What Comes First: Copy or Design?

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words by writers

The BIG existential question. The famous chicken and egg debacle. 

Should your copy or design come first?

As someone who has repeated this process both ways (many times!) – there’s a reason why I now always recommend your words come first.

And it comes in the form of less editing, less time-wasting, and less stress for you, your writer, and your designer.

It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking website copy, leaflets, blogs… when the design comes first, you begin to squeeze in, delete, or reformat your message. And while short and sweet copy is always preferable, if you’re watering down your message so “it fits that space” or “it looks good there”, it’s not going to be as powerful as saying what you need to say in the order you need people to see it.

Once you have a clear, strategy-driven message / narrative, your design supports and enhances it. Both are equally as important, but if you want to be strategic, write then design!

After working closely with one of my partner designers on a number of projects, here’s what we decided was best and why:

  1. Write first to create a clear outline for your designer

Where do you need headings and subheadings, where you do need a longer snippet of text to be broken up into sections, where do you need a newsletter subscription box and a button?

Without this foreknowledge, a designer can’t predict the flow of your copy. And you can’t expect them to either! Once your designer can see what text you have, they can make clever design decisions that support your user journey and make your words pop.

  1. Write first to structure your key messaging

Do you want your value statement to star as a homepage headline with a personal about blurb to follow? Or maybe you want a short company intro and a founder quote at the very bottom of the page?

Similarly to the above, a designer can’t predict the structure of your copy. Once they have your text, they’ll understand what needs to go where, and be able to add fonts or images that complement your content hierarchy.

  1. Write first to save time later (and headaches)

There’s nothing worse than infinite rounds of edits or watering down information that will help you truly speak to your audience.

When your copy is created first, you don’t need to remove those 5 sentences to fit the design or move an important heading to the bottom of the page so it looks good. Your designer also doesn’t need to go back and move things around.

When you start with the words you’re confident in, a professional designer can turn them into a sleek powerhouse for your business. 

Because strategic copy + design = your key to conversion.


Want more eyes and engaged readers on your copy? From SEO blogs to brand new websites, get in touch today to discuss your personal needs. I’m always happy to work alongside you and your chosen designer, or introduce you to one of the amazing designers I often partner with!

Let’s take your business from survival to steady with the power of a Words First approach.

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