5 Insights from 2 Leading Direct Mail Graphic Artists That Will Make You a Better Copywriter

"The art director is the difference between advertising that stands still and advertising that stands out." – Leo Burnett

Stephanie Bozylinski has been a direct marketing graphic designer for over 13 years, fulfilling the visions of some of the most innovative copywriters. She was behind the creation of the first, extremely successful, bookalogs – which were in such high demand from readers that libraries were calling and requesting copies for their shelves.

Master designer Ted Kikoler, who is recognized as one of the leading direct mail designers in North America, serves a wide range of clients in the USA, Canada, and Europe. He has repeatedly redesigned controls – keeping the same copy – and producing significant lifts in response (over 100% in some cases).

Between them, Stephanie and Ted have over 30 years of experience in graphic design. They agree that good copy can turn into a dud package simply because of poor communication between the designer and the copywriter. Unfortunately, copywriters – especially new copywriters – tend not to get involved enough in the layout of their packages.

Stephanie's top tips for working with graphic artists are:

1. It's a mistake for copywriters to just leave the design to the designers.

Designers can sometimes misunderstand the product or the copywriter's message. So, a copywriter has to be very involved in the layout. The design should convey the right mood for the message and the product. Make sure that the colors match the message. For example, don't use light blue in a package with a "gloom and doom" message.

2. Emphasis on the wrong aspects of the copy can mean death for a package.

A copywriter must tell the designer specifically which parts of the copy need emphasis. If the design emphasizes a weak part of the copy, the prospect will quickly lose interest. Don't be afraid to give some constructive criticism. It's the designer's job to make sure the copy is as effective as possible.

Ted adds these 3 secrets:

3. While copy drives the boat in direct marketing, avoid making the designer feel like the No. 2 person on the totem pole.

Involve designers from the beginning – making them feel like equal partners. Try to avoid the "who did what" syndrome: "That brilliant idea was mine" or "That stupid mistake was yours." Unless you work as a team, think like a team, and act like a team, you won't get very far.

4. As a rule, most designers never learned much about marketing.

Teach them to focus on the marketing challenge before you by briefing them on the headspace of the person you're mailing to. Explain who your prospects are and what present events are affecting the way they are thinking and responding. Make sure the designer has a clear picture of the kind of person you are writing to BEFORE you talk about design and format.

5. Force the designer to read your copy.

You'd be surprised how many packages get designed without the copy being read. A simple way to avoid this is to send your copy to the designer with this message: "I'd like your comments. Please read and call me to discuss." I guarantee that the time you invest in discussing it will pay off. Also, send your designer a copy of John Caples' classic book, "Tested Advertising Methods." Hopefully this will give him or her a better appreciation for the power of words and its impact on response.

[Starting next month, you'll find out how to dramatically increase your copywriting income when AWAI introduces it's new graphic design course: "Graphic Design Success".]

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The Professional Writers’ Alliance

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Published: April 8, 2002

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