Designers can’t spel, KO?

In the dim and distant past when I was an impressionable Brand Manager learning how to do Marketing, I would be mightily impressed by the expertise of our advertising agencies and their creative teams, who expensively concocted carefully-honed TV ad storyboards, or press visuals, and would come up with the mot juste to sell our product or service.

In those lavish days they would always wheel out two Creative Directors – seemingly the theory was that like John Lennon and Paul McCartney, they needed to tell each other when their ideas were rubbish, and act as a Quality Control mechanism and a spur to the other to buck their ideas up. For like the Beatles, when apart they were never as good as together.

The other reason for the arrangement is that in the human brain, the visual sense is divorced from the cortex that controls speech and writing skills. How many great artists have also been first-class writers, or vice versa?

So it was that when I used smaller design agencies, there would only be one Art Director/Copywriter, and I soon coined a new Rule of Advertising – Designers Can’t Spell.  One could be more unkind and say that they can’t write good copy at all; but that would be going too far. Sometimes one word will say it all, and it’s hard to get that wrong…

But if it wasn’t the spelling, it would be the grammatical construction or the punctuation that would be at fault. Long before Lynn Truss lambasted the world’s sloppy writers in Eats Shoots and Leaves (required reading for any aspiring communicator), I found myself either inserting or removing errant apostrophes before the agency’s copy reached and aggravated my customers.

This is why, when I receive a request at Bojingles Towers for a creative solution to a marketing problem, I am always careful to establish whether the client wants a wordsmith or an artist. If he or she wants both skills in one body, for one low fee, I politely decline.  I will be delighted to paint a word picture and express it correctly (and for the most part free of errors): while for the visuals, I will call in my designer colleagues who can draw and manipulate Illustrator in ways that I can barely comprehend.

They of course have a different perspective (and they can draw in perspective, unlike me). Their rejoinder to my Rule would be – Writers Can’t Draw. And my answer would be, “guilty as charged”.

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