Writing Shy? Wayne Geyer Will School Ya

15-Dec-2011

Wayne Geyer is a Dallas, Texas copywriter and speaker who is all about teaching designers, art directors, and basically any creative professionals that consider themselves only “visual” – to write. Wayne is speaking our language, for sure. In fact, our Braid December newsletter, Gaahhh! Don’t Make Me Write! is about mine and Kathleen’s personal experience with how writing can shape your career and get your ideas more enthusiastically approved. In fact, even if you aren’t technically paid to be creative, I truly believe almost everyone can benefit professionally from becoming a better writer.

Wayne was nice enough to answer a few Q&A’s with us.  And if you’re vibing on what he’s laying down, check out his upcoming seminar, Write More Good: Copywriting for Visual Thinkers, where he teaches participants how to bridge the gap between strategy and creative, distill any creative challenge down to five words or fewer, and write their way “out of a wet paper bag.” read more >

Q: Wayne, how did you come to be a copywriter who encourages designers to write?

A: I have a BFA in Advertising Art. In reality, it’s a graphic design degree. But in my first few years of working, I was “the designer who writes.” Then, I started my own business—and chose to focus exclusively on copywriting. Along the way, I found that I still needed to solve my clients’ communication problems before I could effectively write compelling copy.

In my daily work with designers and art directors, I found that many of them were trained in “portfolio” programs aimed at teaching formal design. For lots of reasons, they were missing a writing component in their education. Suddenly, they found themselves in the working world—having to create concepts and even write simple copy to support their work. Some of them viewed writing as intimidating—but others didn’t even consider it a part of the design process.

So I started teaching “copywriting” at my alma mater the way I thought it would be most helpful to graphic designers. I wanted to give “visual thinkers” some tools and techniques to bring more strategy and communication to their work. And because I’m a graphic designer too, I can speak to the unique issues a “non-writer” faces when he or she looks at a blank sheet of paper.

Today, I help people who draw... learn how to write:  So they can kick ass for their clients and get paid more for it. I’m on a mission to elevate our industry—and to save graphic designers from being viewed as commodities.

Q. Why do you think visual creative professionals should get more comfortable with creative writing?

The term “visual communication” is limiting: it only refers to the media we use or the “things” we make: graphic design, advertising, brochures, websites or whatever. In reality, we’re just as responsible for the words as the layout and the pictures. So we’re more than “visual communicators.” We’re brand communicators. We control content. And we need to understand how words, stories, messaging and writing work in unison with imagery to create meaning and contribute to understanding.

Q. Do you think there are misconceptions in the industry that have created this “division of roles” between writing and design?

Well, it’s a fact that some of us are more “verbal” and others are more “visual.” And the industry has traditionally liked putting people in pigeonholes based on their skills. But then I see something like Braid’s recent post and it feels better to me. I, too, like to think we’re all “creative.” Or more specifically, we’re all communicators.

I picture a brainstorming session where those different personalities work together to define a clear message and a creative concept. At the end of that meeting, one person opens the Adobe Creative Suite, another starts typing in Word, and still others go back to managing schedules or planning a media strategy. Along the way, I see them looking over each other’s shoulders and sharing ideas in the interest of strengthening the communication. The perception is that we work in silos. Sometimes that’s also the reality. But I think many of us believe in the power of collaboration.

Q. What are the most common barriers you’ve encountered that discourage the overlap?

Individual skills or tendencies aside, the structure of traditional ad agencies and design shops doesn’t help. In his book, Designers Don’t Read, Austin Howe suggests that today’s most desirable “creatives” and “creative agencies” aren’t “art directors,” “designers” or “copywriters,” but actually those who possess the kind of strategic thinking skills required to see the bigger picture.

There’s another challenge, and it lives at the college level. There are plenty of designers out there who basically just learned about grids and got proficient in Photoshop. Some of those people will enter the marketplace to find they’re very small fish in a very big pond—and they’ll struggle. I think it’s because they weren’t exposed to storytelling, concept, or messaging.

Q. What has surprised you most about your copywriting seminars?

At my workshop in September, one of the participants said, “I fell in love with design all over again.” It was so powerful, I was actually taken aback. She had been stuck in a rut (and who hasn’t), and she was reminded that design isn’t just about making things. It’s a process—a journey. She got immersed in the client and the story. She asked questions, and allowed herself to be surprised by the answers. She focused less on “what” she was going to make, and instead tried to understand “why.”

Part of it had to do with getting away from the daily grind of meetings and deadlines and familiarity. But I like to think that in trying a different approach, she gave herself the tools to discover a completely unique solution.  There have been plenty of other surprises, but this one blew me away. She fell in love with design all over again. And I had a little bit to do with that.

Q. If you had to share just one tip to get a "non-writer" more confident with writing, what would it be?

Ask yourselves this question: “What does my audience need to hear?” It’s been one of my favorite tools for almost 20 years. First, it focuses your attention on the most important thing — the audience. Then, it demands some laser focus. What do they need to hear—not just “what do the client (or I) want to tell them?” If you can filter all of the noise down to a clear, singular answer to that simple question, you’ve solved the communication problem. After that, it’s simply a matter of translating that message in an interesting and memorable way.

You can get more than just one tip at Wayne Geyer’s seminar, Write More Good. And, of course, we want to know how you rate your writing confidence. Do you hate to write, are you just shy about it or do you want to write more?


Braid Method Branding for Creatives ECourse

The Braid Method Branding ECourse is for creative entrepreneurs who are ready to support themselves financially with their business, create a blog or consistent online presence, and finally turn the work they’re already doing into a digital product, package, or offering for dream customers. This branding ecourse comes with 7 learning modules in a 300+ page digital download, a workbook with 20+ branding exercises and scripts, a quarterly masterclass, and an exclusive Facebook group so you can connect with us and other students.

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