Maximizing the Writer-Editor-Graphic Designer Relationship

The success of any designed communications piece – magazine, website, brochure, infographic, or direct mail – is dependent on writers, editors, and graphic designers working well together. This sounds easy – we are after all, working toward the same goal, right? 

Well, the goal for all may be a magazine that educates members or a conference direct mail piece that captures attention, but communication gaps occur when content developers and graphic designers make assumptions rather than discussing options and intent. Advice from one author who examined strategies to improve editor/writer and graphic designer communications includes:

  • Learn the other person’s “language.” While writers are concerned with items such as tone, syntax, and writing style, graphic designers focus on fonts, images, layouts, and more. One author suggests that designers take time to read a writing style book (she recommends Style: The Art of Writing Well by F.L. Lucas) and that writers and editors check out Universal Principles of Design. Or ask counterparts to recommend books they rely upon. There’s no need to become an expert in writing or in graphic design, just learn enough to appreciate what each other can do and how the process differs.
  • Build a solid foundation. The content and design teams should work together in the initial preparatory work. Clarifying the audience, approximate word count, main message, deadlines, and responsibilities, gives everyone a chance to identify what is needed to complete the project.
  • Maintain open channels of communication. Meeting at the initial stage of the project is not enough – regular meetings to check status of work, identify problems, and find solutions are necessary to keep both teams on track.

Editors for national, consumer magazines offer their best advice in another article:

  • “Give us options so we can see what you’re picturing to help us get on board.”
  • “If something is out of the scope of the project or its timeframe, explain that rather than saying it’s impossible from a design perspective.”
  • “I try to give my designer as much information about my ideas as possible, but always make it clear they are just that, ideas, and I welcome others into the mix.”
  • “Designers aren’t mind readers or magicians … We need to know as much as possible about the story ASAP so we can plan art accordingly. The earlier we have information the better the art will be.”

One of the editors quoted in the article has a moment of self-awareness and says: “What a designer comes up with is probably much better than most editors can picture or describe. However, a few of us will still think we can do your job too. Sorry.”