Writing for designers

09 Nov 2023

Designers need good writing skills to succeed in organizations large and small. Writing can be challenging, and many designers struggle with it. Personally, I’m not naturally inclined towards writing, and I’ve spent a lot of time procrastinating on bigger writing tasks. Even now, tight deadlines for high-quality documents give me nightmares.

In this post, I’m sharing some tactics and a framework to help you write better, faster, and with more confidence.

1. Start with your writing action plan

Write down who you’re writing for, and what you’d like them to remember after reading your post.

# How to Write?

- Audience: Senior, Lead Product Designers & Managers
- Goal: Upskill, inspire and unblock writing

## Start with a writing action plan

- Goal: Find the why before your piece.
- Without a plan, you are lost: You don't know what to write.

## Write a shitty first draft

- Lower the bar and just get started.
- Don't edit, don't worry about the structure.


2. Write a “shitty first draft”

Author Anne Lamott says all writing begins with a “really, really shitty first draft.”

Go somewhere nice to write. A cafe perhaps, or a quiet place you can focus. Keep going to the same place to build your “muscle memory” of writing there. Then, just go go go! Be yourself and have fun! Start writing.

3. Mine for gold

Review what you’ve written and “mine for gold”, per writing teacher Leslie Kirk Campbell. Highlight the phrases that work well and the ideas that should be “unpacked”.

Then start sorting your content into different “chunks” of information. What is each section about? Tip: print it out and cut it up.

4. Add structure

A. The intro paragraph should tell readers what you’re writing about, and why they should care. Save the details and supporting information for later on.

B. Be clear and upfront about what you’re suggesting people do after they read. Knowing “the ask” can help your reader relax and absorb the following details.

C. Add interesting headlines and subheadlines. Sub-headers make everything easier to scan.

D. Use quotes, sketches, team photos, videos, GIFs, emoji, and other images to communicate ideas.

E. Formatting cheats that aren’t cheating:

  • Use bullets to make lists easy to read.
  • Add numbers to clarify steps or big ideas.
  • Use built-in templated styles for headers, sub-headers, quotes, etc.

F. Summarise and add your “calls to action” and relevant links.

Writing best practices visual plan

5. Edit. Sleep.

Edit again, sleep on it, polish & repeat.

6. Publish

Share. Enjoy people’s quick responses to your hard work. Share again. They probably didn’t get it.

7. You’ve got this!

You’ll find the right words even faster and with more confidence every time.

Writing skills are of paramount importance for designers, as words have the power to shape user experiences and are as significant as the visual aspects of design.

Writing is thinking. To write well is to think clearly. That’s why it’s so hard.
David McCullough

What are you going to write next?

Further reading

Link: Why Designers Need to Write antonsten.com
Link: Forget Coding: Writing Is Design’s “Unicorn Skill” fastcompany.com