3 Reasons Knowing Graphic Design Secrets Can Boost Your Copywriting Success, Part 1

It started with a phone call to the order department of Healthy Resolve, an alternative-health company. The woman on the line wanted to know where to get copies of their magazine.

The company representative paused. They didn't have a magazine. "Ma'am," he began, "are you sure you have the right number?"

"Oh, yes," the woman answered. "This is the phone number on the magazine I just received in the mail."

It took a minute, but the phone rep figured out what she wanted. She'd received one of his company's promotions … and had mistaken it for a magazine.

Because this “magazine” was full of such useful, interesting content … and it had the design elements of one of the many magazines she subscribes to … she wanted to share it to her friends.

This little story is every marketer’s dream come true!

A great deal of Healthy Resolve's success is due to the design of its promotions – design that, in this case, makes their packages look like magazines. Master Copywriter Parris Lampropoulos is the copywriter behind many of Healthy Resolves successful promotions. Parris is a copywriter who understands the power of design.

Here are 3 reasons you should understand the power of design too.

  1. Whatever you write has to go into some sort of format. While you might deliver copy to your client as a basic 8.5" x 11" Word document, that is not how your client is going to deliver it to his prospect.

    He might choose to send the copy as a letter, Web page, tri-fold brochure, magalog, or some other format. If you want to write successfully for any of them, you have to understand the length and type of copy needed.

    An obvious example: You couldn't squeeze copy for an 8-page letter into a tri-fold brochure. The brochure copy would have to be much shorter, with less narrative and probably more focus on product features.

    A less obvious example: If the client wants a magalog, it's your job as the copywriter to know how long your main copy (the "flow-through" copy) needs to be, where it should dominate the pages, and where sidebars and graphics should dominate.

  2. You can offer clients who don’t have strong graphics experience an added level of expertise.

    Every marketer out there wants to be successful in his marketing efforts. But successful marketing is a bottom line endeavor. Wildly successful response to a package means nothing if the cost of the package eats up all the profits. Success in DM is a balance between response and cost.

    Unfortunately, some clients understand the "reducing the cost" part of this equation to the exclusion of other factors. They'll try to save production costs by reducing font size, reducing margins to get more copy on a page, and jamming graphics together.

    What they've saved in production costs, they've lost in readability.

    The result? Your killer copy flops. Will they hire you again? Probably not. But worse, they will have wasted their money – and you've lost a client – because of bad design decisions … not because of bad copy.

    A disaster like this can be avoided if you are able to review the design and show where certain design decisions are likely to cause problems.

  3. The third reason to learn the fundamentals of good DM design is the easiest one to understand: With these skills, you earn more money. In fact, copywriters who actually design promotions can earn a LOT more.

    Think of it for a moment: You write the copy for a letter, and your client may pay you $2,000 or $3,000 (or more) for that copy. Then the client turns around and pays someone else to design the letter.

    Design decisions may involve little more than which fonts and colors to use … spacing … and where to place one or two illustrations. Yet that designer may earn as much as – or even more than – you did for writing the copy.

    But if you write the copy AND design the package, you can get both paychecks.

You maybe be thinking, "Sounds great, but I don't know thing one about design. Plus, most of the fancy design I see nowadays leaves me cold."

Neither of these two issues should keep you from being a successful DM copywriter/graphic designer. You'll see for yourself next week in Part 2 of this article, when we go into detail about some of the basic rules of successful direct-marketing design.

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:
No ratings yet
Published: September 24, 2007

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)