Sep 20, 2008

For Shaun #2: The unholy trinity CW / AD / GD

#2 on the request list is: The difference between Copywriters and Art Directors and Graphic Designers.

Well there's actually quite a lot of ways to go around this. Lets use three ways of analyzing the differences from a personality, job description and goal point of view. Please take into account that I'm a copywriter and that this will have a lot of speculation from what I've talked about with coworkers, freelancers and industry people that fall into these three categories.


Copywriters are secretly frustrated writers that found a dayjob and constantly question their relevance in the scope of advertising because if we're supposed to be experts in language and writing, then why do so many words, phrases, sentences and hunks of copy need to get revised. Why is our spelling questioned etc. We're analytical to the point of being anal or not making any sense and we probably sound a lot smarter than what we really are. We're not rocket scientists but probably know a way to sound like one. From my experience though, we're quicker on our feet to defend a concept, present better (though not always) and are pretty much masters in the art of bullshit. If a copywriter truly focuses and does his or her job, they shouldn't have to leave late from work ever unless they have a Creative Director that likes to explore worlds of concepts and overanalyze shit to the point of idiocy. We shift constantly from wearing a fuck you shirt to looking descent and lots of us use glasses. Trust me, really thinking about it, I probably only know like 4 copywriters that don't use glasses. We're stubborn and we probably have more aspirations to be a CD or an ACD than your average artist. I'm not exactly sure why, but to make a point, out of all the CD's and ACD's I know, there have only been 3 art directors. The total tally would be something like 3 vs. 14 from people I've worked for/with.


Art director's know how to go full throttle and get a shitload of work done and they can also rub an artwork for days upon end looking like they're busy. They're less organized than any other type of creative because they operate with their own style and could care less about correctly labeling a file. They have a larger tendency to have figurines and lots of them. Their job is supposed to make an artwork look fucking fantastic and they achieve that, which is why it hurts them much more than a copywriter when they see the end product of what was once a great ad. Because of that, they're not as easily wounded as copywriters in the long run because they've had to endure so much shit that they can take it better. Their minds work in brilliant spurts and their is no predicting an AD because man, you could swear there's not a thought flowing through their head until they suddenly say something brilliant and you just have to give it to them. In my opinion, the more spontaneous work comes from an AD while the more cerebral approach comes from an AD. As for goals in life, I think they're also very interested in getting a CD job but since aren't much for practicing the art of bullshit (there are clear exceptions), they'd just rather a CW do the talking (or that's what we tell ourselves to not feel so bad when we dominate a conversation). In case any clarification is needed, I think an artist has about 4 times as much work as a CW and I'm being kind to my kind. We write a headline, a body copy and a closing line and are done with the job. An artist needs to take the shitload of copy and put it correctly so it's not a blob of letters. Also, since they get fucked over more by the job, it seems they get fed up with advertising with more reason than a CW except that a CW seems to have more flexibility in changing professions or so I say to convince myself that I'm not up against a wall.


Graphic Designers as I understand are the guys that make a layout look its best, do revisions, do storyboards etc. In other words, from my experience with graphic designers, they put all the pollish on an artwork and push it those extra twenty notches to make award winning advertisements, when permitted. But the idea is not theirs and though they are massively talented, they don't seem interested or able to come up with great concepts (this last bit actually comes from the mouth of a GD I met two years ago). They are the ones that execute the fastest and bitch the least in a creative process, or that's how it seems to be. They're also the ones that can find a much better job doing what they love. To be honest, I think Graphic Designers in advertising are given a shitty hand because they are not appreciated as the other two creatives yet are conceivably talented enough to work for architects, furniture design, fashion design or a number of other industries that might be just as unappreciative as Advertising (though I doubt it). They are more carefree and layed back and they can honestly do wonders in minutes (though if you give them hours they'll show you just how fucking good they are). Goal related though, I don't think I've met one graphic designer that is interested in being a CD.

Is this a whole lot of horse shit? Maybe, but it also happens to be my take on what each of these people offer to the creative person. If you have a responsible team with a good account and a graphic designer to put to shame others, then you don't need to see the odds to know you'll make great work. Just don't take anyone for granted and accept the functions and talents of each because everyone has something to bring to the ballgame. Never take the stance that you're the copy, you're the artist or your the designer so don't question your criteria. That's bullshit and I always ask my artists whether they're cool with the copy or not because I think it's a great gauge to see if a message is being conveyed correctly or if it's just something the copywriter enjoys to read because they think it's brilliant. I also tell my artists when something is real whack and that's how I think most teams should get along, but hey, what do I know? I'm just a cocky copywriter.



Shane said...

I'm a copywriter who works at an agency where the AD's assume my role is to type and proof read.The fuckers!maybe its becuase I don't wear glasses?

Joker said...

Definitely. Not wearing glasses pushes you to be a proof reader and trust me, every AD is a copywriter while your opinion will most likely be ignored if the person has an attitude. Oh well, c'est la shit.

shaun. said...

"real wack"

i appreciate when my CW points out potential wackness and wrecks me when i show him something that is "real wack."

i also cannot wait to induct these terms into my daily vocab.

thanks for answering my questions! great always.

Anonymous said...

I'm a copywriter, just started a new gig under a CD from a writing background. Just now noticing (after 13 years) how CDs with writing backgrounds are easier to deal with than those with art skills. Why is that?

Joker said...

@ Shaun: Glad you enjoyed the answers and hope not much whackness comes your way man.

@ addude: I'm not sure why it's that way in your case. I know it's more common to get CD's with writing backgrounds (at least for me) but I wouldn't necessarily think they're easier to deal with. Trust me, my current CD used to be a copywriter and he's a pain in the ass to deal with and my former CD had an art background and though he had his days, he was actually pretty easy going for the most part which would make it interesting to see if there are any discernible differences between CD's from one discipline or the other. But hey, we can all speculate and this might be the next post I do.

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