Message First Is Perfect For Designers

One of the main reasons we started Hampson Nattan Williams was because we want to change the conversation that businesses have when it comes to messaging.

We want to transform the whole marketing process.

We want to put message first. Always.

So that’s what we’ve done.

And you know what? Message first is absolutely great for designers and design agencies. Web development agencies too.

You’ll see why below. But first, a caveat.  

Message first isn’t the same as copy first


Let’s get one thing straight.

Putting message first doesn’t necessarily mean that all the copy and content should come first, before any design.

This isn’t a chicken and an egg situation. A platform vs. content argument. Both copy and design should work together, in tandem. Collaboratively. That will always be best for everyone, without a doubt.

But having the message nailed down first, and a solid understanding of what copy is required where, is invaluable if you want a smooth design process.

The messaging – and the words associated with it – have to come first.

Don’t get me wrong – the design stuff is important. It’s not just pretty. It’s essential for a good user journey. It elevates words to a new level. But it’s mostly aesthetics. Without the substance – the content – it’s just… empty.

By having the message in place first – designers benefit. Pure and simple.

Designers, here’s why you should put message first:

Design is easier off the back of great content


Designers are pretty amazing. You can literally take a blank slate and turn it into something amazing.

That’s not easy. And not having a steer, or an idea of what you need to create? Well that’s pretty tough.

It can sometimes just be a case of throwing stuff at the page and seeing what sticks.

But when you have a clear idea of the messaging and the content, before you start designing, you have the framework in place. The basis is all there, now you can work your magic more easily.

Because the messaging is the structure of everything. Without it, and the design just sits there.

If you don’t know what the key messaging is beforehand, you can’t design for it.

And then copywriters, or strategists, or SEO guys or marketers come along and try and shove messaging in somewhere where it just doesn’t fit, ruining the whole design.

You could try and guess what the messaging might be, what key points need to be pulled out, what should be emphasised on a page etc. But you could put loads of time and effort into designing a great section, that then goes unused because there isn’t the right messaging for it.

What a waste of time.

Message first saves you that time and that effort. It makes your job easier.

The design brief is so much more straightforward


When we put message first, we can also give you a much simpler brief too.

One that you can understand and get to grips with.

Because we’ve spent the time researching, questioning and analysing, we know what the business needs to sound like. We know the Tone of Voice that resonates with customers.

We’ve spoken to those customers, so we know what kind of messaging really sold the product or service for them. What worked, and what didn’t.

We then pass this over to you. We can share what the target audience wants to hear and see. We can tell you what the business should sound like.

Then you’ve got a solid brief and the flexibility to design how the business should look and feel, based on this essential information.

The sign off process is much smoother


That client interaction – the constant back and forth – is much smoother when we put message first too.

No more too-ing and fro-ing with the client. No umming and ahhing over how “it just doesn’t seem like us.”

We take that subjectivity out. Hard facts so you have the freedom to be creative.

Everything is determined at the first stage – the messaging process. What needs to be included. Who the target audience is. What the goals are. Why this is important.

It frees up your time to be more creative with the designs, knowing that what you have in front of you is what you need to include.

As long as you design for that messaging, barring a few tweaks, you’ll have completed everything you need.

Put message first, and you won’t ever have to see a “oh, we just forgot this section, and this section, oh and this page, and that page”again.

Never again will you have to try and squeeze a big chunk of content into a design that wasn’t made for it.

You get more control as a designer


If you’ve already got the core messaging in place, as a designer you can then control the whole process. You’ve got the key content. You’ve got the solid brief. You’ve got the freedom to be creative.

You are in control.

If you run a design agency, this means you can put the process in place that works best for you and your team. You get to do things your way.

The key ingredients are in place. The key messaging, the right content.

You don’t have to wait for content from clients or agencies or copywriters.

You don’t have to sell-in your designs with dummy lorem ipsum content. No more “but why’s there Latin there?”

You don’t have to ruin a beautiful header with a headline that drops onto three lines instead of two.

You can make more money


Freelancer or agency, it doesn’t matter. Design is your work, you need to make money.

Putting message first means you can make more of it.

Especially when you start talking Tone Of Voice.

The unique Tone Of Voice workshops from Hampson Nattan Williams are the perfect upsell opportunity for you. They make your job easier AND make you more money.

Before you even need to start worrying about design, you just tell the client ‘first things first.’

“Let’s nail down your messaging and tone first, before we get stuck into design.”

You offer an incredible Tone Of Voice session – one that helps your client beat out the competition and focus all the design work - and we deliver it on your behalf. We take care of everything, you reap the benefits.

We can even add Tone of Voice implementation guidelines to your brand books, your brand bibles. Not just one cursory page. Several in-depth, highly relevant, actionable pages that are a huge help to your client.

You can sell bigger, better, more effective brand guidelines, standing out from your competition. AND you can increase your prices for this deliverable.

And of course, after the workshops, we’ll share the key messaging that makes the whole design process easier too.

It’s a no brainer, isn’t it?

Message first, designers benefit.


Want to upgrade your design processes and services? Let’s have a chat about how we can support you.