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03/17/2009 Copy or Design?

Companies will spend a lot of time and effort on new designs for its marketing materials. The same companies seem to spend a lot less effort on copy or content. I see this constantly when projects include solid budgets for design and programming but almost no budget for writing or content creation.

So my question to you is: If you were building a new Web presence and could only pick one, would you pick copy or design?

Whoa, slow down. Before you answer that quickly take a look here:

  • One of my all-time favorite digital shops, The Barbarian Group, creators of Web legends such as Subservient Chicken and Cleanse This has a site that is almost entirely (gasp!) copy. Yes it has some design, but it’s minimal. No, it’s very minimal. The Barbarians chose copy.
  • The old Zeus Jones site and the new Modernista site chose no design for their sites and relied on textual based social media sites to showcase themselves. And then Skittles copied them.
  • Cool Swedish creative shop Farfar has one of the simplest designs, but good pictures and copy. There are a number of Swedish shops doing amazing work, yet their own sites have minimal design.

When some of the top thinkers and doers in our industry focus on their own copy and content instead of heavy design, it’s worth noticing.

Maybe the bigger problem is that most shops have greater design resources than copy or content resources. At a lot of digital shops I know of they use outside resources for copywriting. If that’s true, and the clients come asking for design, changing the conversation to copy and content will be a challenge.

With the rise of social media, though, it’s a necessary conversation. I think it’s time we started reexamining our priorities.


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