the texts should be. Remember you are in charge.

If yes - lead depends on the project

If the copywriter is on your level or maybe better you may go along together or let him leave. This means that you can develop the ideas together, decide if you want more or less text and what type of layout you want to create. If he takes the lead, he may find also the visuals for you. I know a few copywriters that give me these hints for magazine layouts. I'm in charge of the look of the whole magazine, but I don't decide on the content of every image. I'm with the copywriter in the first briefing, to know what comes along, staying in the background and making some questions, but the copywriter is on its own in the briefing for the content. He might come to me for a brainstorming about the "visual and text metaphor" for the article, but he also might not. If he is a good copywriter this metaphor will lead me easily to the visuals and how to integrate it into the magazine.

Keep communicating

As you can see communication with the copywriter is essential as your both work has to get together. In the case of a not so good copywriter the main communicator will be you leading, if the copywriter is a well trained professional the communication well be more about the idea and creative things. But also in this case show him you pre-layouts and sketches and he should show you his structure and ideas before he elaborates the whole piece. If you think you don't have time for this, think again. You will benefit if you don't have to lose time in getting the layout to work because the text is too long or short and I don't even mention the lost time when you have to redo the job because it's lack in quality of the text.

Presenting the project together

Presentation of your work is an important thing, you know that already. If you understand that the job is done in team with your copywriter than you want to present it in team. You present the layout and the copywriter the idea behind the text. You sure want to rehearse the presentation in order that you both point to the same direction and don't get into contradictions. You will see that having the copywriter with you is a nice thing. If something comes up with the text you don't have to take just everything what your client says about it. A copywriter can argue with the client or even better understand directly what went wrong or where the text is not pointing to the right spots.

In conclusion I just want to say that graphic design is teamwork and therefore a good collaboration with your copywriter is the key to success. It also applies to other parts of your "team" like the photographer and the printer and I will point to these team-partners in another lesson, son stay tuned.

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Great article. As a copywriter, I can say it's totally a team process and I love the idea of letting whoever is at the best level take the lead. I'm pretty confident of my abilities and it gets frustrating to me to work with AD's or Graphic designers who just want to be cool or pretty or fun with the ideas w/no reason behind it strategically. Great work comes from an understanding of the audience and their needs and how the client's brand will fulfill those needs; anything less is simply wasted communication and any smart client will kill it.

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