Thoughts on branding, design, writing and life by Kevin Potts. Established 2003.

Writing for Design Professionals

Author Stephen A. Kliment guides the professional designer through writing in critical situations like proposals, client communication, newsletter writing and more. The advice and insight is excellent, and Writing for Design Professionals will make a valuable addition to your bookshelf.

In Writing for Design Professionals, author Stephen A. Kliment provides advice on the many situations where design studios and architectural firms must write with a critical eye toward process and detail. These topics include proposals, brochures, job applications and more. He also tackles less common circumstances, like how to prepare for different types of speeches (presentations vs. lectures), how to write for an international audience and even responding to media inquiries.

The introduction sets the tone for the rest of the book. He cites the “embarrassing rise in the verbal obfuscation meted out by designers, critics, academics and writers.” He immediately argues against (and reiterates several times later in the book) the thick marketing speak so fashionable these days, claiming it only hinders communication. In fact, the first chapter is titled “Principles of Writing for Impact.” Here are the first three tips:

  1. Write as you would talk.
  2. Keep sentences short.
  3. Shun jargon or “designer babble.”

Stepping down from his soapbox, Kliment dives headfirst into professional writing, and covers every conceivable topic that would be related to a design studio. Most of the examples (and indeed some whole chapters) are focused on architecture, not graphic design, but most material resonates clearly for both camps.

Of particular interest to freelancers and design agency principals are the chapters focused on client communication. For instance, chapter four is titled “Proposals” and covers the topic better than any single source I’ve seen. The author discusses responding to RFPs, necessary elements of a proposal and Standard Form 330 for work with government agencies.

Other chapters cover writing for the media (and writing a book), writing newsletters for both clients and internal use, preparing notes for a speech, writing for projects, writing job applications and even writing correspondence with clients. All of this is valuable information, especially to a design professional with little training in the written word. Almost every point is reinforced with examples, many of them pulled from real-life projects.

W. W. Norton has just released the second edition of Writing for Design Professionals, updated to include newer terminology and the rise of the web.

WFDP is highly recommended for any small studio or freelancer. I like to believe I write well (debatable with my readers, I am sure), but I learned plenty between this book’s covers. In fact, I initially skipped around the contents, reading what interested me most, but I found Kliment’s advice and insight so engaging I ended up reading every chapter, beginning to end — even the ones that aren’t design relevant. (e.g. writing tenure applications for higher education staff members.)

Without a doubt, Writing for Design Professionals is a valuable addition to your shelf, and the kind of book you’ll find yourself referring to when every word counts.

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commentary + criticism


wrote the following on Monday December 11, 2006

It seems good but I live in UK and I’m wonder if all that information can be used on this ground ?

Regards – Marc.

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wrote the following on Saturday June 16, 2007

Good article and site. Congratulations