Better Writer Equals Better Designer

Sep 16, 2016

“If choosing between two equally qualified designers,” one recruiter once said “I always went with the better writer.” For the word Olympians, bask in this good fortune. For everyone else, your starting line is here. Sacrificing 30 minutes from YouTube or Netflix for writing rings in benefits for your design sensibilities.

Here’s a typical design scenario. You finish your presentation and the audience didn’t understand a thing. Your concept, which deserves more applause, only receives pensive looks. We all have been there, wishing the moment would disappear quicker than our monthly paychecks. After putting down the blame baton, you realise it came from fractures in your storytelling or reasoning. How disappointing…

Before your coffee gets cold or something online undermines your attention, let’s get straight to the point. Writing is an exercise in focus. Unlike a conversation or Q&A, you have time to think it all through when writing. Erase, redo, edit, restructure and repeat, it’s all a part of the process. Writing trains your brain to organise concepts, developing depth and clarity after every draft. Your design presentations, for example, will shine with stronger storytelling and reasoning after exercising your word power through writing.

First there needs to be an idea before presenting your design solution. It could originate from a brainstorm, sketch session or conversation. However, we all have those moments where it’s late in the office and there’s no one else to consider or reflect on your concepts. When you’re left with a deck of cards and no other player, writing is the brainstorming version of solitaire. Whenever my mind is water-logged by unanchored concepts, grounding them in an outline or paragraph frees my thoughts.

How you state your ideas is just as important as what your ideas include. Great quotes don’t come from half-baked notes and memorable statements go beyond bullet points. I’ve seen brilliant ideas deflate under the wrong word choice, while common knowledge sparkles through novel expression. How you say something makes it stick or get suck. Color up your explanations with comparisons, contrasts and unexpected expressions to keep your audience wondering how the hell you got so clever.

At a loss for words is not just an expression. We can’t always be expected to generate wit or explanation on the spot. Studying others constructions and narratives helps to build your own. Picking up a book, reading online articles or splurging on a magazine for a plane ride are ways to get going. You’ll start admiring writing styles as much as you admire street style. Much like design, learn from other’s tricks to jumpstart your exploration into the craft.

It all sounds like a golden game, but where to get the practice? For any project, from design to writing, identify your main motivator. If it’s an audience, then write what you know by pitching an article to a blog or publication; if you’re looking for an outlet to explore, take on a short story. Whichever path you choose, realise it will take time. The benefits of your trials will be a trail of writings you can admire or laugh at later. 

Writing is a skill that designers can use to improve presentations, brainstorming and storytelling to achieve full impact. Ideas are merely knots to untangle. You have the information - bending and twisting it shapes a straighter line of logic for others to follow. Your designs are amazing and it’s time to let others know.

Where

Amsterdam, Netherlands

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