I’m not here to make you look nice

by | Apr 13, 2018 | Design, Copywriting, Strategy

She had said it with such simplicity it was refreshing. Actually, her words were “This is not about making it nice. We clarify and elevate content.”

She is Veronica Ditting, owner of quirky studio with same name and creative director to The Gentlewoman, self described as “a fabulous magazine for modern women of style and purpose.” Which it is, by the way, if books that weigh north of 5 kilos don’t discourage you to peruse. (If they do, just go digital.)

And I was glued to her crispness. In a world of bells and whistles, she was going for essence, always my drug of choice. The place was Basement, in London, and the occasion was Frieze Academy‘s The Art of Creative Direction, a whole day of talks from creatives. It felt like a ticket to a Michelin star idea kitchen, where you’re allowed to witness some of the carrot slicing and sautéing. It was, again, a perfect gift from one of my dearest friends.

“You open up their world,” she continued. “They’re not used to the creative universe.” And this rang so true. It occurred to me that what she does with visuals, I do with words, which I confided in her towards the end of the day. She nodded in agreement. Always work with what’s in front of you and look for the most appropriate form of content. Then apply your process. In my line of business, this translates into “what is this thought leader up to? How do I make that message travel across? Does he or she need a talk? A book? Is this a blog post or ten?” It is, as Veronica said, “the arrangement of life.” (I think Vermeer would have agreed, by the way.) She arranges shapes. With copy, it’s about arranging words. As long as the mind is clear first.

Ever thought about the ideas swarming in your head? They are alive, by the way (says Elizabeth Gilbert; and entrepreneur Suzy Batiz, the latest guest to Marie Forleo‘s solid string of interviews). Your idea of a new business, e-course or book is alive. And is looking for the right mould or container to lay itself into.

Muffins go to the muffins tins. Quiches go to quiche pans. Ideas go to the lab first, where they’re kneaded until we figure out if they’re muffins of quiches. Then they get poured into their respective trays and shovelled into the oven.

That’s how you get clear, crisp and punchy headlines that make clients say yes and encore. Or buttery-with-a-touch-of-tangy blog posts that make them know, like and trust you. Or airy-chocolaty-with-a-pinch-of-salt work-with-me pages that give you 3-month waiting lists.

The Gentlewoman does not sell fashion as a fantasy. I do not sell strategy and copy that explode your business overnight. I have had my own learning curve online and will not contribute to that collective work of make-believe. But I will get to the bone of who you are and what you do or what your new idea is, will grill it with questions to test its substance and give it the shape it needs to live.

I asked Veronica for a pic and she was so graceful about it. (She’s the one with understated elegance and charm. I’m the one with the really cute top, nerdy glasses and I-just-ate-a-frog face. She wanted to know where I was from. I said Eastern Europe. She implied I looked the part. As I should. It’s where I come from.)

On the way home, I stepped into Selfridges’ and got a really nice copy of Alice in Wonderland. The air felt crisp and I let myself tempted into a sunset pic.

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