Working Collaboratively to Produce Top-Quality Work

Designers and copywriters have a better chance of creating a successful package by working collaboratively with each other. Designers are eager to work with copywriters, but they don’t always know exactly how to do it. And copywriters don’t always understand how designers translate their ideas into a visual product.

Here are 3 tips that should help both of you produce the very best package possible.

  1. Really Read the Copy.

    When designing a package, you must read the copy thoroughly to understand its finer points and emotional content.

    After carefully reading the copy, try to get inside the head of your prospects so you can design the package in a way that will make them want whatever you’re selling. Is the reader a man or a woman? How old? What do they do every day? Why would they need this product … and how can you get them to purchase it right now? What images would they respond to best?

    If, for example, the product is geared to a male audience, I normally wouldn’t use pink in my design. And if the product is expensive, like a $5,000 gold necklace, I would choose a luxurious background or a unique setting that “smells” like quality.

    When I think I understand what makes the prospect “tick,” I discuss my conclusions with the copywriter and refine my impressions. This can also help the copywriter make a mid-course correction if we identify a major problem with the copy.

  2. Learn the “Language” of Your Project Partner.

    As a designer, you’ll be working with different copywriters throughout your career. Each one will have a unique style of working with you. So communication skills become very important if you want to develop strong, winning packages.

    I’ve had the good fortune of working with Bob Bly, a master copywriter who is sheer genius when it comes to both copy and concept. He has an uncanny way of giving me a gut feel about the copy in just a few words.

    I believe that my being able to “hear” what he has to say is the reason we have had so much success on the projects we have worked on together.

    Unfortunately, not all copywriters have the ability to communicate their ideas clearly. Here are 6 strategies to improve communication:

    Study. The first step in “listening” to your project partner is to understand his “language” – but not just the words. Learn the concepts he uses to develop strong copy. That way, you will both be communicating on the same level.

    Read. Read about your partner’s field. Subscribe to The Golden Thread and read books by master copywriters like Bob Bly and David Ogilvy.

    Listen actively. While you’re listening to your project partner, really listen. For example, don’t try to fit his copy into a preconceived layout you have in mind. Let his ideas guide your design.

    Make notes. Write brief notes about what you hear. You can go back later and fill them in. If this makes it difficult to listen actively, record the conversation.

    Ask questions. If your project partner says something you don’t understand, ask for clarification. If you expect to hear something in the discussion and do not hear it, ask about it.

    Restate what you heard. Repeat what you think you heard your project partner say. This allows him to clarify any misinterpretations.

  3. Maintain a positive attitude.

    We’re all human … and we all make mistakes. So don’t beat yourself up as you go through the learning process on your way to building a profitable freelance business as a designer. I can tell you this for sure: By remaining positive, friendly, and calm – when communicating with your clients and project partners – you will soon be very successful.

    People may not remember exactly what you say, but they do remember how you make them feel. So look at things from the other person’s perspective before making any rash comments – and they will want to work with you again and again.

[Editor’s Note: During last week’s Bootcamp, Lori Haller and Donna Doyle explained some important graphic design basics that will help you work effectively and intelligently with clients and other designers. Lori and Donna also stressed the importance of copywriters learning about design and designers learning about copywriting to produce better packages. To learn more about Bootcamp 2007 click here]

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 »

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Published: October 18, 2007

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