“Oh, they’re design students, they don’t write”. It wasn’t unusual for students from different majors to say something like this when working on a cross major group project in school. Actually, it was quite common. For some reason, it is assumed that design students never write. What’s worse, it’s accepted to be okay by most. This only made writing less important for us designers.
People assume that because the majority of the work as a visual designer is done through sketching an idea or mocking up a wireframe, that writing is of little importance. It seems to be more beneficial and important to learn another technique in Photoshop rather than taking the time and effort to practice writing. This is where most people have it wrong–designing is not only about creating something beautiful: it is a form of communication.
Unlike fine arts where it can solely be a self-expression, design must have an audience and a purpose. It is something to be sold, liked and accepted by the community. We must be able to articulate and express our ideas and concepts through both verbal and oral communication–not only to explain our design, but to gain the audience’s trust “clear writing is a sign of clear thinking”. Being able to write clearly about something denotes a kind of professionalism and expertise about the subject. Language is another tool that enhances the concept and experience of an idea.
If designers were more interested and involved in writing and reading, the design outcome would be more powerful and natural. When assigned a project, the designer is usually handed copy from the copywriter or the client. Many times, the designer does not take time to even read the material. Even before having a clear understanding of the subject, the designer tackles the visual aesthetic first. This often results in an awkward design that does not make sense to the theme, mood and logic of the copy.
Design becomes extraordinary and memorable not only with the visual aspect, but more important, with the personal story that follows. An empty visual is just a shell. People will remember a design if the design tells a story. It is the job of a designer to understand the story and interpret it. Great work doesn’t happen with just the craft of the work. According to my creative director, creativity and genius is only about 10%. Preparation is 40% and the remaining 50% is giving the visual meaning and life. It is about selling the item, having a purpose for the beauty. One of the most important parts of being a designer is being able explain your design, taking a stance and creating style, a voice. If a designer is not able to do this, the beautifully crafted visual is worthless.
For designers to grow and take on a more complex challenge, they must learn to work with all the forms of language, not just visual language. Those who choose to limit their creativity with only a visual will never learn the beauty of being a true communicator and will remain a desktop artist.
Yes, I am a designer, and my creative director has just assigned me to write for this blog. I am in panic mode, but here I go opening Microsoft Word.