Writers are Writers, Designers are Designers

Here are some thoughts from late in the afternoon from Edward M. Bury, aka the PRDude.

Scenario #1. Earlier today, I was en route to meet with a recruiter regarding a possible long-term writing and marketing assignment for an international company.  My cell rang.  It was the recruiter.  Apparently the recruiter’s client had a change of heart:  He wanted a professional who had writing and design skills.  I turned the car around and headed home.  We’ll reschedule a meeting in the future.

Scenario #2.  A public relations professional posted a question on LinkedIn seeking advice on what kind of graphic design software  PR pros should master.  The reason?  Some public relations jobs now ask for design as well as writing and social media skills.  Several people offered suggestions, such as the Adobe Creative Suite.

Am I missing something here?  Writers are writers, and designers are designers.  They are totally different disciplines — one written the other visual.  They require totally different skills, especially do do well in a marketing communications capacity.

In my 20 years in the public relations industry, I’ve collaborated with many great designers on web content, collateral pieces, display ads, trade show displays and other projects.  They had their task, and I had mine.  I didn’t know their job — from the creative side to the technical side — and I didn’t expect them to have the knowledge and skills required to craft persuasive, insightful copy.

The Wikipedia definition of  “graphic design” includes this sentence: “The term ‘graphic design’ can also refer to a number of artistic and professional disciplines that focus on visual communication and presentation.”  The key words here are “artistic” and “visual communication.”   There’s no mention of skills needed to write good copy.

In both scenarios noted above, one factor was behind this disturbing development toward the search for “super communicator writer/designer.”  It’s money. Why pay for a designer when the public relations guy/gal can handle the job.

In these challenging economic times, companies and associations maintain that a skilled communicator can fire up a computer loaded with desktop publishing software and deliver brilliant design concepts that result in great brochures, web sites and point-of-purchase displays.   Why pay for the services of a true designer?

I disagree.   Desktop publishing software, as I understand it, provides templates and leaves little room for creativity.  It doesn’t allow for originality or provide the tools required to dazzle.  Desktop publishing products are fine for the block club newsletter, but not for an effective collateral pieces in today’s increasingly competitive marketplace.