The Creative Partnership: Design and Copywriting

by . January 10th, 2014

As a copywriter, I’ve had the pleasure of partnering with designers on many website design and development projects. Over the years, I have learned one very important thing: the partnership between a copywriter and a designer is crucial to the success and effectiveness of any web project.

The client suffers when a copywriter and a designer don’t work as partners in a web project. They end up with a design that doesn’t support the copy, a copy that doesn’t support the design, mixed messages, or loss of the message altogether.

So, how do you develop a successful partnership? It starts with the three C’s: concept, collaboration, and communication.


Designers and copywriters may be like apples and oranges, but we’re all in the same fruit bowl!


First and foremost, the designer and the copywriter must get on the same page about the client’s end goal.

Who is the client’s audience and what is the message the client is trying to convey to them? 

Is the entire website going to be torn down and built from scratch, or is the client just looking to update the existing content?

Is the client’s main goal a bigger visual punch or more effective content marketing? 

The best way to nail down the overall concept is for the designer, the copywriter, and the client to get on the phone together or meet in person. A project manager will often coordinate this, but the copywriter or designer must initiate this meeting when there is no acting project manager.

Never assume that everyone understands the project. Misunderstandings can cause unnecessary frustration, extra hours, and ultimately an unhappy client.


Every individual has their preferred way of working – but to do an excellent job for the client, designers and copywriters must collaborate. That means willingly cooperating to produce an end product that meets the client’s goals.

Sometimes, it makes sense for the copywriter to start writing first so the designer can get a feel for what they’re working around. Sometimes, it makes sense for a designer to start work first, and the copywriter can start writing once they see their space constraints.

Kirby Kana, a creative director, shares, “In my experience, whether it’s design first or copy first varies, but most often, starting with copy leads to the best outcomes. In the realm of web development, real copy tends to facilitate a smoother integration of information architecture and design. My approach is to tailor the design around the copy, ensuring the message is prominent rather than fitting words into a pre-conceived design that may not best serve the client’s needs.”

In contrast, I have worked on projects where I knew the space would be tight, so I let the designer mock up the website before I started writing the copy. The key is for the copywriter, and the designer to agree on an up-front process and then continually check in with each other.


Designers and copywriters have a tendency to silo themselves once the work on a project has begun. This is a big mistake.

Get on the phone with each other. Do daily or weekly email check-ins. Have a lunch date to discuss where you are with the project. No matter how you do it, continually communicate throughout the project’s life cycle.

I once worked on a project for a client who changed direction halfway through. The client called me and said that they understood this would mean more hours and a higher invoice at the end – but they wanted to focus on a different audience. I assumed the client had called the designer – and I was wrong. That flawed assumption caused everyone a massive headache. The designer was unaware of the change of direction. It was a total mismatch when it came time to plug my copy into the designer’s website design.

I should have picked up the phone and ensured the designer and I were still on the same page. Again, a project manager would typically coordinate these things – but often, we are asked to work without a project manager, and it is up to us to make sure we communicate with each other.

A creative partnership

When a copywriter and a designer partner up, magic can happen. Excellent design makes copy come to life, and sharp copy makes design more effective.

Getting the main idea of your project right from the start is super important. It’s like making a great team with artists who draw and writers who write stories. They need to talk a lot and work together well. This teamwork is extra special when they work with specialized web designers. These designers are like super artists who make websites look amazing. When they all work together, they can make really cool stuff and make everyone happy. Working with these fabulous web designers helps make everything even better!


About the Author

Jessica Mehring is a professional writer, editor, and director of Horizon Peak Consulting. When she’s not writing compelling web copy for businesses or editing her clients’ brainstorms into a virtual gold, you can find her taking long walks with her dog, attending comic conventions with her husband, reading, or practicing yoga.