February 10, 2023

What Comes First: Design or Copywriting?

Woman lying on a sofa reading a book learning about what comes first design or copywriting

posted by:

Ami Bolt

Today, on Dear Charlie’s blog, we’ve got a guest expert.

Meet Ami, who runs Ami Writes.

As a creative copywriter, Ami and Steph from Dear Charlie have worked together on a bunch of projects.

The two of us have worked with a number of clients that either have their design crafted first or their copywriting crafted first.

So, which way is the right way? Should you hire a designer and then a copywriter? Or a copywriter then a designer?

I you’re going to outsource to a designer, it’s a hugely missed opportunity if you don’t also hire a copywriter. And vice versa.

But where do you start: design or copywriting?

What comes first Design or Copywriting a blog by guest blogger Ami Writes

What Exactly Is Copywriting?

We’ll start with the basics: what is copywriting?

In a nutshell, copywriting is words that convert.

Copywriting comes in many formats, but in the digital world, you’ll find copywriting in:

  • Websites
  • Emails and email sequences
  • Sales pages
  • Advertisements

Essentially, copywriting, (not to be confused with content writing,) is all about taking leads on a journey, up levelling from one phase to the next.

The words used – if written well – convert readers into warm leads, warm leads into hot leads, hot leads into buyers or clients, and those buyers into die-hard fans.

Does Copywriting Have That Much Power?

Yes. Think about it.

You communicate with people – for the most part – through words.

You form opinions about those people based on how they express ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and emotions.

And you build relationships based on what has been said.

It’s no different to that in the business world.

At its root, copywriting is an extreme form of persuasive writing.

Successful copywriting combines creativity, buyer psychology, and sales strategy.

And the result? Higher conversion rates.

So, whether you’re trying to:

copywriting is a fundamental skill.

What Links Copywriting and Design Together?

Copywriting and design are two different concepts.

Design works with visuals.

Copywriting works with words.

So, how exactly are they linked?

Your brand is made up of core components. Two of the most crucial? Your visuals and your messaging.

I can almost hear you groaning:

But Ami, what about my brand’s core values and beliefs? What about my ideal client?

The truth is: your design and your copywriting should encapsulate those elements.

Your copywriting should speak directly to your ideal client. And it should be obvious based on your wording and vocabulary choice. As should your design – based on your imagery, colour palette, typography, and various design components.

The same goes for your brand’s core values, beliefs, her personality, and everything you put out there.

Because, in reality, your copywriting and your design should articulate it all for you.

Cat looking from side to side. So many choices? Design or copywriting?

What Comes First: Copywriting or Design?

Ah, the ultimate “chicken or egg” argument surfaces once again.

What does come first: copywriting or design?

There’s arguments on both sides. And, remember, there is no right and wrong here.

But, let’s explore each option and then the oh-so-perfect third.

Creating Design First, Copywriting Second

If you’ve already outsourced to a designer and you’re looking to hire a copywriter, then – chances are – you’re looking at this option.

So, let’s say you’re working on your brand’s website.

Your designer has already sent you your brand identity, your logo, and has built a wireframe for your site.

At this point, you realise “I’ve gotta hire a copywriter because I can’t invest this money on design and have my words let me down.”

(A wise decision, BTW. And something a whole lot of people trip up on when getting their site designed.)

So, you start searching for a good copywriter. You find one, you’re onboarded, and they’re good to go.

What’s the impact of having your design completed before you start with your copywriting?

Word Count Issues

At this point, the copywriter has a layout for the site, an understanding of the “vibe” you’re going for, and a head-start on exploring your brand.

But what happens if, despite all the work being done, the copywriter points out that certain design elements will need changing to accommodate the copy you need?

What if the design has incorporated a large block for extended copy when this word count doesn’t provide the best chance of conversion? And the same thing happens the opposite way.

Copy Topic Limitations

Both copywriters and designers are incredibly creative people. They wouldn’t be successful in what they do if they weren’t.

But that creativity takes different forms.

If the layout for the site is set-in-stone, the copywriter will need to adhere to it. This limits the ability to be creative in terms of the physical content.

Potential Confusion

Now, this point is highly dependent on the relationship between your designer and your copywriter.

When Dear Charlie and Ami Writes work together, we make sure to communicate every step of the way.

However, there are copywriters and designers out there that don’t have a relationship at all. And if that’s the case, having one component (design or copywriting) finished before the other can be highly problematic.

And that leaves you – as the client – stuck in the middle, having to deliver messages to and from your copywriter and designer.

This could result in different artistic direction, a lack of consistency, and no clear parallels between the wording and visuals.

Kendal Jenner saying I'm so confused.

Creating Copywriting First, Design Second

Let’s flip this on its head. What happens if you – as the client – have your copywriting created before you’ve invested in a designer?

We’ll work with the same example. To recap, imagine you’re investing in your brand’s website.

