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Making That Switch From Designer to Writer

This post is one I’d like to share with all the budding designers who intend to make a switch to copywriting but aren’t too sure if they should make that jump just yet.

It’s a story of my journey towards becoming a writer.

The year was 2006 (not too long ago so what I’m about to write next may still stand true). And in typical Malaysian fashion, career prospects for a high school graduate like me were anything but inspiring – or maybe it’s just me. It’s as if that ‘somebody’ who penned out that career examination sheet for your school counsellor couldn’t be bothered to do a more thorough research as to what jobs are available out there.

If you were considered pretty “artistic” – you could study art, be an architect or pretty much any occupation with the word “designer” stuck on its back.

If you were good with words, however, you’ll probably be steered towards a degree in language, journalism or uh, law.

But I had a way with both art and words. So where do I fit in? My art teacher, who was a retired Art Director then, told me a little something called “copywriting” and said that I could try pursuing that instead.

Since it was literally unheard of by naïve high school grads like me, (“Copywriting? Eeeyer who wants to be a copywriter?”) Graphic Design felt like a much cooler job and off to design school I went.

A few months after graduation, I ate my words and made the switch to copywriting.


Because during a freelance gig as a Graphic Designer at an ad agency, I discovered that Advertising isn’t an easy industry to work in (“Duh”, you might add. But I was interning at a design firm prior to that, whose working culture was vastly different). I even thought that the people who’ve been in it for aeons have a sick sense of what joy and satisfaction really feels like!

All the late nights, working weekends and crazy deadlines can be quite a pain in the ass – and the second-hand smoke? Really detrimental to health. Oh, and let’s not forget the incessant mind-fucking over silly things that probably don’t matter to anyone else but you. (“Can we not force justify this paragraph? It’s a design integrity thing!” to which the client will probably not see what the big deal is. But somehow, YOU do.)

But you’ve got to learn how to accept it all – it’s a package after all. You really have to love what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

For me, it’s for the love of creating ideas that can speak to people I don’t personally know. I find satisfaction in creating communities. Brand loyalty. Changing mind-sets and the like.

But as much as I love expressing my ideas visually, I felt that with words – I could go much further.

Working with the right mentors, I discovered that through words – I could articulate my ideas much better. I also compromised on my ideas far less as I no longer sugar coat them with pretty visuals when they lack in substance.

I even found the idea hamster in my brain running much faster during brainstorm sessions (or as we call it, “jamming sessions”)!

All of the things that made me a better contributor to the creative team, a better storyteller to the folks out there and well, a better person in general as I won’t be at war with myself just as much say if I were still a struggling Graphic Designer.

So whatever your decision in the end, don’t regret the career path you have taken – it’s different for everyone, but should still give it your best!

Be brave enough to make mistakes and learn from them. Designer or writer – that is the one trait that will probably get you the furthest in the industry!

And if you find that it’s not what you wanted after all, remember that it is never too late to make that switch. Creativity welcomes all.

Good luck!

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