My struggles in writing

Writing was never my forte. I scored C6 (C for Cringeworthy, minimum passing grade) for my English language examinations in my primary, secondary, and tertiary education. At university, I signed up for a visual communication course, thinking that I can place my focus on graphic and imagery. Yet, I ended up writing for ten art history modules to fulfil the Bachelor of Fine Arts requirements. After graduation, at my startup, I was introduced to digital marketing and began sharing what I learn on my blog. Since transitioning from a graphic to a UX designer, I write about design and share about my projects on Medium.

Through consistent writing over the years, whether forced or done based on my will, I grew to be more confident with my writing. These days, before publishing my articles, I use tools such as the ProWritingAid extension on Google Docs and Grammarly to vet through my writing. These tools also give me pointers on how to improve my writing style.

Writing is a designer’s ‘Unicorn Skill’

As observed by Fast Company, ‘Forget Coding: Writing Is Design’s “Unicorn Skill”’, (14 Mar 2017), few designers are fluent in their language as they are in coding skills. Design, copy, and code are of equal importance in a digital product. What the user is most concerned with, is not the design or how the website (app, or other products) performs, but the content it provides.

Writing is a designer’s Unicorn Skill
“Sure, you can have a beautiful UI/frame, but once you have that (we all know a great UI is an invisible UI), all the viewer cares about is what’s inside: the artwork, the story.” — Paul Woods, COO of the digital design firm Edenspiekermann, Thinking Beyond the Interface, Fast Company, 26 Jan 2017

John Maeda, in his “2017 Design in Tech Report,” writes that “code is not the only unicorn skill.” According to Maeda, head of computational design and inclusion at Automattic, words are as powerful as the graphics designers create.

‘The most compelling designers are often T-shaped. Their deep mastery of a select design skill gets them noticed.’ – The T-shaped Sweet Spot For Designers, Nick Schaden

Writing as part of a designer’s work

“Words and pictures are yin and yang. Married, they produce a progeny more interesting than either parent.” — Dr Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel)

The enormous success of Dr Seuss was due to his extraordinary ability to combine vibrant storytelling with creative illustrations.

As a UX designer, on a day-to-day basis I define user personas, needs, wants, habits, and motivations, and create as-is and to-be user journeys. I write test scripts before conducting user research and usability tests. Then there are reports and summaries to write, and texts to be inserted within the screen designs.

Several years before when I was working as a graphic designer at an advertising agency, I worked closely with my copywriter to come out with copies for my campaigns. Often, I have a sample copy in place to use it as a point of discussion with the copywriter.

Microcopy brings delight to users

Flickr pairs sad news with a lighthearted photo to keep your spirits up
Flickr pairs sad news with a lighthearted photo to keep your spirits up
‘When used in the right places, microcopy can turn a mundane task into something memorable.’ — The magic of microcopy, John Saito, UX Writer at Dropbox

Few companies have the luxury of hiring a UX writer or even a UX designer. Designers may have to double up their role and pay attention to small text details in the digital product since it may make or break a product. As microcopy can set the tone of the brand, it should be part of a creative strategy in the development of the product.

Still using lorem ipsum?

“Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit.” – Lorem ipsum

Need a placeholder text? Click on the hyperlink above!

Don’t use lorem ipsum, make your product more authentic! Too many designers use lorem ipsum as a placeholder text while working on their designs, so much so that Adobe CC 2017 added it as a feature in their text tool. Sketch too has plugins that allow designers to fill their designs quickly.

While some designers find it acceptable to use it temporarily while working on the overall design, these texts should be replaced as soon as possible to make designs more real. Using placeholder texts means the designer only considers the design of the container that holds the content rather than the design of the content itself. Without the context of data and content that is relevant to the user/viewer, the design may not turn out as intended. Users too may provide a general feedback based on the hypothetical design.

Writing as a personal brand

Medium has a huge community of amateur and professional writers, including a group of designers (myself included!). My favourite publishers, UX Planet, UX Collective, Muzli, are led by designers, Nick Babich(UX Planet), Fabricio Teixeira (UX Collective), Eyal Zuri(Muzli) respectively.

Writing helps to promote your personal brand by demonstrating your thought process and knowledge in a particular field. While this should not be the reason for you to write, personally I have benefitted from the consistent sharing of my articles on LinkedIn, and getting noticed within the local design community. It might have helped me land a job with my current employer since they found me through LinkedIn.

While I fear what I write may not be ‘good enough’, I view it as a chance for me to learn how to write. Writing on Medium provides me with an opportunity to consolidate what I have learnt from others through reading and practice. It allows me to connect with other designers (like you!) from across the globe and contribute back to the community.

Follow me on: Leow Hou Teng | Portfolio | Digital Marketing Blog|Dribbble | Behance | LinkedIn

Note: Thanks to Leow for the contribution. Originally published on Medium.