Discover content & activities to learn about, teach, and create compelling stories & visual communication.

Copywriting

The infographic age demands a new approach required for writing.

As with poetry—a medium keen
to the impact of visual
text treatment—

The new writing leverages the attitude
of a copywriter:
a cunning wordsmith used to selling something,
but no stranger to authenticity.
The copywriter is an honest flirt.

The age of bricked text—solid paragraphs
filling page after compelling page is not gone,
but it is treated specially, and frequently outside
the urgency of visual storytelling.

Rather than abandon authenticity, designers can act assuredly
on the premise of picking what to emphasize and understanding
the implications of leaving out something:
What happens if the audience doesn’t take the time to read
the whole paragraph? Should you instead,
– Bullet
– Every
– Point?

No, but know what you lose and gain
with each list you include and every headline
you set as BOLD.

Here are three things to remember and try:
Write this way: SHORT, SHARP, SEXY.
This often will require making amends with omitting adverbs,
however necessary, for the sake of honest, clear, and quick
communication.
The new copywriting is a happy medium.

SHORT

Treat your text as a visual element: think of it as a visual unit… a Lego block.
Write it to fit with the images you envision around it.
Make text as short as it possible to support to point of the unit.
When adding details, consider creating another visual unit.

Choose your words so that they are sympathetic to the graphic nuances.
Diction favoring long words will require hyphens when wrapped around images.
The give-and-take between text and graphics is tricky: both should be excellent,
but compromise is necessary for the pair to dazzle together.

SHARP

Back to text as a visual unit. A simple statement, stripped of details, will often do fine. The details omitted and included, however, convey content, style, emotion, and interest. The challenge in being SHARP is knowing when and how to embellish a visual text unit.

Poetry often suggests landscapes and emotions while prose is frequently more explicit about detailing such surroundings. Both are effective. Consider the type and quantity of details you can include and be considerate of why you are using them. Too many details will make your text lengthy and potentially introduce new emphasis. Too few details can leave your text feeling ambiguous and spartan. In being SHARP, write with the foundation of your text unit in mind, and add details deliberately.

Dan Klein suggests there are four types of details: Numerical, Audible, Digital (quantity), and Tactile. Each time you add one of these—or your own defined details—consider what it is doing to the visual, verbal, and emotional impact of your text. If a detail feels decadent, chop it off and feed it to the dogs. If it feels crisp and effective, proceed.

SEXY

The new Copywriting leverages language in compact quarters—in space and time. Text is often minimal because of the time it takes to read. Between bus stops, how many words does one want? This is a sad and honest truth: you have to earn attention… it doesn’t just happen.

Try tricks that are time-tested and use them genuinely: SEXY writing a medium for trying new things to grab attention and steer a conversation. These are easy tools ready for your direction:
Alliteration
Rhyme
Cadence
Radical punctuation
First-person voice
Profanity
Colloquial versus formal diction

Each of these is a winner—with attention attributes—guaranteed to snag a bit of time from frantic eyes & minds. Mind your own mind, though, for as sexy goes, consistency is critical else writing reads disingenuously.

Investigate the worth of these references:
Christopher Johnson > Microstyle: The Art of Writing Little
Virginia Tufte > Artful Sentences: Syntax as Style

Explore exemplar materials that seek to marry the written & the visual:
Make Space: How to Set the Stage for Creative Collaboration by Scott Doorley and Scott Witthoft (Wiley, 2012)

Make Space continuously balances writing style with visual treatment—incorporating short, punchy text where visual pockets allow, while favoring longer segments to control the pacing of content delivery.  See if you believe it.

 



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