Whether you are a freelance copywriter working with a designer or a blogger doing everything yourself, understanding some basic design concepts will elevate your copy.
However good your content, good design is crucial for it to work whether that be for print or the web.
Proximity argues that designers should group visually similar or related items together to emphasize their connection to each other. It also argues that dissimilar or unrelated items should be kept separate to emphasize the lack of relationship.
By grouping like items, you can reduce clutter in your design and improve organization.
This design concept deals with how text and graphics are aligned. It is another important principle for decluttering and organizing.
The four core alignments are left, right, center, and justified. There is no recommended alignment and you can use multiple for different elements of your design. This one should be familiar to copywriters already from the numerous alignment tools in writing systems.
Repetition is a design concept concerned with reusing the same or similar elements. This one should also be familiar to copywriters. Where repetition of words in your copy can enhance their effect, repetition in your design creates a sense of unity and cohesion.
You might use repeated images, patterns, lines, or colors in your design. You can vary repetition as well to draw attention or imply change.
Contrast is all about opposing elements. The greater the difference between two or more elements of a design in terms of colors, shapes, sizes, etc., the more interesting they become.
The main reason for this lies in our brain’s pre-attentive processing. The term essentially boils down to our eyes being drawn to visuals with high contrast.
Have a Clear Hierarchy
A design’s hierarchy is its layout. No matter how good your copy, if it is poorly structured or organized no one will want to read it. Clear hierarchy in a design makes it easy for users to follow your messaging and interact with your content.
Well designed hierarchies have different levels that a user can easily navigate between. There is the primary one, your headline, followed by the secondary which is your subheadings, images, captions, and anything else someone would catch during a brief skim. The final level is the meat of the design, your copy.
A good headline is everything. It is the first thing people see and the first thing they will judge when considering whether your article, blog, etc., is of interest. Your headline should contain enough information to intrigue a user while also giving them a reason to read on.
Writing the perfect headline is no small feat, though. While the words that make it up play a big role, the design of your headline can also engage or turn away users. Here are some design tips to improve your headlines:
- Size. A headline should be the biggest piece of text in the design. Make it stand out.
- Weight. Use bolding to emphasize its importance.
- Spacing. Make sure your headline is set apart from other text to reduce clutter and draw the eye.
- Typeface. Use a different typeface to clearly differentiate your headline from the rest of your text.
Keep It Consistent
Most people have come to expect shared features and functionality across different products and websites. While you should aim for uniqueness, using a familiar design allows users to navigate through and engage with your content more easily.
Use Simple Language
Stick to simple language when planning your design. Keep in mind your audience and topic-specific terminology, but use easy to understand words and phrases otherwise.
Your users will move on to something simpler if they have to spend extra time interpreting your design.
Typography is the invisible hero of copywriting and design. The less you notice it, the better it is performing its job.
The font, typeface, color, and essentially any other variable of the text is typography. Good typography will make reading your copy enjoyable while bad typography will make it feel like a chore.
Color can be used to communicate subconscious messages and feelings. Use color in your design to enhance your copy’s message or inspire an emotional response in the user.
Working With a Designer
Working with a designer can be challenging, but there are a few steps you can take to minimize issues during the collaborative process. Remember that copywriting and design isn’t a “chicken or the egg” scenario. Each should be created with and around the other.
- Provide a narrative structure to the designer. Help them understand your goals for the project and give them a copy framework for their design.
- Sketch and sit together. Active feedback and collaboration allow for quicker work and brainstorming.
- Explain your reasoning. Be clear on why you want to include something in your copy or design. Your designer shouldn’t have to guess your intentions.
Psychology of Design
Along with design concepts, you should consider human psychology when planning your design.
Hick’s Law shows the more options someone has to choose from, the longer it will take for them to make a decision. This means the more complicated and numerous the choices in your design, the more work it is for a user.
Von Restorff Effect
The Von Restorff Effect states that people best remember things that stand out from the crowd. It’s why our minds can remember the design on a red shirt better if it is in a pile of white shirts.
Jakob’s Law is the unfortunate reality of online traffic. People will spend more time on other sites than yours. Users will appreciate it when you include familiar aspects from other sites in your design.
Copywriting and design are closely related and learning more about one can improve your skill in the other. No one expects you to be an expert, but learning some of these design concepts can streamline your work with a designer and improve your own independent work.
Do Copywriters Need to Know Graphic Design?
No, but it can help. You’ll usually be paired with a designer if graphic design is necessary for a project. Learning a new skill is never a bad idea though and can be helpful for your independent work.
Do Copywriters Need to Know Web Design?
No. Just like graphic design it can be helpful to learn, especially if you are working by yourself, but more often than not someone else will be handling that area of a project.
What is UX Writing?
UX writing is the copy in the user interface of a product or site that guides user interaction. UX stands for user experience.