Most consumers respect great design. They’re especially appreciative when they see it online, rewarding well designed pages with views and clicks. However, the relationship between copywriting and good design isn’t quite equal, and I maintain that copywriting is more important. Before I explain, let the next three ideas sink in first.
- Tacky graphics can work better than great design — if the copywriting is good. (Tweet this.)
- If the copy sucks, or is bland or boring in any way, then you need elegant design to step in to rescue it.
- Pleasing graphic design takes the burden off the copywriting, allowing the reader to come to an inaccurate conclusion, sometimes to the detriment of the transaction.
The Un-Scientific Claim
Hard core marketers will shoot me, but I swear it’s chemical, the relationship between copywriting and design. I know, it’s not a scientific argument, and I’m sorry. If you’re a marketer you want absolute proof, so please go ahead and test this theory. It has something to do with the way eyeballs take in information and then process the desire to read.
When a striking, visually appealing website opens up (preferably quickly and on all your mobile devices); the reader is buoyed by the design. Therefore, a close read of the copy is not required. After all, that’s what good graphic design is meant to do – help the reader come to a decision or use something easily, simply, or functionally.
[If you’re selling anything, I mean anything even remotely related to design and UI, Stop reading right now and go do something nice for your graphics and design people. Functional graphics are a must!]
However if the copy doesn’t get read, then the transaction, if it occurs at all, isn’t authentic.
When Good Design in Marketing Misleads The Consumer
If there’s more to your product than meets the eye, graphics that are too sleek and simple may actually become a liability. If you need for the consumer to grasp more than a perfunctory understanding, make sure you’re not promising a too-simple solution via too-elegant graphics.
If the user takes in information and then assumes she has the whole picture, the sale may be easier. However, the product itself must match the consumer’s expectations. It should be just as easy on the eyes or as user friendly as the sales materials or website. Otherwise, your beautiful design (and your frustrated customers) could come back to bite you if you don’t deepen the consumer’s knowledge by explaining usage and features. I’m thinking of several SAS products or apps I’ve purchased that seemed so elegant and easy on the sales page, but the product itself was clunky and exasperating to use.
An investment in good copy along with good design, saves you pain in the long run.
That First Cause To Stop And Look
I’m not saying nice graphics aren’t needed for even complex sales and concepts. They’re definitely worth the investment! But sometimes, the initial image that causes someone to lean in and look can be, um, less than “up to your design standards” – and yet it can still attract the attention needed. Sometimes less-than-pretty design actually gets the person to read the copy!
Facebook ads and Instagram images; weird, garish, quirky or just plain odd; sometimes these just “work.” So when is this treatment appropriate?
- Sometimes, probably not every campaign.
- Mainly if you are selling information. If you have an actual product, especially a product where the design is important for the user’s experience, then your marketing must all exude that same vibe.
- This only works with compelling copy, and words that are doing the heavy lifting.
Oddly, when left to my own devices, when I write copy and add my not-so-great graphics, that combo has been known to convert well. I’m not sure why that is. No designer would ever say the design is attractive in an empirical sense, and yet, in spite of the subpar graphics – maybe even because of them — it often attracts attention.
Attention. It’s the first thing you need.
In spite of every last visually coherent brain cell telling me otherwise…
The copywriter’s raison d’être is this: Once a reader begins reading, there’s a chance they’ll continue to do so. (Tweet this.)
Which, besides getting a reader to act, is the secondary point of copywriting; to get the reader to keep reading.
Please, someone tell me if I’m wrong about this, but I really find that great copy often gets more attention when it’s matched with not so “elegant” graphics. Look at the old ads with the awkward paragraphs and weird kerning (think old newspaper ads, etc.). Those things converted like crazy. Today, some ads are downright difficult to look at. But the copy, and the sequence of CTAs is killer.
It’s a difficult idea to sell, certainly to customers who have certain sophistication when it comes to brand consciousness. As a fan of design, though no connoisseur, I would agree! And yet, when I whip up a weird looking design, it almost always gets some attention and forces people to read the words.
It’s my car wreck theory. How can you not look?
Here’s a personal story that proves my point. Once, a visitor to my website, actually wrote to tell me once how childish my website looked (yes, I threw together the graphics with my rudimentary skills on Photoshop and some bad stock photography), and then he spent the next few weeks following me and insisting that we should partner together somehow. Now, I have to admit, I was a little miffed about the “childish” comment, even though he was right. The cool thing was, I could tell he’d read nearly every word of my website, so I had a moment or two of satisfaction. Although I had to agree about the icky design (I’ve improved it since then), the copy itself still triggered something in him to keep reading. Go figure.
Tell me, do you have any experience with this strange phenomenon? Freelance copywriters and graphic designers, I would love your opinion! How involved to your get with the “other creative person” when you’re working on client’s projects? How do you discuss this with your clients?
P.S. One last word, I have a graphic designer I go to for the important stuff, but I still make a lot of quick graphics with Pic Monkey.