The message and layout dance

Designers incorrectly believe their job is to move shapes around.

Writers incorrectly believe their job is to write the message that the designer moves around.

The truth lies somewhere in the middle.

A designer’s primary goal is to communicate a message. It’s to create a combination of visual elements that say to a viewer “this is a thing I want to be a part of”.

Sometimes we want it to look refined, sometimes cheap.

Sometimes we want it to look somewhere in the middle.

But a designer isn’t there to make those decisions. Those decisions come from the message.

The problems begin when the message doesn’t exist.

If we can agree that a designer’s job is to communicate the message, what message do they decide to communicate if there is no message?

They don’t. They move shapes around.

When a designer moves shapes around to communicate no specific message we’re playing a game of probability.

There’s a 1 in a 1000 chance that the designer gets it right.

Nobody is happy with the result.

So the writer writes the message. It might not even be a whole lot of content to begin with and it might just be “we want to communicate royalty, prestige and vigour”.

Now we have an idea of a message, we instantly narrow down those odds for our designer.

A designer now might be thinking of colour schemes and layouts that will communicate royalty. Maybe a deep purple. Maybe lots of space and a refined choice of typeface.

A good designer will instantly see a result when you tell them what the message is. You’ve turned on the lights for him.

Even the best designer in the world will just stab in the dark if you leave the lights off though.