Designers Can't Write

Last night was a warm, balmy evening in Melbourne, Australia - and warm balmy evenings are best spent drinking something cold with a friend. I did just that and we spoke about all manner of things — including the topic of writing. A shared passion of ours — amongst others.

This week I opened up the archive of my weekly journal to the public — I'd love to help more people reach their potential this year, and provide as value as I can, where I can. If you haven't already, share your favourite articles or simply forward this one to someone you think would benefit from it.

Here is a story about a myth we’ve convinced ourselves is true.

Creative people can’t write. Specifically, Designers can’t write. It’s a myth, a gross generalisation and a seed planted early in our careers that we’ve nurtured long enough to believe is true.

It’s the mid-90s and I’m in a lecture on marketing and advertising.

My mind is elsewhere, thinking about grass growing, when I hear the question put to us by the person doing the lecturing. We are to choose ‘a stream’ to focus on as our major.

Art Direction or Copywriting.

I put my hand up. “Can we choose both?”

The classroom erupts with laughter. The person doing the lecturer takes off his glasses and joins in the laughter.

“No.” His answer short and curt as he continues on with the remainder of his lecture.

“Why not?” I ask.

He looks at me with the annoyed look I get when my children interrupt one of my powerful, fatherhood monologue lessons

“Because that’s the way it is Jim. You choose a lane and you stick to it.”

I felt deflated.

In the years that followed I met many a creative who perpetuated this myth that you either write or you don’t if you're a Designer. You're either a Designer or a Writer. Not both. You're either a creative person or a words person. Not both.

Designers don’t write and Writers don’t design.

This it seemed was the equilibrium that held the Creative Universe in harmonious balance.

Last night though, in my balmy evening conversation over a cold drink with my friend Jack, I realised that there do exist people who transcend this myth in our industry. Jack has created a powerful vehicle called Word-Form which captures creative people’s insights, emotions, fears and aspirations in written form, in response to a simple, single-word brief.

It's powerful and profound to see all manner of creative people put word to paper and express themselves creatively, in a medium which is foreign to most of them. Reading through the posts on Word-Form I hear the din of Designers throughout my career saying "I can't write." Convincing themselves of a truth that may be something they relish.

Walking away from my informal meeting with Jack I reflected back at my own love of both design, writing, and technology. Three disciplines which I never placed in three different boxes, but rather one box — a box that was uniquely my own.

I reflected back on how I didn't 'stay in my lane' and how much richer our industry would be if we explored the various lanes we could all run in.

I reflected back at how, if I chose to conform, I wouldn’t have written weekly in the journal you're reading now; I wouldn’t have had the ability to move from UI Design, to Code to Strategy with ease.

I would’ve had blinkers on.

Galloping comfortably in my lane, while the system cracked its whip.