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5 Tips for Writing Design-Friendly Copy

In a marketing agency, process is crucial and deadlines are imminent. Anything that minimizes time and maximizes quality is the golden ticket of our day-to-day. As a copywriter, I’m responsible for writing clear, concise content that works effortlessly with design. I blend the creative and the intelligence, but I only contribute one step of the process. When I can do something to make it easier for my team down the line, it creates a more productive workflow and reduces headaches for everyone involved.

I’m a writer who minored in graphic design in college, so my diverse skill set often comes in handy when working with LMG designers. For writers who don’t have the same experience, some tips I’ve learned from being on both sides can help you write more design-friendly copy and make life easier for your whole team:

  1. Talk to your team.
    This may seem obvious, but trust me—if you, the account manager, the designer, and the art director aren’t on the same page from the very beginning, it can cause hiccups later on. Be a valuable asset in every kickoff meeting. Share ideas. Ask questions. Help come up with a plan that everyone understands. Be sure you understand the plan. Content strategy and design strategy go hand in hand, so keep in mind what the designers plan to do with your copy. And if something changes along the way, regroup to make sure nothing was lost in translation.
  2. Focus on the details.
    Small errors hiding in Word become glaring errors in design. While the project is likely to go through at least one or two rounds of proofing, don’t depend on others to catch every misspelling or missing word right before a piece goes out the door. Giving the copy a few extra minutes of care and attention before handing it off can avoid several rounds of edits for the designers later.
  3. Keep it concise.
    Building on my last point, copy that seems acceptable in length in Word can overflow in design. When writing for design, less is always more. Excessive copy can intimidate or bore readers, as well as detract from a great design. You can always cut copy once you see it in design, but it’s more efficient to practice concision from the very beginning.
  4. Remember, hierarchy matters.
    We read words left to right and top to bottom. Once a document is designed, though, flow can be more complex, so copy should be flexible enough to fit the layout. Copy may need to fill a sidebar, spread throughout an infographic, or hit focal points designed to break typical reading patterns. It’s important to have an idea how your words will be used and write copy that’s easy for the designer to lay out (and the reader to understand).
  5. Don’t get emotionally attached.
    We all get curveballs thrown at us daily—clients change their minds, project direction shifts, a direct mail piece turns into an email. What makes sense at the beginning may not work at the end. You can (and should) have pride and confidence in your work, but remember that copy and design have to work together. Adapt to create the content that will work best for the project, client, and brand—even if it’s not what you originally envisioned.

You don’t need design experience to write design-friendly copy. Just staying focused on the big picture—and your team members—goes a long way. Keep these tips in mind for your next project, and it could make a big difference all around.

Erin Myers +