Marketing Design Dispatch

The age-old debate of design vs copy (+ join a portfolio review livestream this week!)

Published over 1 year ago • 4 min read

Question for you, Reader: what comes first? The design or the copy?

It's a chicken-or-egg situation that came up during my interview with RightMessage co-founder Brennan Dunn recently. In today's issue of the Dispatch I'm sharing my take on the matter, as well as a handy article about design handoffs and an announcement of a free live event you can join this week!

Let's get into it

Join the portfolio review livestream

It’s been a few months since I last went live on YouTube (shout out to the Coworking Club members who have stuck by me these past few months! Thank you for your patience 🙏). And it's been YEARS since I last made a portfolio review video; so this Wednesday I’ll be going live for a portfolio review/design advice stream!

What to expect

I'll be live on YouTube sharing my screen as I look at portfolios and give feedback about what to improve. There will also be time to ask general design career questions in the chat, but if you'd like your portfolio reviewed, here's how that will work:

  1. Let me know you'll be attending by clicking the green button below
  2. You'll recieve an email with a form to fill out that asks for a link to your portfolio, info on what kind of design work you're looking for, and your YouTube username
  3. Watch the stream, join the conversation in the chat and I'll get to as many portfolios as possible in 90 minutes! I'll focus on reviewing the portfolios of folks who show up live.

Reviews will be brief, but useful. I offer more in-depth advice through my 1 on 1 mentoring calls, but this is a great chance to get some directional feedback for free!

I hope I'll see you there!

Design first? Or copy first?

Brennan Dunn is responsible for marketing design at Right Message. He's also one of two company co-founders... who are also the only two employees of the company.

Understandably, when design is not your whole job and instead a task on a long product launch to-do list, your process is going to look a little different!

Here’s how Brennan tackles the process of creating a new homepage for RightMessage:

I open up a Google doc, start writing the copy and then we will figure out the design to house the copy we’ve written. So it’s very much copy first and then design is kind of a supporting infrastructure for the copy.

For Brennan, copywriting is definitely a strength. It makes total sense that that's the way he starts a design project. I'm a stereotypical visual-thinker and much prefer to jump into a wireframe before writing copy.

But when we have this debate of design vs copy, we forget that there's a middle ground that actually both the design and copy starts from: a content outline. Designing without knowing the content you have to communicate on the page is just creating pretty pictures. And copy without first getting clear on what message you need to communicate is just pretty prose.

My answer to whether design or copy should come first, is "Neither". Designers and copywriters should both agree on the content to be communicated before starting the process of writing the exact words or creating a layout.

Last year I shared my take on the matter on my blog (and in an issue of the Dispatch actually!). Give it a read for a deeper explanation and to learn how to contribute to a content outline or even own the process yourself.

And to learn more about marketing design at RightMessage and how Brennan approaches design as part of a very small team: get the episode in your podcast player, right here on the Inside Marketing Design site, or watch the video below.

video preview

It hit me the other day that I only have TWO working weeks left of the year 😱 (and definitely more than two weeks worth of work to do...)

Is the end of the year approaching you like a fast-moving train too?

Hope you have a good week and get lots done!

Enjoy this issue? Click the heart to let me know!


Marketing Design Dispatch

by Charli Marie

Join 17,000+ creatives receiving insider insights about brand and marketing design – featuring landing page and rebrand breakdowns, useful career content, and a behind-the-scenes look at running a Brand Studio team in tech.

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