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What came first, the copy or design?

Three copy-design questions that were thrown in my face and how I answered them with (semi) grace. 

By: Chany Paskes 

Chany Paskes Copy office

They asked me to get on a Zoom. 

What could a group of passionate and talented designers practically want from an old copywriter like me? 

Lots, apparently. 

It didn’t take long after my too-large image appeared on the screen that the questions started flying in my virtual face. 

First, I ducked. 

Then I squared my shoulders, put a very senior-looking expression on my face, and tackled those questions, mike on. 

1. If you had only ten minutes to give a designer a piece of your mind, what would you tell them? 

Well, well. 

I could use ten hours but I’ll work with what I’ve got here. 

Kidding. I respect and admire designers and am in awe of the talent oozing out of some cool work. 

But, I do have things to say. Don’t I always?

First, less is more. Much, much more. 

Chany Paskes ad copy and design simple less is more

Don’t overstimulate your work. The cleaner the ad, the more attention it pulls. Designers that over clutter their work are often compensating for a lack of skills or confidence in their work. 

The only time a clean ad won’t work is when the core elements are not good enough. You need strong layout skills, a strong understanding of the basic design rules and then you punch them in the face with work that has nothing on it. 

The second thing I’d drill in, is that you need to keep honing your craft and updating your skills. 

Designs that worked a year ago are no longer relevant. Trends keep moving, the industry keeps evolving and if you’re not moving along, you’re moving behind. That doesn’t mean you must invest in expensive courses. It just means you have to go out there, research trends and learn how to master them. 

2. When should I hire a copywriter and when should I DIY? 

Let’s talk about ads. 

When someone is flipping through a magazine as if a fan is blowing the pages, two things will make them stop and look: 

Standout copy or standout design. 

So if your ad has a visual hero, where the design does the talking and the attracting, you can write the copy yourself. (Unless you don’t have a proper command of the language and basic writing skills.) 

Chany Paskes ad copy and design strong visual image

But if the visual is run of the mill and is not enough to drive the message home, you need to hire a copywriter to help you turn the ad into a page that forces the fan to pause. 


Don’t hire cheap copy and yell budget. It’s either you do it yourself, or you hire someone with a track record. 

Not to come off as a snob, but if you scrimp on copy, you may be disappointed with the results, and find yourself regretting the spend and redoing it anyway.

This is for ads. 

When it comes to naming, website copy, or anything more complicated, I suggest collaborating with an experienced copywriter and strategist. A lot of knowledge and expertise goes into every word. 

And don’t pull the budget card on me. 

There’s a strategy for making your clients pay for good copy:

Offer two packages: One with copy and one without. 

When you do that, your clients will start asking you what the difference is between the two packages. 

And that opens a curiosity loop that makes room for education. You now get the opportunity to explain what good copy does for design and why it's worth investing in it. Some clients simply don’t know or understand the value. 

Once they see two options and understand the difference, they might be converted to the conversion side. Sorry, I had to. 

3. Do you have any tips for navigating the copywriter-designer relationship? 

I always have tips for everything…the question is only if they’re worth more than q-tips. 

Okay, lame. 

The main tip I have for this relationship between two creatives who are usually high on ego and low on security is this: 

Don’t be another barrier of entry for the copywriter you hire. 

When the copywriter writes copy, they often know what the client wants and needs. They understand the goals and strategize how to reach them before they write.

Don’t make the approval process a two tier process. What that means is, even if you don’t ‘like’ the copy, present it to your client anyway. Maybe it’s exactly what the client had in mind. 

It’s very frustrating for the copywriter when the designer is not approving their work and they need to revise it even before the client has a chance to see it. 

If the client doesn’t like it, that’s a whole ‘nother story. Revisions are part and parcel of every marketing project. 

So don’t badger the copywriter with endless revisions and be a barrier of entry that might very well not be furthering the client’s goal. 

And another tip: Don’t make the copywriter ‘cut’ the copy because it doesn’t ‘fit’ into your design idea. It’s not the copywriter’s job to make your design convenient. 

The copy should be as long or short as it needs to be, and you, as a creative, need to find a way to make it shine. 

Chany Paskes ad copy and design meatboard

Those two tips are just the tip of the iceberg… 


The Zoom meeting was long and refreshing. 

Lots of questions, comments and insights. 

I’d ramble on here, but I’m afraid I lost you already. Either with the length of this post or with the abrasiveness of the content. 

Thanks for reading and feel free to reach out to me at any time.

Even if it’s just to say hi. 

I’m nicer on email…:) 

Chany Paskes Copy office


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