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Designer creative writing

7 Ways Writing Improves Creativity

A year of writing an article every week has taught me much about the positive effect it has on creativity. I’ve also realised just how important writing is from when I stopped writing for a few years before this year of activity.

I’m a better designer when I write. It’s easier to focus, my thoughts are clearer, I have more (and better) ideas and I’m more creative. Read on to find out why.

1. Writing Accelerates Learning

When I started blogging, I had no idea the positive effect it would have on my learning. I was mostly doing it to help my poor memory at the time. I’ve learnt more from teaching as much as I can about everything I’ve learnt over the years than anything else.

Writing Improves Thinking

The act of writing forces you to think more deeply about what you’re teaching.

You have to express your knowledge in a well constructed and easy to understand format rather than a jumble of thoughts in your head. This process can frequently lead to discovering more about the subject you’re teaching through curiosity and a desire to deliver as much value as possible.

Not convinced it forces you to think more deeply? 99u points out that Meredith Maran interviewed writers on why they write for her book Why We Write:

Nearly all of the responses are self-serving, but there is a beautiful, necessary motive behind it: Writing provides a pocket of time in the present moment to reflect, digest, and to think deeply.

If you’ve never written consistently before, you may well think it’s because you have nothing to say but actually, you write to find out what you have to say.

Deep Thinking (from Writing) Leads to More Ideas and Quantity Leads to Quality

You may be looking for the perfect idea but it isn’t going to magically come out of nowhere. Only hard work powers a lightbulb moment.

On top of that, high quality work is more likely to happen from more ideas rather than less. Quantity leads to quality.

Writing more leads to more ideas which in turn leads to better ideas.

Sharing Feels Good

We’re so fortunate in the web design industry that there are so many resources out there to learn from, free or not. Whether it’s an ego thing or we genuinely want to help others, we love to share.

When you share what you learn, you’re doing your bit to help make the web a better place, no matter how little.

As you’ll see in the next point, happiness boosts creativity.

2. Writing is Good for Your Health and Makes You Happier

Every writer struggles with writing, even on a regular basis. I’m currently struggling writing this very article and in these tough times, it can feel like it doesn’t make you happier but it does.

“Researchers have found that people are more likely to have a creative breakthrough if they were happy the day before. Creativity is less likely to be present with negative emotions such as fear, anger, sadness, and anxiety; it is positively associated with positive emotions such as joy, love, and curiosity.”

Blogging is good for your health too. Richard Branson thinks so to:

“Blogging every day is a good way to keep engaged with the latest trends, one of which is the growing area of health and wellness. Personally, I think blogging is good for your health too. It keeps the mind engaged and is an outlet for creativity, as well as encouraging communication.”

You wouldn’t think Richard Branson would attribute health and creativity to writing but you can’t ignore one of the most successful people of all time in business.

3. Writing Exercises Your Creative Muscles

Keeping your creativity flowing with a creative hobby is a very effective way to become more creative without doing any extra work and writing can be a part of that too.

Creativity isn’t something you’re born with. It comes easier to some people than others, but no matter who you are, it has to be exercised like a muscle. Those who practice creativity more, find it much easier to be more creative because they’re used to it.

Writing about design keeps that creativity muscle working amongst all the other benefits it brings.

4. Writing Defines Processes

One of the big problems with designers and the lack of creativity is our obsession with tools and techniques. Better tools or new frameworks won’t solve struggles with creativity.

A well defined process frees you up to think more creatively because you don’t have to spend energy on thinking about it. It’s probably wise to revise your process once in a while but drag yourself away from the obsession many designers have and you’ll see a creative boost others don’t have time for while they’re downing in frameworks and plugins.

5. Writing Solidifies Good Ideas

When an unnamed but apparently well known front-end developer wrote an article in response to mine about the 80/20 hybrid approach to designing in the browser, he attacked my thoughts using phrases such as “flimsy arguments” and “false statements”.

He must have missed the part where I pointed out that my so-called “flimsy arguments” and “false statements” were from actual conversations with designers. It was quite the opposite, as his arguments didn’t have any substance behind them, they were weak and it seemed like he wasn’t very opened minded with a desperate need to defend the way he choses to work.

You can read my own response clarifying my views on the matter. Writing that response solidified my 80/20 hybrid approach to designing in the browser even more. I now have more belief in the way I work but I would have been open to improvements had the criticism not been flimsy itself.

