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  • Writer's pictureAutumn Sullivan

Hey Writer, are your Photoshop skills?

I've noticed an increase in the number of job posting and freelance gigs that call for a copywriter to also do some level of image creation or design work. I've been asked more than once, "How are your Photoshop skills?"

Me? Photoshop?

I know sites like Canva and PicMonkey make the process of creating images a lot easier, but I still have a few issues with this trend.

#1 It seems to be a one-way street.

I haven't run across a lot of designers being asked to write copy. And you know why? Because designers are notoriously bad at writing copy. No offense, designers. You guys are amazing at what you do. I have nothing but respect for your skills, because Lord knows I don't have them. But I've yet to meet a great designer who was also a decent copywriter. So why are writers suddenly being asked to pull double duty?

My suspicion is that people value copywriters a little less than designers. Why? Because we're all taught how to write in school, but we are not all taught how to design. Therefore, everybody thinks they're a writer.

#2 It diminishes our contribution to the process.

You're a writer, but can you edit? You can write and you can edit, but can you strategize? You can write, edit, and strategize, but can you design? How many skills does a copywriter need in order to be considered a valued member of a creative team? The answer should be One. You need to be able to write well. You need to write slam-dunk headlines and pithy social posts and eloquent articles.

#3 It means I get to spend less time on my craft and more time learning a new one.

And I know I sound whiney, but hear me out. I've been a writer most of my life. It was the only thing I ever wanted to be (except for a very brief stint when I was ten and wanted to be a zoologist). I take it seriously. I wrote for the school newspaper, earned a journalism scholarship, went on to earn my Master of Arts in Writing, have published poems and short stories and essays, and make my living writing. I love my craft and I spend a lot of my (now very scarce) free time studying it. I don't want to learn Photoshop. I want to continue to study language and the power of putting the best words in the best order.

#4 It takes away the writer/designer collaboration.

I love working with designers; I mean that sincerely. When I worked for Random House, I noticed the push-and-pull dynamic between the editors and the designers. I didn't want to be that editor. Instead, I chose to work with the designers for my books. What can we do together to make this book the best it can possibly be? I learned to flow documents into InDesign so I could make better bookmaps; I learned to format my manuscripts with the designers tagging system so they could work more efficiently. And I checked in (constantly) to see what the designer thought of the full-page image choices, the folio treatments, etc. Because they had awesome ideas that made the books more beautiful and more readable.

When I transitioned into the world of marketing as a copywriter, I kept that collaborative philosophy. Designers are in every brainstorm I schedule. I ask to sit in the same areas as the designers I work with so we can collaborate easily and more often. Taking that away, the writer now operates in a silo, which doesn't allow for the amazing springboard moment of "Yes, and ..." that creative minds bring to each other. Plus, designers just tend to be super-fun people to be around.

So ... I don't want to spend less time with them.

Yes, I can pick a photo from Canva or PicMonkey and slap my headline on it. But wouldn't you rather I spend another few minutes perfecting that headline and let the Photoshop ninja one desk over pick the image? We'll both appreciate you respecting our creative talents, and you'll appreciate having the best possible content for your marketing efforts.

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