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Designers Need to Know How to Write

Writing is a Valuable Skill for Designers and Other Professions

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Writing is for everyone.

Writing is for everyone.

© Jacci Howard Bear
Design, just like writing, is about communication. While most designers don't consider themselves writers, writing is a large part of what we do. After more than a decade writing about graphic design and desktop publishing I identify myself as a writer more often than as a designer. That wasn't always the case. Yet even in my earliest days of doing design work I was writing regularly. Like me, you probably wrote and rewrote your own brochure. You may write letters or email to clients, job proposals, and perhaps a marketing or promotional newsletter and your own Web site. Designers need to be able to communicate in writing.

I'm not the only designer writing about the need for writing. Read what others have to say on the importance of writing in your design career.

In Designers must write at Creative Latitude, Eric Karjaluoto writes:

"I did not make a conscious choice to write as much as I do. It was something I learned to do out of necessity. When you run a firm, there’s never a shortage of situations in which one must write. I spend a large part of my day either writing briefs, rationales, proposals, general correspondence, or even copy for one of our projects. I will likely never be a writer, but at very least, I am not afraid of using language as my work demands."

Prolific author Roger C. Parker, writing at BoDo in Why Designers Should Be Writers says "designers who are able to write enjoy a major advantage over their competition. Being able to write as well as design offers graphic designers numerous practical and profitable dividends."

He's not just talking about publishing books or writing magazine articles.

"Once you become comfortable as a writer, you’ll find it easier and easier to maintain an up-to-date website, promoted through short, frequent e-mail tips. Between the quality of your newsletters and the frequency of your e-mails, your career trajectory will take flight."

Derek Powazek, writing at A List Apart in Calling All Designers: Learn to Write! goes so far as to say to anyone hiring a designer:

"...if your designer says, 'I’m not a writer,' it may be time to find one who is."

Writing as a Job Requirement

Recently I picked up a copy of Writing for Design Professionals by Stephen A. Kliment. The design professionals in the title refers to architects, engineers, and interior designers but the advice applies just as readily to graphic designers. It shows visual communicators how to communicate effectively with words.
"Take a swift look at the help-wanted pages of any newspaper or professional on-line bulletin. Notice the high ratio of jobs that demand some level of communication skills; most of the time employers actually spell it out — e.g., 'candidate must possess communication skills.' Effective writing is an unerring career advancer."

According to the 2006-07 Edition of the Occupational Outlook Handbook, "Desktop publishers often perform writing and editing tasks as well as page layout and design. For example, in addition to laying out articles for a newsletter, desktop publishers may be responsible for editing content they receive or for writing original content themselves." Writing skills are just as important as your technical and artistic skills in desktop publishing and graphic design.

  • If you want to expand your skill set and broaden your job opportunities, learning how to write is one way to do that. Add Writing to Your Desktop Publishing Resumé

  • You can instantly improve your writing by simply learning how to spell. Typos happen. But when you don't know it's a typo, that misspelled word is a problem that will continue to plague you. Spelling is a design issue. How Do You Spell Desktop Publishing?

  • It isn't always possible to convince someone that it takes a professional to write effective copy for brochures or sales-generating headlines for an ad. So, when you have to do it yourself, you need to know at least the basics of how to write copy. Copywriting for Designers and Non-Designers

Do you write? Do you write well?

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