Design and copy: dance partners not petulant divas

Imagery and words need always to go hand-in-hand to create truly compelling content. But there are times you see examples of them being created separately and then forced together. Stories are now built up from a multitude of creative assets, including images, videos and infographics. It’s an exciting time for content, but it can also be a dangerous one.

How does a content piece work? Do its separate content elements hang together? Many are briefed on different resources, maybe by different people, and often the creative providers are freelancers working alone. Sometimes, there’s even the temptation to find/create the perfect imagery and then ‘bung some text in’ later. That’s when copy – the poor old relative – falls down and can be blamed for low engagement.

Design & Message Working Together

It’s important to understand how the elements work together. For example, what word count are the designers working to? Do they know how much copy is needed to tell the story? Or, on the other hand, are the copywriters aware of how much they should (or shouldn’t) be writing? It’s clear in the modern world of multiple calls on our attention that less is more. There’s nothing worse than having to cram too much copy into a design. It ends up cramped and ineffective. There’s also the danger of different elements vying individually for attention, which can be confusing and could even have a counter-effective result.

Once you have figured out the right balance of copy and imagery, beware translations. The perfect fit in one language could be tricky in another. For example, Finnish tends to be considerably longer in character length than English. So, designers could be forced to either change the design at the last minute or reduce the text size dramatically. You don’t want to have to issue your readers in Finland with magnifying glasses, so it’s good to bear this in mind!

‘Mad Men’ style traditional advertising really understood this – some of the old long copy ads are works of art in their own right. Communications have moved on – for the most part, the visuals are more dynamic and the words more sparing. But there’s still a lot to be said for maintaining the right balance, so each complements the other in a kind of elegant waltz.

How do you ensure your content marries design and message effectively?

About the author: Waynne Meek

Waynne is passionate about all things content, especially how copy merges with other elements to make compelling communication. A recognised career of 20 years spanning various media has given him a useful insight into the way copy works across brands. Armed with this experience, he has delivered and managed effective copy solutions, from award-winning internal magazines to compelling brand and product messaging. Find out more about him on LinkedIn –, or on

This article was first published by Waynne Meek 

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