Posted by: Catherine Wentworth
Category: Designers Working With
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A wealth of information has been shared in the DWW series, so for those of you who don’t have the time to read through each post, the summaries are the place to be.

If you’d like to find out more about the writers contributing to this section, go to Introducing the Writers of the DWW Series.

For a quick review, below are the seven questions put to writers:

  1. What are the main points that you’d expect / want designers to know before contacting you about a project?
  2. When working with designers, what do you see as the top problem areas?
  3. How do you work?
  4. How should a company or individual in your profession be chosen?
  5. At what point should your profession be brought into a project?
  6. How do you charge?
  7. How can a designer improve their skills in your industry?

Right after the introduction I became a bit skittish and contacted writer, blogger, Liz Strauss for advice (thanks Liz!). With a nudge in place, I moved to the first question.

Designers As Clients

The Question: What are the main points that you’d expect / want designers to know before contacting you about a project?

  • Cheryl Stephens: Have a knowledge of designing information pieces.
  • Gerald Weinberg: The purpose, how to listen and take initiative, how to balance creativity with the project brief.
  • Judy Vorfeld: The target market demographics, information on the products and services, needs of the target market for the products and services, information on the competition, selling comparisons on the products and services in regards to the competition, file types needed, type of writing required (target market, as well as search engines?), strength of calls to action, preferred style guide.
  • ME (Liz) Strauss: Prefers designers know her writing style, be ready with questions, and be prepared for a brainstorming partnership.
  • Louise Bolotin: The client brief, a draft template of the design from the beginning, a clearly defined budget, approximate word count per page, the number of pages to be set, and enough time allotted for drafts and final versions. that the designer has educated the client on the possibilities. She’d also like direct contact with the client.
  • Lynn Gaertner-Johnston: Expects designers to understand the basics of document design (no text widows or rivers, follow the rules of proximity, final text to be readable), have a wonderful visual concept, to pick up on the odd writing mistake and introduce no new errors into the copy, be able to describe deliverables and relevant steps in the process, make realistic time commitments, give clear project briefs and communicate as professionals (in complete sentences).
  • Matthew Stibbe: A clear brief.
  • Nancy Friedman: What kind of writing is needed.
  • Roberta Rosenberg: Understand each medium, know which should take centre state - the design or the copy, knowledge of the clients industry, be serious about the project, know costs re results, and keep to deadlines.
  • Roy Jacobsen: When to bring in writers (early is preferred), that good writing is more than spelling and grammar, writers are not commodities, the tone required (formal vs. informal, light vs. serious, consumer vs. business-to-business), demographics of the target audience.
  • Roy Peter Clark: The tone, the look and the voice of the project.
  • Tom Chandler: Tone, call to action, visuals, knowing the product, target audience, reason for the product, key selling proposition, what and when.
  • Tom Mullen: Budget, deadline and turnaround times.

The Problem Areas

The Question: When working with designers, what do you see as the top problem areas?

This was a difficult question for writers to answer because for the most part, they’ve had good experiences with designers. Lucky, they scratched around to share a few issues to think about.

  • Cheryl Stephens: Not trying to understand the target reader, and submitting alternate proposals that are too similar.
  • Gerald M. Weinberg: Inability to listen and really hear, inability to surface assumptions (his or the client’s) and to do the work to clarify them, designers need to have large egos but should keep them under control, many designers are simply poor communicators, either in writing or face-to-face.
  • Judy Vorfeld: Designers want things done fast, and probably don’t understand the various facets that go into writing an effective website.
  • ME (Liz) Strauss: Listening, Personal involvement, Trust, Commitment to the Work, Ego. In a mix on both sides, make for a messy relationship in any creative endeavor.
  • Louise Bolotin: Focusing only on the design, becoming obsessed with cramming in too much design, not passing on a proper brief from the client, not allowing time to proofread before publication.
  • Lynn Gaertner-Johnston: Not returning phone calls emails, not keeping commitments, charging for services that have not been agreed upon in advance.
  • Matthew Stibbe: Lack of understanding the writer’s process, the need for interviews and research, time to write well, edit and rework if necessary. Viewing copy as a commodity.
  • Nancy Friedman: Not regarding writers as a full partner on the project.
  • Roberta Rosenberg: Underestimating the time/cost needed to complete a project, forgetting that the work is not about the artist, sloppy final art — fonts and images missing, items not labeled, PMS colors not identified, no folding dummy, etc., too casual approach to returning calls and emails.
  • Tom Chandler: If I have one rant in me, it’s about designers who render headlines and copy unreadable.
  • Tom Mullen: Thinking of writers as simply wordsmiths rather than idea generators.

The Process

The Question: How do you work?

