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Jot three: No more lorem ipsum

Martin Boath is Creative Director at Front Page. Hosting Jot three, he gave examples, reasons, and tips on why and how to write when you’re a designer.

Three

No more lorem ipsum

Disclaimer: lorem ipsum serves a fine purpose. Basically, this Jot title was clickbait. But unlike most clickbait, there was more than an element of truth to what this event was about. With tips, advice, and pointers, I wanted to help designers who might use lorem ipsum as a crutch to release unfulfilled potential in their work. Here are some of the tips I gave on the night.

Tip one

People remember the words. Slogans and straplines can become buried deep in the memory. Some even enter peoples’ lexicons. Words don’t just have the power to make you remember, they have the power to make you laugh, cry, and to change your mind. A logo doesn’t, no matter how good it is. There’s emotion in words that can be hugely powerful.

Tip two

Words influence your layout. The designer creating the work has the chance to set the tone. If they don’t – and simply use ‘lorem ipsum dolor’– they’re saying nothing, and could be leaving their early ideas open to reinterpretation. If you have a tone, a feeling, or an attitude in mind, make it known.

Not only that, creating work without understanding the number and length of words that will feature – especially in prominent areas – means you’re not designing properly. It wastes time too, when the copy doesn’t fit the space you’ve created and you need to change everything. Write what you think those words should be and design with them in mind.

Tip three

Get the basics right. If you can’t get basic grammar and spelling right, your colleagues and clients will struggle to trust what you write. Or, at the very least, spend more time checking your work rather than appreciating it. Every device tries to predict and autocorrect what you write, so be on your guard. Become a proofreading psychopath.

Tip four

Familiarity is okay. People like nostalgia and make quicker connections with things they know. If you’re writing headlines, straplines, or small amounts of body copy, and you’re not sure where to start, a familiar phrase is as good a place as any. If it can be tweaked or repurposed for your subject matter, even better.

Tip five

Find your voice. This one’s tricky, but finding your voice as a writer is really important. It gives you a platform to write from. When you get to the point where you’re notstruggling to find words that get across what you want to say, you’ll be able to concentrate on using the rightwords – ones that actually read well. One way to find your voice is to write like you speak, and ditch awkward formality. Chances are that’s not your voice. The next tip might help too…

Tip six

Immerse yourself in words. Read, read, and read again. And not just what the words say, but how they’re arranged and structured. Sentence and paragraph length, pacing, words that work well together and words that don’t. Read different types of copy – short, mid-length, articles over 1,000 words. Read copy on different topics. Read work on the same subject and compare them. What do you prefer? And why? Take notes. Take photographs. Then write stuff. Analyse your own writing. Never stop learning.

Tip seven

Don't be afraid. Writing might not be something that comes naturally, or is even expected of you, so you might be afraid to do it. But to develop as a designer who can write in a meaningful way, you’ll need to get over that fear.

We’ve all had times in our careers where we’ve been shitting it. First college crit, first presentation at work, first time in a brainstorm with older, more experienced, and better designers. In each of these situations, we’ve all stepped up – because we had to. The same applies with writing, more so if it’s not something expected of you. Even if what you write doesn’t make the final cut, it can play an invaluable part in the creative process. So go for it!

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