Calling All Designers: Learn to Write!

by Derek Powazek

59 Reader Comments

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  1. Thank you for this great article.

    I’ve translated your article for russian readers. Maybe it’ll be not useless for our designers = ).

    http://mertas.cat-a-log.ru/design/learn_to_write.htm

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  2. This is indeed a great article about communicating, and communicating well. Isn’t that a designer’s job, to get a message across? The days of imagery bearing sole responsibility for the thrills of the web are gone. We need something more, and combining imagery and text is really the soul of the web experience. It is becoming necessary to read something immediately that says “I am human! Not sentences created by an artificially sentient bot!”.

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  3. A mission statement it should be and an awakening it is to many designers who have always passed the buck in fear of having to actually think on a higher level than pixel perfect design. I enjoyed this article so much, I’ve reposted it at “simplistic blog”:http://blog.simplisticdesigns.com/designers-learn-to-write

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  4. I suppose I have the advantage of being a writer who designs. Or, a designer who writes. All in how you look at it.
    I’ve actually been offered contracts based on the fact that I can do both. I’ve won out bids for projects as well, against corporate designers and companies that honestly dwarf me.
    And how, pray-tell? The client fessed up later that it was my ability to write, to understand their client base and write something absolutely appropriate for it, that caught them.

    I write novels, for the record. Occasionally some bad poetry.
    It’s the ability to communicate people are looking for. You don’t have to have a degree in journalism to pull off reaching your client’s intended audience. Common sense, honesty, grammar of course.

    So I think designers can write content very well. I do understand that we/they might not want to sometimes. There are days I look at the text and think “good lord i don’t really want to do this”. But I agree that it is part of the design, how the text flows, how it relates to the person reading it.
    You complete your talent pool by picking this ability up, in my opinion.

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  5. by the profundity of people taking and discussing in this round.

    Everyone has it*s vote an TIME. time to be READ. Nice to see, that there are so many “serious posters” on this board.
    And, even more, i feel attached to the subject: Being a writing designer,… if ya kneww, watta mean !

    Good, i had my time here around. Was nice so far…
    Gotta come back. thanks for your time – reading.

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  6. This article, though short, opened my eyes to a part of design that I completely looked over. Shame on me! I tend to write a lot. Texts I have written in my native tongue – Dutch – do get some attention. But i’m a designer at heart and it’s the user who’s the most important person for a website.

    I will definitely give this more attention. Making the site friendlier (or nastier, depends really on what you or the client wants…) gives the site far more character than dry texts. I completely agree!

    Great learning moment.

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  7. The article echoes feelings I’ve had on the subject for a while. Content creation is one of four total areas a designer should embrace to become a “new breed of designer”:http://fluidzen.com/blog/2006/08/22/hybrid-design/ . Specifically with writing copy, the best designs are the ones where the design and the copy compliment each other. I don’t necessarily think the designer needs to write every word of every paragraph within the design, rather a model for the tone of the copy should definitely be established. The style of copy can and will clash with a design if not properly evaluated. Flickr style copy in a corporate style design is a definite mismatch. Plus how many times have you had the “You can’t say “˜click here’ in the copy”? conversation with the marketing department. Too many times myself, so now I avoid it by setting the stage with a model of how the copy should be to complement the design.

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  8. The article is great for making designers realise that words are important, too. However, I think it’s unfair on designers for Derek to suggest that clients who have a designer who says they’re not a writer should look elsewhere and “find one who is.”

    I know we live in an age of self-publishing, but surely not everyone needs to be a generalist? Do you advocate that writers should learn to design too? As a writer I have an appreciation of the role of design in a web site or print piece, which allows me to work with designers. Isn’t it enough for designers to understand the role of words in a site, so they can work effectively with whoever is writing the copy?

    Learning to write isn’t a case of reading Strunk and White anymore than learning to be a designer involves reading Web Design For Dummies. Much of online writing involves being able to sell in just a few words, which is hard. Instead, writing and rewriting is the way to learn, and I’d also recommend “On Writing Well” by William Zinsser and “Networds” by Nick Usborne.

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  9. I do agree with you. The more your are in a good command of your words, the more your readers will value your work

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