  • ME (Liz) Strauss: I work in a variety of ways to suit the kind of writing that I’m doing. When I write the “softer” genres, I often hope to work at night or early in the morning. When I write the “more structured” genres — things that require research, detail, and accuracy — I’m a top down writer. I plan my work in pieces or sections, the way a designer might storyboard a multi-piece design. I define my ending point — that closing conclusion that I want to be the end that satisfies the reader. Then I determine what would be the corresponding beginning to echo or reflect that ending. Usually I’m doing this first, because the middle is the hardest part for me.
  • Roy Peter Clark: For me, writing is a process, a set of rational steps: the search for an idea; the collection of important stuff; working toward a focus; finding a structure; creating an early draft; revising. I want to involve collaborators as early in the process as possible. I want them to be able to plan and rehearse.
  • Tom Chandler: Some days more slowly than others.
  • Tom Mullen: Mostly I work remote. I’ll collaborate w/designers, art directors, or I’ll work alone. It just depends on the scope of the assignment.

The Care and Feeding Requirements of Writers, a review of How to work with writers, from Bad Language.

Choosing A Writer

The Question: How should a company or individual in your profession be chosen?

  • Cheryl Stephens: Portfolio on website
  • ME (Liz) Strauss: Look for curiosity, a positive “can do” attitude, and patient, listening skills.
  • Louise Bolotin: Word of mouth recommendations, the phone book. skill and experience, work samples, portfolio, price (but high prices have no guaranties) and a good rapport.
  • Nancy Friedman: Experience, talent, word of mouth, with the least being price.
  • Roy Peter Clark: Find writers who are curious, passionate, and practical, can meet and beat deadlines, are willing to talk about their process, and who enjoy feedback.
  • Tom Chandler: Choose a writer based on goals and voice.
  • Tom Mullen: The quality of the portfolio.

When to Hire a Writer

The Question: At what point should writers be brought into a project?

  • Cheryl Stephens: At the beginning
  • ME (Liz) Strauss: As soon as you can stand to talk to me.
  • Nancy Friedman: As early as possible. At the beginning, preferably.
  • Roy Peter Clark: Early, early, early. And did I mention: early.
  • Tom Chandler: The earlier I get into a project, the more value I can add for a client.
  • Tom Mullen: The best work involves all participants from beginning to end.

How Writers Charge

The Question: How do you charge?

  • Cheryl Stephens: By project, based on estimating hours
  • ME (Liz) Strauss: Flat fee whenever it is possible.
  • Louise Bolotin: By the hour, although I’m happy to work within a set budget for a fixed fee.
  • Nancy Friedman: On a project basis.
  • Roy Peter Clark: As a writer, I have worked on salary. As a consultant. As a freelancer. On book projects, I’ve received advances and earned royalties.
  • Tom Chandler: On a project basis. Hourly simply doesn’t make sense to me.
  • Tom Mullen: Day rate or project rate

Improving Skills: Writing

The Question: How can a designer improve their skills in your industry?

  • ME (Liz) Strauss: Learn to listen, find solutions that get the text and design to work together.
  • Roy Peter Clark: Learn how to speak “writing” without an accent. Artists need to learn how to speak across the borders of their discipline.
  • Tom Chandler: Writing’s like anything; you get better by reading great writers and writing.
  • Tom Mullen: Keep an open mind.

Why Designers Should Be Writers, by Roger C Parker.

Resources for the writing series:

Writing Resources: Part One: Writing Books

Writing Resources: Part Two: Online Writing Guides

Writing Resources: Part Three: Online Writing Courses

Contributing Writers:

Cheryl Stephens | Mentor/Muse | Building Rapport | Building Rapport :

Gerald M. Weinberg | Writer, consultant
Weinberg on Writing | The Secrets of Consulting | gerald weinberg books and leadership courses

Judy Vorfeld | Webmaster Services; Editing and Writing Services | Judy’s Blog

Louise Bolotin | Writer, consultant
PlainText Editorial Consultancy

Lynn | Founder, Business Writing Specialist
Syntax Training: Tools for Better Business Writing | Business Writing Blog

Matthew Stibbe | Writer-in-chief
Articulate Marketing | Bad Language

ME (Liz) Strauss | Writer | Career coach | Strategic planner
Successful Blog | Letting Liz Be | Liz | The Blog Herald | | Write With ME

Nancy Friedman | Chief Wordworker
Wordworking | Away With Words

Roberta Rosenberg | Pres/CEO
MGP DIRECT, INC. | The Copywriting Maven

Roy Jacobsen
Writing Plain and Simple

Roy Peter Clark | America’s writing coach
Poynter Online - Writing Tools | Book: Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer

Tom Chandler | copywriting : online/blogging : marketing plans
Chandler Writes. You Profit. | The Copywriter Underground

tom mullen | writer & proprietor | ANONYMOUS, JR

Coming up next in the DWW Series will be photographers. Enjoy!

until the next
Designers WW,

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