WANTED: Semiskilled Copyprovider
As a graphic designer, I have a natural inclination to formulate my ideas through pictures and symbols. My imagination flows in colors and forms weaved through a systematic grid. Even when I step outside of my design cave, most of my simple day-to-day actions are guided by a set of icons whether it be an icon on my cell phone or a stop sign at an intersection.
The exhausted cliche “a picture is worth 1000 words” is permeated into our daily lives. Particularly in a fast-paced culture which embraces a “Get to the point!” lifestyle, pictures and symbols are utilized to allow people to understand faster, but not necessarily better.
In some cases, communicating through usage of pictures and symbols is both efficient and necessary. Airports serve as a classic example of how symbols are used to quickly and efficiently guide travelers through foreign territory. Another example is street signage such as stop signs, streetlights and crossings which advise caution and direct drivers through traffic. Both airport symbols and street signage are strong examples which demonstrate effective usage of visuals.
In addition to communicating simple instructions, pictures and symbols also evoke emotion. Photographs have the power the create stopping action and stir feelings, but how do you transform sympathy into empathy to raise a real response? While visuals can be used to create an initial reaction, an extra step must be taken to form a deeper layer of understanding and meaning to your communication.
The traditional formula for an ad consists of:
- body copy
- product branding (i.e. logo)
As simple and straightforward as this formula may seem, it has evolved over time to become as barren as:
- product branding (i.e. logo)
Is the written word fading out of sight? Are we in danger of heading towards a society which no longer has a demand for professional copywriters? Will any available passerby be casually delegated as the new “copy provider”?
At home, resting in the corner of my desk is a retired “All-in-One” desktop product which collects dust. Supposedly, it’s promised to print, copy, scan and fax but in reality it requires so much effort on my part to get it to do ANY of those tasks, that I usually give up before I start and resort to other means. Why do I keep it? It’s all I got. Will the new generation of writers be like my “All-in-One”? Able to do a lot of things but inadequately? Relied upon but only because it’s the last available resource?
I grew up on a healthy appetite of written words. Many of my childhood memories include a backdrop of the neighborhood public library. My favorite stories revolves around a glorified hero who struggles to overcome a problem. Like these stories, do as Ogilvy would advise you and make your product the hero of its own story. Support it with detailed facts and information stating why its obviously glorious.
While pictures and symbols will inevitably continue to play a major role in grabbing your audience’s attention, there are still deeper levels of communication which photographs alone cannot capture. Words are magical because they have the power to create and explain the intangible. Words transform an idea into solid reality that you can see, hear and smell.
Whether it be a Silverstein or Steinbeck approach, use the written word to tell your product’s story and make every word count.