Strongest messages come from true collaboration

Tim Rich has some very pertinent points to make about the relationship between writers and design (Private View). As with any other interprofessional debate, the fault isn’t just on one side and credit goes to Rich, a respected writer and long-standing Design Week columnist, for shouldering some of the blame for any shortcomings on behalf of his own kind.

The truth is that some designers can write superbly. Take British Design & Art Direction president and accomplished author Michael Johnson, Intro’s Adrian Shaughnessy, Andy Davey of TKO or CDT Design founder Mike Dempsey, all of whom write for DW, among others, and whose copy we barely have to touch. Would that as many journalists could draw or communicate visually.

But it isn’t just the ability to craft a good sentence that concerns Rich and his colleagues at the newly formed 26 writers’ guild (named for the number of letters in the alphabet). It is more about the relationship between text and image and the best way of getting the message across – the best inevitably coming from a collaboration between writer and designer.

We’ve heard much of ‘tone of voice’ in recent months, an art demonstrated by the books of former Interbrand writer John Simmons, now a member of 26, and by Rich in his collaboration with London design consultancy SAS on literature for phone giant Ericsson, among others. But you could argue that tone of voice goes beyond choice of words. It’s about attitude and that can only really be struck through the coming together or words and images, with choice of colour, paper and the like thrown in for good measure.

It’s taken a long time for D&AD and others to communicate the importance of good writing as an equal and important tool. But at last we’re getting somewhere, with the likes of 26 – a loose association of writers – picking up the challenge. We wish them well and welcome designers’ views on writing in response to Rich’s words.

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