Graphic designers increasingly need to add copywriting to their skillset. While the design itself sends a message, it needs to be coupled with verbal communication to enforce the content and meaning.
Graphic Designer and Illustrator Denise Bosler is an expert at merging visual and verbal communication. She’s offering her copywriting in design knowledge to those who lack experience or need a refresher. In her online design course, Copywriting for Designers, Bosler explains what is copywriting and how to incorporate it into designs. She also covers copywriting in the RFP (request for proposals) process. Register for the course here.
Below is a sample of Bosler’s copywriting instruction. For more information on copywriting, register here.
4 Copywriting Tools for Designers
The following is a brief excerpt from Copywriting for Designers.
Copywriting is an art. Art requires tools. Tools require practice. Practice makes perfect. Therefore your copywriting can be perfect, if you practice with the right tools. So let’s take a look in your copywriting toolbox and get started.
Tool #1 – Concept
You must have a concept
If you’re a designer, then this should go without saying. All good designs need a solid concept. So does good copywriting. We can call it the “big idea” if you like, but it works the same. You need to develop a point of view, an idea for the basis of your writing and a solid plan for execution.
“All effective design [and copywriting] solutions begin with good ideas. If the work has no supporting idea, then it is simply a pretty picture—nice to look at but doesn’t tell us anything. Design [and writing] need a concept, the idea that supports a design’s direction, purpose and reasoning. A concept is not ‘I think I’ll draw a purple box around the type, use a great big flower in the background and tell the audience it looks pretty.’ Type, color, layout, alignment, shapes, contrast and any other visual decision are components of aesthetics. A concept is ‘I’m going to develop an analogy between the three Fates and the pitfalls of poor education.’ A visual may pop into your head along with the concept statement, but it’s not the specific visuals that matter right now. It’s the strength and validity of the idea.” – excerpt from Creative Anarchy, Denise Bosler
Tool #2 – The Client
Understand your product and client
You must get to know the intimate details of both the product/service and client. You need to understand the strengths and weaknesses. Play up the strengths and hide of the weaknesses. This means asking questions and doing your own research. Get as hands on as possible. Immerse yourself in the details. The more you know, the better and easier it is to generate copy.
Know your audience
The product is useless if there isn’t an audience to invest in it. You need to understand your target audience in order to reach them. Your job is to write (and design) so that the target audience pays attention. Develop a demographic profile of your audience to help target them better through the copy and visuals of your design. Demographics include: Gender, age, ethnicity, family status, income, occupation, and other interests.
Know your competition
It is essential to know what differentiates your product/service from the competition. Play up your strengths and possibly call attention to their weaknesses. Comparison copywriting has been done for ages and makes sense if your product/service is superior. But be sure to support any claims in case you are challenged.
Tool #3 – Craft
Answer “Why?” and “So what?”
Crafting your approach to copywriting is equally as important as the concept. Audiences tend to have a “what’s in it for me” attitude and rightly so. Why should they choose your product/service over another. It’s your job to answer why you are superior and give the benefits of choosing you. There’s a new drink on the market? So what!?! There are dozens of drinks on the market. What makes your drink more special than all the rest. What’s your point of view. What’s your approach. This thought process should intertwine with concept generation. Do the “hard sell” to the audience. Creativity is key.
“You,” not “I”
First person (I, me, we, my, mine, us, ours) speaks about me and at the viewer. Second person (you, your, yours) speaks to the viewer. For example, which works better; “Our product is better and we can prove it” or “You can have a newer better product.” The first speaks about the product, the second focuses the product on the consumer. The second is more personal and relatable. Writing in the second person helps your audience connect.
Tool #4 – Structure
Cut the Clutter
Say more with less. You risk losing the attention of the audience with too many words. When was the last time you read a long paragraph of sell copy. Tell the audience what they need to know and nothing more. This doesn’t mean the telling of the information can’t be interesting. By all means, work magic on the copy. It means that there’s no reason to describe things irrelevant to the current concept. Use your words wisely.
They’re vs. their, you’re vs. your, it’s vs. its. Use the correct words, make sure you spell check, avoid passive tone, use good grammar and sentence structure, apply proper punctuation, use an oxford comma when necessary, and have another pair of eyes on your work before you say it’s final. There’s nothing worse than having 500,000 toothpaste cartons trashed and reprinted because it says “burshing” instead of “brushing” in the instructions (true story).
Want to learn more? Register for Denise’s HOW Design University course, Copywriting for Designers.
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