6. Writing Gives You a Deeper Understanding of Your Projects

If you can write the copy for projects you design, or work directly with a copywriter, you’ll understand the project much more than the average designer because the average designer doesn’t do much research or any research at all.

Building a foundation with research helps to get past the creative block of the intimidating blank screen and this is the heart of good copywriting and research.

Rally Interactive used this technique expertly to design the wonderful National Parks app. Find out more about that in this issue of Learn from Great Design I wrote about their excellent case study.

What’s the best way to organise your research? Writing, of course.

7. Great Designers Write

Think about your favourite designers for a few minutes. Chances are you know about them because they write. It gives you a greater understanding of how they work and their views about design.

We all read excellent articles from the likes of Smashing Magazine and A List Apart as well as many others. We all know great designers write because we read their articles regularly.

Great designers write. If you haven’t started writing, start now and if you have, write more. You won’t regret it, I promise.

Writing Improves Confidence

Ultimately, the improvement writing makes to your creativity will also improve your design confidence. Struggles with creative block will decrease as a result.

Summary

  1. Writing Accelerates Learning
  2. Writing is Good for Your Health and Makes You Happier
  3. Writing Exercises Your Creative Muscles
  4. Writing Defines Processes
  5. Writing Solidifies Good Ideas
  6. Writing Gives You a Deeper Understanding of Your Projects
  7. Great Designers Write

If you look at each point individually, it’s obvious how each can improve your design confidence. Combine them together and it’s even more obvious how you simply can’t ignore the power of writing.

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Creative Writing

Clear, concise, and well-crafted writing is essential to every field. MCAD’s Creative Writing minor helps you develop the practical skills and techniques to strengthen your artistic practice, entrepreneurial venture, or general communications. Students examine a range of genres including poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, scholarly writing, business copy, and technical writing. The minor culminates in an advanced writers’ workshop in which students can narrow their disciplinary focus while taking it to a more advanced level.

Is creative writing needed to be a graphic designer?

I want to be a graphic designer but I’m awful at writing copy, editing, coming up with slogans and catch phrases.

Do I really need to learn Writing, Spelling and Grammar and such to be a successful Graphic Designer?

In my experience, designers are notoriously bad at spelling! Unless copy writing is a specific extra service you are providing, I’d expect the client to either write that or have someone else do it. They know their product best, after all.

Given the capitalization errors in your question and the fact that you are a successful designer tells me no, you don’t have to be good at it 😛

Interesting. Once, as an IT grad that has quite a thing for graphic design, I was applying to be a Web Designer. The test was to make a small ads, like the one usually shown in any website’s sidebar. Well, I gotta make the design . and the words too, which made me quite nervous, because I never thought “a skill to make an interesting sentence” is part of that job. Judging from how I was called again, seems like I passed the test. Didn’t go though, another place accepted me first as a Programmer 😛

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet! At least we can all use this as an excuse if the right catch phrase doesn’t come up!

8 Answers 8

In part, yes. As an expert, heck no.

Writing is its own profession. You don’t need to be an English major or writer to be a designer.

As a designer, I am often asked for ideas, i.e. slogans, tag lines, phrasing. But this is always done with professional writers so they have the final word on what will be used. While a client may pick my brain for creative ideas, I’m not asked to actually cement any idea myself. A writer always reviews everything before design begins.

That being posted, you do need to know how to spell, as well as have at least some basic idea of grammar and usage. You’ll still be called upon to input headlines or small amounts of copy and spelling inaccuracies can be problematic.

95% of the text I use for designs is provided to me by clients or writers they have hired. While I may make suggestions or be asked to change a headline here or there (which requires typing) for the most part I don’t input a great deal of text myself. I certainly do not advertise or sell myself as a creative writer capable of constructing original copy for clients. I refer client to actual writers for that stuff.

Writing is a lot like printing or web development to a designer. Yes, you should understand the basics, be able to handle rudimentary adjustments when needed, but you don’t need to be an expert by any means.

Past companies I’ve worked for had dedicated marketing, dedicated editing/writing, and dedicated design departments. Many of the larger companies I freelance for today have the same structure. In larger corporations, they tend to understand that like design, writing is a specialized area requiring specialized skills. Writing is closely tied to design, but in my experience few designers are also asked to be writers.

It’s only with smaller companies where a designer may also be asked to be a writer in an effort to save money and streamline their own outsourcing. Similar to how smaller companies want a “web designer” to also code everything and build their back-end database — two jobs, but if they can hire one person and only pay one salary, they certainly will.