Can one become both an art director and copywriter?

It just seems to me a lot of agencies or freelancers work in duo's. Typical art director + copywriter. I suppose this is a proven way to be very efficient, but when Luke Sullivan said "good copywriters can think visually; good art directors can write", I started wondering. Can one become like a hybrid of both these functions and do the job by himself or is it guaranteed to be less good compared to such a duo?

I think this method has benefits as well. Cause I think if one person can do both these jobs there would be an even more seamless connection between the art and the copy.

But hey I'm just a student. I don't have any work experience apart from internships. But I try to question everything though.

17 comments

alvinpck's picture
alvinpck
1467 pencils

What Luke said is true.

I'm an art director. I write a little. Though I'm not an expert in it, at least it's a head start for my partner to take over.
Some writers I worked before can think visually. Good in rough sketches too. Exactly the value I'm looking for in a writer.

It's always better to write down your thoughts/ideas down before an execution.

To answer your question, there is no correct answer to it. Both the functions overlap.

Jaap Grolleman's picture
Jaap Grolleman
7004 pencils

Yes but you still work with your partner. Could you imagine improving your copywriting skills and work solo whilst maintaining the same quality of work (or even better)?

Guest's picture
Guest

There certainly are people who can do both, there are even more who think they can do both :-)
(one or two 'lucky strikes' do not make a writer an art director or vice versa, you have to prove consistently across a variety of jobs that you can maintain the same high standards for both disciplines)
What often happens is that so-called 'solo' creatives tend to work in a way that leans towards their strengths ... not always, but often.
Or, you will find a 'solo' copywriter working with a brilliant film director to execute an idea e.g. Justin Moore on Guinness.
However ...
If you are just as comfortable (and good) at directing voice overs in a studio as you are at directing a photographer on set ...
If you can write a full page of beautiful, inspiring text and then set it perfectly in a breath-taking lay-out ...
If you can effectively cut 250 words down to 100 without losing the essence of the message AND perfectly photoshop 30 years off of Mick Jagger ...
Then, you are indeed a true CWAD!
The real issue though is not actually whether someone can or can not do both jobs.
It often has to do with tight deadlines in agencies.
There simply is not enough time for one person to do it all.
(this is why it is more likely that students feel they can work alone than professional creatives)
You do not have the same high-budget, high-pressure deadlines looming ... and when you have TV or app or poster ideas you can choose the execution level for your portfolio and only show what is necessary in order for employers to 'get the idea'.
In agencies every little detail must be perfect for production across all media. No inconsistencies, spelling errors, incorrect pantones etc. etc.
Finally, don't forget that the whole idea behind two or more person teams is not just about text + words. It is also about companionship, input and personal growth.
You can often work with someone who compliments you, fills in your weaknesses, highlights your strengths.
Plus you must not forget one of the biggest and hardest tasks in advertising: selling your idea to your CD and then to clients.
It's always nice to have support on this.

Jaap Grolleman's picture
Jaap Grolleman
7004 pencils

It's not often guests make such great comments. Thanks heaps!

So if I understand it correctly you're saying you can actually do both but it'll be a lot harder and probably less good. It makes sense, specially on the way you explain it.

Then again, at small agencies there are plenty of people who do both.

Guest's picture
Guest

Yes, I also think there are people who can do both designing and copywriting. However, this doesn't happen so often. In Japan, you seldom come across production companies and agencies that can keep a balance between design and copy. Either part ends up overriding the other. As a matter of fact, I think there are more designer-oriented art directors than writer-oriented ones. So the copy is always left behind. Specification lists in catalogs and manuals face a serious problem in such cases...By the way, I am a copy coordinator in Japan.

Guest's picture
Guest

Whether such a hybrid exists I'm not sure, but I'm pretty doubtful that any one person could reach the height of either craft while focusing on both without a secondary sounding board.

