Strong Writing Makes Good Design Great

July 26, 2010

Strong Writing Makes Good Design Great

As far back as I can remember teachers have always tried to scare students into learning. They're always telling us that we better learn this or that because out in "the real world" we're going to need it. I've been thinking about some things I've learned in school and whether or not I've found them to be as important as our teachers threatened they would be. If I had to choose only one thing that my internship is now helping me see the point's probably English class. I've underestimated the importance of that more than anything I've learned in a design class.

I'm not a particularly good writer. I struggle nonstop with grammar and punctuation. It's possible I may have been better at spelling in 4th grade. Back then spell checkers hadn't really come into my life and so I couldn't be dependent on them. I think the only thing keeping my head above water is the fact that I read a lot, and enough of that rubs off on me to be able to get by.

I don't know why I didn't place that much importance on writing before. Maybe I was caught up in thinking I was going to be a designer and not a writer, which in retrospect makes no sense. There are a lot of words in design...copy, labels, titles, briefs, quotes, captions, and countless emails. Everything you work on has words, sentences, and a lot of opportunity for mistakes. You're always proof reading, or at least you should be. Proofreading doesn’t do a lot of good though if you don’t know something is a mistake to begin with.

Avoiding mistakes isn’t the only incentive. A sentence isn’t good or effective just because it doesn’t have an error. While there are a lot of opportunities to get stuff wrong in writing, there’s also a lot of opportunity to get stuff right. When you get it right, it can add a lot of value to your work. Strong writing can turn a good design into great design.

You don’t have to be able to jump high to be a good basketball player, but a 48 inch vertical wasn’t hurting Michael Jordan. Being a good writer never made anyone a worse designer. It probably just made the job easier and the work better.

After you've successfully completed all your English and writing classes isn’t an ideal time to have this realization. My advice to fellow students is that you pay attention in class while you still can. Better late than never, but never late is better. I'm making an effort to refresh my grammar memory myself when I have time. Six months ago you couldn’t have convinced me that I would be reading grammar blogs for the fun of it, but here I am.

For those of you who need help like me, here’s the writing and grammar blog/podcast I find most interesting and least painful.

Anna Jacobs

Anna Jacobs

Hi, I'm Anna. I'm a student at the University of Arkansas, majoring in graphic design. I'm currently interning this summer at DOXA, a brand and communication design firm here in Fayetteville, Arkansas. You can check out some of my work on my Behance profile here.

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