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The Creative Tango: Who Leads—Design or Copy?

Jun 19, 2013 8:13:42 AM

Does brilliant design inspire exceptional copy...or the other way around? Or, are they inextricably intertwined? And what role does the medium play in what takes center stage?

Cue the orchestra, the dance is about to begin.

After weeks of proposals, market analyses, research, performance projections, budgeting, and a host of other pre-launch activities, the writer and art director are presented with a finely detailed creative brief, upon which great hope and the expectation of exceedingly lucrative results rest.

Yup, no pressure here.

As a creative team—and a subset of the larger agency team—the writer and art director share a common goal: to deliver upon said expectations, and sometimes, just for spite, to exceed them. So two heads become one, and the creative tango commences.

(To jump ahead to the end of this tale, there really is no secret formula as to whether—or when—great copy or great design takes the lead in producing killer ROI creative. My apologies in advance if any hopes have been dashed here.)

Like cream (or hot air, depending on the occasional creative ego), usually one of the creative partners will rise to take the lead on a particular project. That leadership may stem from deeper overall career experience, from a wealth of knowledge working within a particular medium such as email or web development, or simply from a brilliant idea or creative strategy that rocks the objective right out of the gate.

Sometimes, it’s the format, brand, audience or offer that tips the balance. When marketing to seniors, for example, long, educational copy is often an effective way to engage your reader and provide adequate information that will move him to call, click or come in. Conversely, highly digestible, design-driven factoids (think infographic) or sensory photos (think luxury travel marketing) are worth the proverbial thousand words in getting a prospect to raise his hand or a customer to increase her lifetime value through more purchases.

Still other times, copy and art become one. In the hands of a skilled designer, a poignant headline or benefit callout blossoms on the page (or screen) through the careful orchestration of color, font selection, layout, and pure genius. In these instances, the whole, indeed, is greater than the sum of its parts.

6-18-2013 3-54-47 PM

Elaine Claussen

Written by Elaine Claussen

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