The Levison Letter

An Art Director Or A Graphic Designer -
Which One Is Right For You?

, 2009

Great advertising is the result of teamwork.
It takes a copywriter and art director/graphic designer, working together, to create an effective ad, direct mail piece, brochure, or Web page. (Definition of "art director" and "graphic designer" below.)

Years ago, one member of the team was the clear leader. The copywriter was king. Back in the old days, many decades ago, writers like Claude Hopkins and John Caples provided the major creative thrust. Copywriters were the stars.
Writers like these would conceive and write the advertising, then pass the finished copy under the door to the "art guy" in the back. This relatively minor figure would take the headline and copy, order an illustration, lay out the ad as per the writer's instructions, set the type and paste everything up. The art director was the poor relation who, like Rodney Dangerfield, "got no respect."

In the 1960s everything changed.
With the advent of television, and the recognition of its powerful selling potential, the role of image in the sales process became fully understood. The "art guy" became the "art director" and was finally allowed to contribute fully to the creative process.
Fabulous agencies like Doyle Dane Bernbach and Papert, Koenig, Lois teamed great writers with terrific art directors. They worked together as equals, as an organic team, and produced advertising that made history.
Today, the pendulum is swinging again.
I'm convinced that the art director/graphic designer is now becoming king, and that the writer's role in the creative process is being severely undermined. My concern about this change is not a case of "sour grapes." I am not affected personally in the least. I work with wonderful art directors and graphic designers of my choice and simply want to point out a significant industry trend that may affect your business. (See my recommendations below.)
Let's look at this in more detail . . .
In television, the spoken word has been supplanted by trick photography and computer graphics. Gimmicks are in. Persuasive selling is out. Form is winning over content. Not always, but often.
It's the same thing in print advertising. Image is frequently seen as more important than content. The result is beautiful ads that feature lots of white space and weird typography, but simply don't sell the product!
My advice?
Make sure your advertising strikes a happy balance. Use the talents of both your writer and your art director/graphic designer.
Tell your copywriter to use the space to motivate the reader. Explain that you're after an increase in sales, not a mere enhancement of "image."
In the same way, make sure your art director/graphic designer is interested in selling -- not in art for art's sake. Remember. You want a beautiful ad/direct mailer/Web page -- but one that gets results.
The trick, as a client, is to get the copywriter and art director/graphic designer working together as a team. Don't split them up. Make sure there is good communication between them. If you do, you're on your way to creating marketing communications materials that can have a tremendous impact on the profitability of your business!

Check it out!

Some Definitions
In case you're not sure of the difference between an art director and a graphic designer, let me help you out a little:
An art director is someone who works in an advertising agency or comes out of an agency background. He or she specializes in creating ads or commercials, though a good art director can do just about anything including collateral.
Because they come from an advertising agency background, an art director comes to your project with a good marketing background and an interest in selling. The art director develops the concept of the ad, along with the copywriter, then commissions any necessary photography or illustration. He or she also selects the type style and supervises production.
My recommendation: Larry Nielsen
Tel: (415) 945-9106  Email:

A graphic designer is the perfect choice for corporate identity work, including logo development, signage, brochures, and package design. Again, good graphic designers can do it all, though advertising may not be their strong suit.
Graphic designers are terrific at making things look beautiful. If you need a flyer or a killer brochure, I'd give a designer a call.
Because most graphic designers don't come out of an advertising agency background, some aren't as tuned in to marketing as they might be. Initially, you want them to be more interested in understanding the target audience than in worrying about what paper stock works best.
My recommendation: Carrie Scherpelz
Tel: (608) 233-7787  Email:


Want me to do some copywriting for you? Let's talk. If you need me to write email, Web copy, direct mail, or anything else, give me a call at (415) 461-0672. What kind of results can I get for you? CLICK HERE to find out.

Let's go to work!

How to get in touch with Ivan Levison . . .
Phone: (415) 461-0672
Fax: (415) 461-7738
Visit my Web site


Ivan Levison. Direct Mail, Email & Advertising Copywriting
14 Los Cerros Drive, Greenbrae, CA 94904
Phone (415) 461-0672      Fax: (415) 461-7738

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