The Things Copywriters Wish Designers Knew

With online direct response giving good ol’ fashioned print direct mail a run for its money, you’ve got double the dealings with designers when it comes to getting  your copy seen by the general public. So what is it you’ll want any designer you work with to know?

First, the general rule is that good design can’t make bad copy work, but bad design can destroy the performance of good copy. So it matters. Just know how it matters. But what else can you do to make sure you get a “good” design for any sales pieces you write? To start, you’ll at least want your designer to know the following…

  • Fancy design isn’t always good design. Your first aim is readability. Your second is to make sure the copy isn’t obscured by the design. Good design makes the copy feel easy to read.
  • If you throw a designed piece of copy onto a table with other pieces of finished direct mail designs… and it disappears into the pile… you’ve got a problem.
  • No screened images behind text. No screened images behind text. Did I mention? Please avoid screened images behind text.
  •  When in doubt, cut graphics before cutting copy. Really. By the time the designer gets a piece, the copy should be airtight. Or close to it. Graphics are less important than the written message. That’s just the way it goes.
  • Designers need to understand the motivations of the target market just as much as the marketers and copywriters. There’s no way to be a good designer when you’re working in a vacuum.

One last thing, but very important: Always, always, always ask that your designer reads the copy. I’m blown away by how many don’t. And it shows. Boy does it show.



  1. I have seen this article before, but did not really get it completely until today. I look at many web pages, including my own. One thing I always appreciate are the sites which use large enough print, or have options to enlarge the font size. But even copy writing gurus such as yourself get this one thing wrong: you use fonts that are too small. Even here, in an article which clearly states

  2. Hi Jane, you’re absolutely right on font sizes… especially given how much of the population is moving toward “that age.” Here, the fonts are only small because I’m using a WordPress template from someone else. And it defaults to this size. But you’re not the only one to make this comment. I’ll look into ways to make the change. Thanks for the note!


  3. Hi, John —
    This is a great post that makes some terrific points. I’m a former copywriter myself, so I completely know where you’re coming from.

    Question: It would be great if the readers of the 60 Second Marketer could get a dose of your wisdom. Any interest in re-purposing this or writing something else for us? I think you’ve got some good insights all over your blog.


  4. Thanks… and please do feel free to republish this article and any others you find on the Copywriter’s Roundtable site… as long as you include my name as author somewhere and a link back to http://copywritersroundtable.com, preferably with mention of the free eletter. Thanks!

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