We face the point in the design process where our visual minds can only take us so far before we need to start teaming these ideas with words. Words to express the idea or words to work alongside the idea. Either way we can often get stuck, scrambling to find the right words, seeking perfection in the words we choose – and all this is happening in our heads before we’ve even picked up a pen to scribble something, anything, down.

Most recently we’ve been working with a client where poetry is at the forefront of their brand, using poetry as a way to express emotion and reaction in the brand’s writing – a whole new challenge, to put not only my writing hat on, but my poetry writing hat on.

I recently attended a one day workshop with Tim Rich and Rich Pierson of Verb Writing where I had a very intense, very productive and very inspiring day – essentially learning about words and their power to do anything and everything from persuade, tell stories, and of course define a brand’s voice which is something we strongly believe in and is ingrained in our process at GW+Co.

So, how do we find a brand’s voice and what does that mean for the creative/visual stage in the project?

As I learnt in the Verb Workshop, it’s important, even integral, to define a brand’s tone of voice before you start writing anything. Of course there are stages in our process at GW+Co that lead up to this point, but once we get to that stage we find what Tim and Rich described as the ‘three writing principles’, aka tone of voice, to be a defining part of our process, not only for writing but also our creative.

Our tone of voice workshops consist of the client, the GW+Co team, and a pack of ‘Tone of Voice’ cards that have one word to each card. In one of our most recent workshops it’s safe to say we’ve never seen those cards fly around the table as fast as they did that day (all the while, the GW+Co team watch in anticipation). The result? ‘Clear, reassuring, warm’. For comparison here is another example from a different client; ‘graceful, passionate, avant-garde’.

These three words can do anything from completely redefining a brand going forward, to just help getting all the ducks in a row.

But tone of voice isn’t the only thing that defines a brand. There’s the brand positioning, the purpose – why do you exist, the vision – where do we want to be, and the brand promise. These elements make up what we call the GW+Co brand compass. They all play a vital role to take us into the next stage… the creative!


Take a look at our project for acdc where we created a tone of voice guidelines booklet out of ‘edgy, full of life, honest’.



* this article features the following writing techniques; contrasts, metaphors and magic threes.

Rachel O’Callaghan is a designer at GW+Co