Everything You Need to Know about Working with Graphic Designers, Part 1

When it comes to direct mail, copy is king. But even if you write a perfect promotion, if it doesn’t "look" right, you’ll lose the sale simply because your prospect wouldn’t take a second look at it. So what can you do to make sure all of your hard work doesn’t go to waste? Get involved with the design process.

The design of a package can have a profound effect on your response rates. In Issue #53 of The Golden Thread, we learned that Ted Kikoler’s designs have sometimes increased response by as much as 100% – without changing a word of copy!

At this year’s bootcamp, Lori Haller, a freelance graphic designer who earns $100,000+ a year, explained how copywriters can work with graphic designers to create winning packages.

For starters, realize that knowledge is power. Educate yourself on the key points of good direct-mail graphic design. That way, you can play a bigger role in the final look and success of your copy.

When you’re working with a designer, be open – look at it as a partnership. Here are five things you should share with the designer at the beginning of the design process to make the promotion as strong as possible:

  1. Convey your vision to the graphic designer.

    Start thinking about what you would like the promotion to look like as soon as you start working on it. Look through your swipe files for ideas. As you write, include your design ideas in your copy: Make things you want to stand out larger, use different fonts, indicate where you would like to include a sidebar, etc. You can even include a rough sketch if you like.

    Then, talk with the designer to discuss your vision. Tell him as much as you know about the prospect so the designer can put himself in the reader’s shoes. Remember, it’s his job to make the copy you’ve worked so hard on come alive.

  2. Discuss the project, budgets, and timelines.

    Discuss everything upfront. (You don’t want any surprises!) Discuss the formats you can choose from (your client may dictate this), budget constraints, color options, etc. And let the designer know if the copy is draft or final. Also, tell him when you would like to see the initial sketches as well as when the final design is due.

  3. Send samples.

    Give the designer samples of similar packages. (You can send them yourself or ask your client to send them.) Place stickies on the samples with notes that explain what worked well and what didn’t do so well. This will help the designer get off on the right foot. Also, if possible, send the company’s logo and appropriate signature to the designer (or at least give him the name of a person who can get him all of that information).

  4. Ask the designer to read the copy.

    Believe it or not, many designers don’t read the copy they’re laying out – so, ask him to read it. By reading the copy, he can completely grasp what is going on throughout the piece and identify the emotional feel of the copy. Plus, he’ll see if your design ideas will work – or make suggestions for making the piece stronger.

  5. Ask for several designs for the outer envelope.

    The outer envelope is a critical piece of the design. It must get opened to have a shot at making the sale. Tell the designer you would like to see four or five versions of the outer envelope so, together, you can pick the strongest one.

When you work with a designer for the first time, don’t think of it as a single job; think long-term. Get to know the designer and build a relationship so you can work well together on this and future projects. You might even get some referrals out of it.

Next week we’ll carry Part 2 of this article: what you should know once the design process is underway.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »


Click to Rate:
Average: 4.0
Published: December 22, 2003

Guest, Add a Comment
Please Note: Your comments will be seen by all visitors.

You are commenting as a guest. If you’re an AWAI Member, Login to myAWAI for easier commenting, email alerts, and more!

(If you don’t yet have an AWAI Member account, you can create one for free.)


This name will appear next to your comment.


Your email is required but will not be displayed.


Text only. Your comment may be trimmed if it exceeds 500 characters.

Type the Shadowed Word
Too hard to read? See a new image | Listen to the letters


Hint: The letters above appear as shadows and spell a real word. If you have trouble reading it, you can use the links to view a new image or listen to the letters being spoken.

(*all fields required)