The Importance of Copy

This last week, Sir Derek Lauritzen and I took a trip down to Morningstar for BuiltIn Chicago’s D Conference. During Jason Fried’s interview, I was reminded of the importance of the relationship between copy writing and design. Jason’s idea was that if a designer practices their writing often, the communication in their design will improve. On an individual basis, we felt he was correct. Within the broad spectrum of project to project, we believe he’s correct.

No Greek

You see, it is becoming common knowledge at this point in design’s evolution that Greek text or “lorem ipsum” just doesn’t cut it anymore. Yeah, I know sometimes it is just more convenient, but you need to get over conveniences, and get into challenges. UG has been guilty many times of resorting to Greek text, and just weighing out how much room to allow for this heading here and that column there. Sometimes you have to do something if you’re not getting copy in time. Just cross your fingers that their copy will fit.

Benefits of Your Copy

Assuming you or your office does not have an official copywriter. You could be relying on John Doe, the cashier at Smith Shoes to provide content for their upcoming site redesign. Well John may not have any more experience than you at writing for the web, but you’ve got an idea in mind with how the copy should look, and have done your research on Smith Shoes. Why not take a stab at it yourself? If you don’t, that h1 expected to contain three words, “Fast. Strong. Undeniable.” might turn into a three paragraph explanation on the glue process in the soles of Smith Shoes. Nobody cares about the process of how his or her shoes are made, seriously. With that in mind, you might start seeing that copy can kill or polish design. At the very least, could really make your new wireframes messy by the time they hit the design stage.

What if you’re a horrid writer?

You should probably practice. The same reason we put this blog up. Practice.

Simple Communication

Just remember to talk to your audience as if they are hanging out in your living room, listening to your favorite Beatles album. Bring a little playfulness, a little concern, and stay casual during the conversation. Do not talk or sing along so much that your guest can’t concentrate on that Beatles album. Your audience most likely is only interested in hearing what you have to say in between songs. Keep it brief and relevant to the design, and vice versa.

Beyond doing your own writing, it would be beneficial to bone up on your reading. This may help you get more of a sense of style and structure from other authors, poets, bloggers, etc. At the very least, you could find yourself immersed in an entertaining or knowledgable read.

Hopefully this little article has your design gears turning on how you can perform quality control on the copy for your next project. I wish you luck on your upcoming projects!

Finally, I leave you with a quote.

“Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.”

 from A Man Without a Country by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

-Jordan Sparrow

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