For me (as a copywriter) one of the best things in a great art director isn't the ability to visualise my initial ideas verbatim, it's the feedback and finessing of a rough idea into a collective gem. Were I able to use PhotoShop or illustrate, I would never get that, nor would the client, and I wouldn't even try in the first place because I could never compete with the art directors I know. Similarly, even the most lexically competent art director wouldn't be able to offer the same obsessive attention to words that steered me into copywriting in the first place. There's not enough time to be brilliant at both,and if you're planning on being brilliant, you need to choose one or you'll end up diluted at both. And what alvinpck said about companionship is spot on. Having an AD who compl[e]ments you is a godsend, a half-ladder to match your own half-ladder, creating something collectively that gives your ideas real reach.Without that, I'm just a copywriter, sat in a room, on my own, with words.

Guest's picture
Guest

at the end of the day they are job titles - or specifically 'roles' to make everything understandable and procedural for the workplace.

whether we speak, write, draw or do interpretive dance (for that matter), we are all being creative to communicate our thoughts, it doesn't matter how we do it.

Jaap Grolleman's picture
Jaap Grolleman
7004 pencils

Yes you're right, they're just titles. But they worked fine to describe my question ;-)

alvinpck's picture
alvinpck
1467 pencils

One thought leads to another. One idea triggers the other. After all, ideas don't just stop at the art director, or the copywriter.
Eventually it evolves when both are working on it for a period of time. In the end, no one knows who is doing what anymore.

Don't come in and throw me a bunch of text and ask me to work on a layout. I won't work for you.

AnonymousDave's picture
AnonymousDave
18 pencils

Studies show that based on recent findings pertaining to the human genome and the mapping thereof that one can alter their DNA to function as two things at once, like Bird/Man or Ninja/Scientist or Sous Chef/Head Chef. It is reasonable to believe then that one might possibly perhaps do two things at once, according to science.

JCSaiKrishna's picture
JCSaiKrishna
731 pencils

In most of the companies Copywriter and a designer makes a team who has to come up with the process of ideation, copy and everything. Copywriters have the challenges of understanding the business market, which eventually gives them a good insight about the prospects and the market. Hence copywriters can become good art directors...

During the early stages of my career in advertising when I asked my guru how to become an art director or a creative director, he suggested me start my career as a copy writer.

I'm interest to know if I'm wrong anywhere...

http://twitter.com/JCSaiKrishna
I'm excited to know my mistakes!

Jaap Grolleman's picture
Jaap Grolleman
7004 pencils

Could you perhaps clarity why a copywriter has the challenge of understanding the business market and the art director does not?

Guest's picture
Guest

I think it's really great and important to be able to think in both ways, but at the same time, I agree with everyone else who pointed out the benefit of collaboration.

The other thing that hasn't been mentioned yet, is how that works when you get to an interview level. A lot of the creatives and recruiters I've spoken to do not want to see someone who claims to be both. It's okay to point out that you did both things in your book, but if you were to say or write anywhere that you're "copywriter/art director," it can give off the appearance that you're not passionate about either one, or that you have a bit of an ego and may not take feedback well or work well in teams, which can never be good.

Anonymous Author's picture
Anonymous Author
1541 pencils

Yes. If you put your minds to it.

Write a wise saying and your name will live forever – Anonymous.

http://www.anonymousauthor.co.nz
www.twitter.com/@anonauth

Guest's picture
Guest

It's very simple. Crossover is all very well -- desirable even -- at the ideas phase. But writing and art direction are crafts. When it comes to execution you need to know your stuff -- really know it. Few people are genuinely good enough at both.

JCSaiKrishna's picture
JCSaiKrishna
731 pencils

@Jackmancer: I dint mean the art director need not understand the market.

Aprt from this, Trout said "The mind works by ear and not eye... Before you can file a picture in the mind, you have to verbalize it." in the book 'Postioning'. This drives me into confusion when I compare with what Luke says ("Think visually...").

Sai Krishna
I'm interest to know if I'm wrong anywhere...

http://twitter.com/JCSaiKrishna
I'm excited to know my mistakes!

Martijn's picture
Martijn
1900 pencils

I think art director and copy writer are overrated labels. As an advertising creative, you need a lot of different scales, even more today then 10 years ago. Be only good in art or in copy is not enough anymore.

I do believe in teamwork and in complementary scales, but I think agencies will do good by bringing different kinds of people together. I once worked on a project with a really good software developer and that was maybe more interesting then work I did with advertising creatives.

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