In our journey to explore more about design, literature, and what lies between, we opened our door for fresh minds with our brand-new Brand Writing Internship Curriculum, and with big joy, welcomed our first Writer Intern. It has been 6 long months since she digitally joined the office, and it’s about time we hear about it from the perspective of our first Writern, Elaine Nathania.
I’m Elaine, a creative from Surabaya who is currently pursuing a visual communication design degree in Singapore. I was extremely honored (and nervous) to be accepted as a writing intern in Thinking*Room!
I’ve always been pretty bad at verbally expressing myself, so from a young age, I’ve learned that writing was my vessel to release my feelings and thoughts. Despite majoring in design, discovering copywriting was like rekindling an old fire. Would my writing skills be enough? Is it worth pursuing? I started to seriously consider these questions during my last semester of diploma studies and applied to Thinking*Room to find out.
My university friends actually introduced me to the role because they liked how I strung my words. They often requested that I craft quirky taglines, help them conceptualize, or proofread paragraphs for design projects, but I didn’t know that it was an actual paying job. I thought being a good writer was like being skilled in 3D or illustration; like a niche that made you stand out as a designer.
The distance does make me feel detached from other professionals working in the office but, it was never too lonely because of my senior, Kak Sasqia, who constantly checks up on me and cheers me on for my tasks. I also had a chance to participate in crowded weekly meetings, insightful assistantship sessions, and even fun team bonding events.
I mostly wrote for brand guidelines and occasionally helped ideate brand names or slogans. This means a lot of research regarding the company, going through slides by the main design team, and running ideas with my copywriting senior. Names were tricky because the chosen name had to stand out and be different but carry a ring of familiarity and relate to our audience. My internship program also included a writing curriculum, allowing me to create my brand, AdoleScents. The internship program, or the brand writing curriculum, focused on identity elements such as vision and mission, product naming, and quirky taglines. It was as exciting as it was nerve-wracking and I spent days skimming through articles or finding similar brands to compare or integrate into my own. It’s a lengthy ideating process with more failures than successes, but after a while, you realize that the answers you’re trying to find were there all along.
My experiences with brand guidelines were times when I have been challenged like never before. Most of them were filled with nerves and anticipation because I had started working with more creatives from different teams. On some occasions, I was tasked to write most of the content (I still needed help with proofreading) and it led me to meet brands in the F&B, banking, beauty, and e-commerce industries. I felt like a true copywriter then, like I can say it with my whole chest and with pride.
It's a lengthy, methodical but fulfilling process. I discovered the many, many parts to creating a successful brand guideline. Designers and copywriters work in parallel to better understand these companies. We would always start with a meeting, led by designers, to truly immerse ourselves in their stories. They would present all the decks collated so far, with the changes made along the way. Copywriters also had to take note of the various design details in the final outcome to properly explain its usage in the guidelines later. It was important to keep liaising with each other to ensure that everyone is on the same page and can carry out their roles smoothly. Personally, I had a lot of fun browsing through designer decks and reading through company stories. It was detailed but concise and helped me form my words more easily. I also enjoyed changing my tone of voice to suit a certain persona and pondering about how they would portray themselves. Brand guidelines do take a lot of effort with minimal time to compile, but I like seeing everything come together.
It’s hard to objectively judge yourself, but I think I’ve become more confident in writing guidelines. From having zero clue about what’s going on to finding big words to sound more intelligent, I have adapted to write more efficiently and could have fun with it. My seniors would joke that I’ve graduated from the module and crowned me as ‘GuideLen’.
It’s quite similar to the curriculum for design interns but focused on the copy that brands would need such as the company’s story, collating keywords, writing creative taglines, and choosing a brand name. I had to create a brand based on two randomized topic cards which were perfumery and nostalgia. In three months, I would need to create a deck about my brand and present it alongside other interns during our final evaluation.
I was happy to receive my cards, perfumery, and nostalgia, and decided to keep it as it is. Due to my recent growing interest in perfumes, the cards felt like a nudge in the right direction. Nostalgia was also a relevant topic in one of my past university projects so I was excited to start brainstorming and connecting the dots.
Based on what I have gathered in university, I had to start with several mind maps. I had started from ideating perfumes based on authentic cuisines or creating scents together with loved ones, to finally settling on AdoleScents. AdoleScents is a perfumery based on nostalgic memories that many experienced during childhood. This includes getting wet in the rain, getting drunk off milk, and many more.
I collected information regarding the history of perfumery or what triggers nostalgia but had trouble connecting the two. Because of the assistantship sessions hosted by Kak Bram and Sasqia, I was able to gather my thoughts and form a solid concept behind my brand. Initially, I had thought that figuring out the concept meant I could arrive at the deliverable smoothly.
Unfortunately, I still have a long way to go. I had bi-weekly sessions of consultation to figure out what slogan would suit best, create a manifesto that works, choose supporting visuals to complement the brand identity, and also perfecting the product naming. Lastly, I had to lay out all my information into a cohesive slide deck. This was the hardest part. Having spent weeks familiarizing myself with my brand, I struggled to verbalize my brand’s story. I was grateful that other seniors dropped by to give references and insightful tips to improve my project, which also helped me present my final deck confidently.
Although writing can blur the lines of different tasks, I enjoyed writing slogans and ideating product names. As a writer, I am drawn to cleverly strung out words so I spent much time returning and revising my captions. I also tested my slogan on different people to see if they would find my brand interesting; receiving their input to keep redeveloping my brand’s copy.
Alternatively, I found that creating my brand name was quite challenging. There were so many words to choose from, when would I finally find the one? There was also the crafting of a brand’s story. I loved storytelling but it was hard to create a narrative that engages with the audience while staying consistent with its values. Additionally, most of the ideating process was done through words so it took a significant amount of time to visualize my brand; this included choosing supporting assets such as photographs or illustrations.
Many, many assistantship sessions and many, many questions. Asking for help is intimidating, but also an enlightening process. I had to repeatedly talk myself into asking my seniors for feedback, and they provided a lot of inspiration, either from interesting brands or even memes from social media that reminded them of my brand. Gathering so much knowledge from creatives who have ventured out into the branding industry was a humbling experience for me as a copywriter.
Alternatively, I also had to do my own digging from websites like Pinterest, Behance, or Instagram for project or brand references. Relying on references can be tricky when conceptualizing a brand, so I consulted with many of my friends to rationalize my thought process and stay true to my own voice. Throughout this curriculum, I also realized the importance of being confident in your skills. There were many times when I questioned my writing, hated my brand, and wanted to delete everything I worked so hard to build. Nonetheless, giving myself a chance to assess it from an objective lens and not being afraid to keep rewriting parts I didn’t like, had helped me arrive at my final deliverable with a satisfied heart.
Since typography is the essence of design, words play a strong role in the whole design process. Similarly, I believe that being a good writer is a great asset for a designer to have. It certainly has helped me craft stronger concepts, create more legible stories, and become more meticulous throughout my thought process as a designer. Additionally, although the best writers don’t come from one specific background, copywriters unfamiliar with design and working with designers might feel out of touch with the topic. Nonetheless, despite the fact that we use different programs, I feel that copywriters are also designers in our own right. We design how words look beside each other, browse through references, and also empathize with the audience’s needs. Design and copywriting are not two completely different things, so designers, don’t be afraid to try!
Nonetheless, despite the fact that we use different programs, I feel that copywriters are also designers in our own right.
Big heaps of thank you to Elaine for sharing such insightful answers along with her wonderful journey. Elaine might be the first Writern, but she's definitely not the last. Perhaps it's the one reading this who's going to be the next one designing brands with their words.
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