This time, though, you’ve chosen your copywriter first, and you’ve only just onboarded your designer.

Let’s say, then, that this copywriter has finished up with the words on your website.

Where does that leave your designer?

A Lack of Creativity

As mentioned before, having a structure that’s rigid and set in stone takes a lot of joy out of the process for your designer.

If the copy has already been written, they’re stuck with that. They have to design around it.

And while – if you’re working with a skilled copywriter – the words have been crafted to convert, they may not match the designer’s creative direction. This limitation can cause leads to literally slip through the net.

Structure Not Catered For UX/UI

Copywriters understand how visitors engage and read a website.

But designers? They know how they interact, process, and decode meaning from a website.

Your copywriter will have crafted messaging that follows the “F” rule, works for Google, and uses strong headings. But your designer is there to make those words shine.

And if the copy has been written in a way that your designer knows won’t be read due to the way readers interact on a site, then there’s no point in having it there in the first place.

Crossed Wires Between Words and Visuals

This isn’t always the case.

Again, we – Dear Charlie and Ami Writes – place a lot of emphasis on communication and ensuring that we’re on the same page.

But, as with any writing style, copywriters choose an angle to go with.

By having the copywriting completed first, the designer is forced to go ahead with that angle visually. Again, there may be nothing wrong with that angle. But there’s very little collaboration involved.

And that could cause a mismatch between your brand’s wording and your brand’s visuals.

He called me inconsistent

Design and Copywriting At The Same Time

Ah, now this – this – we like.

We’ve looked at the whole “chicken and egg” scenario.

But what if it isn’t a chicken and egg scenario?

What if it’s cake and ice cream? Perfect together, indulgent, and oh-so-good.

Let’s rewind. You’re now on the lookout for a copywriter and a designer to launch a new website.

(If you’re gonna do it, you want to get it right. Good choice.)

You make your decision and hire a designer and a copywriter who have experience of working together.

What’s the result?

Alignment Through Words And Visuals

One of the critical components and benefits of outsourcing to a copywriter and a designer at the same time is brand alignment.

The copywriter and designer you choose should interact, collaborating and sharing ideas.

No longer does the copywriter choose the angle. Instead, they work on it together.

The brand is explored – deep dived – by both creatives. And, they then come back together, demonstrating their findings.

Similes and metaphors used by the copywriter is also considered when the designer gets to work.

The colour palette assigned by the designer influences the tone of voice created by the copywriter.

You see? Everything works together. So, it’s no longer “egg and chicken.”

Hiring A Designer And A Copywriter: Top Tips To Make The Right Choice

Now that we know that hiring a designer and a copywriter at the same time is the way forward, let’s take a quick look at how to make the right outsourcing choice.

1. Hire A Designer And Copywriter Who Have Worked Together Before

If you can, it’s always beneficial to hire a designer and copywriter who have experience working together.

Wording and design are art-forms. They’re highly creative skills. And, as with any artist, they have different styles.

For example, there could be problems if you hired a copywriter with a feminine, playful writing style and your designer’s artistic style is dark, masculine, and serious.

If your designer and copywriter have worked together before, they’ll be able to demonstrate the work they’ve done together.

Take Charlotte Hunter’s website, for example.

I wrote the words for this site. And Steph from Dear Charlie designed it.

The same goes for Natalie Trusdale’s.

You’ll be able to see that our styles intertwine beautifully.

2. Stay Away From Freelancing Sites

The low price tag may be tempting. But trust me when I say: you’ll end up spending way more if you cheap-out.

A cheap designer, just like a cheap copywriter, end up costing you leads, sales, and a whole heap of time.

Trust me on this one: if you’re going to do it, do it right. Understand that it’s an investment, not a purchase.

Do not bargain hunt when it comes to your brand.

3. Look For Alignment

Finally – and most importantly – you need to feel you’re understood by both your designer and your copywriter.

That sense of alignment needs to flow between the three of you.

After a Discovery Call with your designer and your copywriter, you should feel like they “get you.”

With something as personal as your brand’s visuals and messaging, you need to feel your designer and your copywriter can do it justice.

Woman giving out high fives

Steph and Ami work together to create branding magic. Whether you’re after a conversion-boosting website that sells on autorepeat, a sales page that brings in dollar, dollar bills while you sleep, or anything else: we’re here to help.

Check out Dear Charlie’s portfolio and Ami Writes’ portfolio today.

Hi There, I’m Steph!
The Soul Crafting Your Dream Brand.


I’m your branding wizard, a design devotee, and here to elevate your passion into a brand that shines, all while keeping it real.


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At the helm of Dear Charlie, where creativity meets strategy in a beautiful dance, my happiest moments are wrapped up in bringing your brand’s story to life, one pixel at a time. Thrilled you’ve dropped by.

Brand strategist by day, web design wizard by night, and my biggest kick comes from helping dreamers like you turn their passion into a visual masterpiece that truly speaks.

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Steph Honey.

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