In my live interview with Jason Fried, founder of Basecamp, at the 2015 HOW Design Live, I dared to propose to him what I imagined to be his formula for success, based on what I had learned about him in preparing for the interview.
The original “formula” was:
Success = Time + Repetition + Discipline
He was very thoughtful about each element and, for the most part, agreed. But then he added one element that surprised me: writing.
It shouldn’t have, actually, because it was his writing that originally drew me to Jason ten years ago when I first came across 37signals and Better Fedex and included them in my book, Designing Website for Every Audience (HOW Books – now out of print but I have a few copies in my closet).
Here’s the crux of what Jason said – (you can listen to our 2 minute exchange here or read the entire exchange below):
“If I had to choose between redesigning a site and rewriting a site, I would rewrite the thing first. Writing is a huge underrated advantage. If you can write well and you can explain yourself well and you can speak properly and speak clearly and get your ideas across to people, you have a huge advantage, because a lot of people don’t know how to do that. And that alone is huge. If you use the right language at the right time and in the right place – it’s very important. Copywriting is so underrated.”
So if you are a designer who can write, take advantage of it. If you can’t, get a professional copywriter to help you. (I know several, so if you need names, reach out to me at Ilise@marketing-mentor.com).
Here’s the actual transcript of that short clip of our conversation….
Ilise: You probably don’t like formulas but I wanted to come up with one, about your business. I wonder what you think of it.
Jason: I don’t have to do any math, do I?
Ilise: No, no.
Jason: All right then.
Ilise: It’s a formula for success: Time + repetition + discipline.
Jason: Those are all big parts of it. I think discipline is a really important part. I don’t think you need a lot of time, I think too much time is bad but discipline is important. What was the other one? Time plus…
Jason: Repetition. I think iteration and repetition is super important.
I would also add that I think writing is a huge underrated advantage. That if you can write well and you can explain yourself well and you can speak properly and speak clearly and get your ideas across to people, you have a huge advantage, because a lot of people don’t know how to do that. And that alone is huge. If you use the right language at the right time and in the right place – it’s very important. Copywriting is so underrated.
Traditionally you can call me a designer, that’s what I used to do a lot, I run the business side of it more now. But if I had to choose between redesigning a site and rewriting a site or redesigning a screen or rewriting it, I would rewrite the thing first. I think you can get a lot more traction, a lot more ground, you can make such drastic improvements by just changing the language, over spending all this time changing the look and not the language, because the language is really important, so I’m a big fun of copywriting. I would add good writing in there too.
Jason: It’s underrated but it’s super important.
Ilise: All right, so time + repetition + discipline + excellent copy writing.
Jason: That’s a weird formula.
Ilise: It is.
Jason: Yes. They are all important.
Looking for actionable career tips and advice? Check out Ilise Benun’s HOW Design Live speaker podcast series.
Looking to perfect the art of copywriting? Try out Denise Bosler’s online course, Copywriting for Designers, at HOW Design University.