Long gone are the days of stuffing sketches into a physical portfolio to bring to a job interview. Now, with the simple click of a mouse, anyone in the world can browse through your design work via your website, online portfolio and/or social media accounts.
Though the Internet makes it much easier to share your work to the masses, the digital age presents a slew of new challenges for designers. Not only are your arms much less toned from lugging your sketches around, but you now have to take the time to write about your work in a way that captures the dwindling attention span of future employers, followers and potential backers.
Writing can be a daunting task, but it's an important skill for designers to master in order to clearly communicate projects and ideas in a way that resonates. We've outlined 5 steps and exercises below to help you ensure your website, portfolio crowdfunding campaign and social media captions are on all on point:
Identify your project's strengths
When writing about a project you spent hours on, it can be difficult to omit all the minor details that show the blood, sweat and tears you put into your work. However, it's important to remember that writing a project description on your website does not require your project's entire story.
Studio Swine highlights what makes their project Bubble Booth unique on their website.
When writing about your project, it's important to consider what differentiates it from similar products or services on the market. Did you experiment with new materials? Add a useful detail to a common object? Employ a unique research method? Your description should be succinct and focus on the highlights of why your work is special. If someone wants to learn more about the specifics, like your prototyping process, they can reach out to you for more information. Your website is the place to focus on the concept and outcome of the project, rather than nitty-gritty design details.
An easy way to cut back on the noise and only include necessary details is to start by creating a list of the things that make your project special when compared to similar products or services. If you experimented with new material combinations, added a key feature to a common product or conducted research in an interesting way, these are all factors to consider.
Once you identify your project's strengths, create a chart with two categories: Essential and Nonessential (or something similar). Sort through each strength, further identifying which ones are necessary to include in your description and which are extra pieces of information that might distract from the project's core.
Know your audience
There are many different types of writing you may encounter as a designer, and each appeals to a different audience. For example, a crowdfunding campaign will likely reach a wider audience in a shorter span of time than your online portfolio.
Crowdfunding can pose a particularly difficult set of writing obstacles for designers, as you not only have to sell your product but also your personal story to potential backers. If you're having trouble organizing your thoughts, try referring back to the beginning stages of the classic Story Arc, which outlines how to structure a dynamic, personal story.
On the other hand, writing a project description on your website does not require storytelling quite as personal or dynamic as a crowdfunding campaign because, for the most part, the audience is different. Your website or online portfolio is where potential employers or publications will see your work, so it is important to maintain an extra level of professionalism in your writing while still letting your personality shine through in the language you use.
And when it comes to social media, there are extra limitations. You can only type a certain amount of characters, and you are appealing to an audience that, to be honest, cares more about visuals than copy. When writing social media captions, be sure to select the best image of your work and accompany it with succinct copy that states why your work is unique in one to four sentences.
Try an interview
If you're having trouble beginning the writing process, or you want to be sure your descriptions are clear, a simple exercise is to ask someone you trust to interview you about your project.
Ask a friend or family member (or two) to review your project images and/or current written project description without sharing any extra information or context. Have them come up with a few questions they still have about your project after reviewing the provided information. Review the questions, then physically type out responses to each one.
This process will provide you with base copy to work with when you begin writing and a sense of what key details you should highlight when writing project descriptions, crowdfunding campaigns and even social media captions.
It's easy to over-hype something you're passionate about. Before you know it, you're describing your project as "the world's firstinnovative toothbrush that will make brushing routine incredible." It's completely normal to be excited about your work, but try to avoid using over-the-top language in your project descriptions. Instead of making readers excited about your project, flowery adjectives usually just distract from your point.
Always remember the final touches
Once your project description is complete, be sure to look over your grammar and spelling, and add all of the necessary links before publishing. Linking back to previous work, inspiration, research, etc. ensures readers get the full picture of your project and your perspective. This last step may sound obvious, but after spending all that time writing, it can be easy to overlook the small details.
It's completely normal to feel stressed out by the writing process at first, but after some practice you'll find that it does get easier. With these tools under your belt, you'll have the foundation you need to approach writing about your work with confidence. So head over to your online portfolio, website, crowdfunding campaign or Instagram account, hit that dreaded "edit" button and get to work!
Emily is the Content Marketing Manager of Autodesk Fusion 360 where she focuses on shaping the overall Fusion 360 content strategy, including the Fusion 360 blog and social media directions. Prior to Autodesk, Emily was the DMTV Content Coordinator at Design Milk, the Business Editor at HYPEBEAST and an Editor at Core77. During her time at Core77, she also served as co-chair of the 2018 & 2019 Core77 Conferences.