10 Tips for Writing for Designers
Ever get that feeling that some members of your creative team just aren’t quite with the program? It is entirely likely. Sending out communications and messages that will reach your whole team can be somewhat tricky because of the differences in how people think.
Creatives sometimes tend to be a little more free-thinking and less-structured than some of their office counterparts. Research has shown that people who use more right brain functions, such as designers and creative thinkers, also respond to and process the same information differently than left-brain thinkers, who tend to be more organized and logic-oriented. (Some studies have even shown that the highest rates of dyslexia, which affects reading and comprehension, have been found in right-brain thinkers.) With just a few tweaks, you can more effectively get your message across to everyone.
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1. Stay on Topic
Send out communications with a purpose. Determine what your message is and stick to it. Long memos or emails can be overwhelming to read when time is a concern or deadlines are approaching. Put together your message and set it aside for a while before hitting the “send” button. Come back and reread it. Edit closely. Get rid of all the extra information and keep the message on point (even if you save some information for a future memo).
2. Messages Should Have Hierarchy
Big words do seem more important. Use headlines and big words to stress important information. Structure emails and memos with two to three different font sizes to stress important points and make for easier reading. Use the largest size for the most important information and use more standard sizing for the body of the message. Be careful not to “over-design” your message. Going crazy with fonts and colors will only cause distractions.
3. Show, Rather than Tell
Provide examples of what you like and what you are looking for when detailing projects to the design group. Communication is about more than words; remember that when working with your visual thinkers. Show the idea. Send out links or attach images that help convey your message. Use visual examples in your writing to describe what you are looking for. Remind the designer of a project that you liked and how this project might use a similar (or vastly different) approach.
4. Keep it Short
Bullet points are one of the most effective ways to cover a lot of information in a digestible format. Don’t feel the need to write a manifesto; highlight necessary information and encourage feedback. Edit, edit, edit. If you can say it in 10 words, don’t use 30. Keep sentences short and to the point. Delivering too many messages at once can keep your point from being understood.
5. Watch the Jargon
In every business, there is a set of lingo that comes with the territory. But does the business lingo translate to the creative team? Avoid uncommon phrasing or too much inside talk when discussing projects or ideas. Remember members of your creative team may not have a background in your specific industry. Using common language and descriptions will help keep everyone communicating on the same page.
Business catch words such as “strategize,” “utilization” and “expedite” might work better as “plan,” “use” and “speed up.” Stay away from emoticons and casual phrasing as well. “OMG” or “LOL” in an email is likely to cause a serious round of eye rolls from the group and can take away from the seriousness of almost any message.
6. Don’t Assume Anything and Explain Specifics
Never guess that someone knows what you are talking about. When outlining or explaining new information make sure the designer has a clear idea of where you are coming from. In contract or freelance situations, explain a bit about your company, goals and market. Set a clear outline of what the project and design is supposed to accomplish. Even if a designer has done a similar project in the past, provide an overview of the client or project.
In most projects, there are some absolutes. Color and typography selections are sometimes items that can’t be changed when looking at design projects. Make sure specifics are clearly communicated. If your company’s logo is blue, for example, state the color values. You will not end up with an odd color and project rework when non-negotiables are determined in advance. In addition to being specific, be accurate and aware of grammar and context. It can only add to your credibility.
7. Write with Action
Use active words in your message. Start sentences words that engage. Consider structuring a what’s next memo as a to-do list. Tell rather than ask when it comes to things that need to get gone. Rather than “can you make that logo blue to match the company’s website?” say “Add blue to the logo so it is more on target with the design.”
8. Take a Walk
Sometimes the best written communications also need a push. Get up and pay your designer a visit and take the memo with you. Go over information together and make sure that all the details are clear. Brainstorm for a few minutes to show that you are interested in what the designer has to say. Afterward, make sure to follow up with any new instructions or changes from the initial message.
9. All Designers are Different
A print ad campaign by Mercedes-Benz exemplified differences in thinking by showcasing the differences in left- and right-brain thinkers. Keep this principle in mind as you write and remember designers tend to employ that loose, colorful, free-flowing style of comprehension and thinking.
Understand that your message can come across in a variety of ways. Keep the agenda simple and context plain and clear. Don’t try to make jokes or be funny in text; they might not cause your recipient to giggle. Just because designers may communicate in a way that is unlike accountants, don’t dumb things down. Don’t assume that because you are writing for a designer, that he or she won’t “get it;” plenty of designers are also good writers.
10. Break the Rules on Purpose
Sometimes it is OK to start a sentence with “And.” And sometimes it is an effective writing device. Breaking some of the stodgy rules of communication can make your message feel a little less like a list of directives and more like a written conversation. Every memo or email does not have to follow the business-letter model; sometimes a more casual approach is appreciated. If your message feels too formal, back up for a minute and rewrite: Write as you talk.
Clear communication is key when working with any different number of people, but understanding how the thought processes of designers can differ can help you deliver a clearer message. Remember that many designers and creative personality types think using a different side of the brain than more analytical thinkers and may receive written communications differently.
Work to establish a clear hierarchy in your message and think about ways to more visually deliver information. Keep messages on task and edited so that information is direct and concise. Finally, make sure to always follow up any written communication with a conversation; direct contact can always go a long way.