How to make your partner do all the work and get (at least) half the credit. By Sensitive Writer.
Think what you want of me, but this is a skill I am proud to say I have perfected over the years. And frankly, I don’t think you’ll find an art director in Denver to disagree with me. Which brings me to the first requirement:
1) Be a writer.
The primary difference between good writers and good art directors is that writers are smart and lazy while art directors are talented and hard-working. There may a few writers up in arms over this, but I’m fairly certain no art directors will disagree. Art directors have the inherently harder, more time-consuming job. Sure we writers get stuck with radio, but really, how long does that take? And how many clients even do radio anymore? A former partner once said to me, “No one says to writers ‘Oh, you used that word in the LAST campaign you did!’ We have to come up with a new typeface every time. Imagine if you had to come up with all new words.” It’s true. Art directors have to re-invent the wheel every time. We writers just have to re-arrange the spokes.
2) Get a partner who’s better than you.
The same advice your father gave you for marriage is also apropos for working in the creative department: Marry up. Hey, someone has to be the better half. Just don’t let it be you. And while you’re at it…
2b) … you should also find a partner who can write.
Another inequality in advertising is that while a lot of art directors are also pretty darn good writers, there’s not a ton of writers who can art direct. Sure, we may have a good eye, or give helpful advice like “have you tried blue” but true art directing is a skill that only true art directors have. (See previous note about talented, time-consuming).
3) Two words: visual solutions.
Every writer’s dream. You get half the credit for the concept PLUS all the credit for the one line of body copy without having to burden yourself with the ugly details of photo shoots, Photoshop, design or typography. And really, it don’t get easier than this. (See previous note about smart, lazy).
4) Save them letters for Scrabble.
If #4 totally fails, at least make your headlines short and pithy. And that applies not only to the length of headlines themselves, but the actual words in the headlines. No matter how attached you are to words like juxtapositioning, weatherproofnesses, youthsploitation, and ventriculomastoidostomy your partner does not want to deal with trying to work his or her line breaks around your silver-tongued antics. And you’ve got a better chance of your partner taking your lines and running with them if it won’t take them a week to kern all those freakin’ vowels.
5) Adhere to a strict one-third / two-thirds ratio
Present two of your partner’s ideas for every one of yours. After all, everyone likes to have their ideas chosen. Most art directors prefer to comp up their own ideas. And if you’ve already followed the advice in #2, your partner probably has better ideas, anyway.
Before you start feeling too smug about your accomplishments and wile away the hours trolling for antique lunch boxes on eBay while your partner retouches a horse into an octopus, remember what goes around comes around. So don’t forget to pick up your partner a double shot skinny latte or cheese danish while you’re out running personal errands on company time. With proper care and feeding, a good partnership can last years. And you can go home at 5:30 every day.