God is in the details.

Image sourced from Flickr by Angie Garrett

A big, bold, juicy idea should be the goal for any project you tackle—whether you’re comping up a spec campaign for a class assigment, or delivering on a legit big budget client job. But don’t make the all too common mistake of overlooking small details. As Mies van der Rohe succinctly points out in the title of this post, details have huge importance. Misspellings, grammar errors, and sloppy execution can spoil a great idea every time. (BTW, did you catch the spelling mistake in this paragraph?)

The bottom line is that craftsmanship matters, both in design and in writing. But this relentless attention to detail shouldn’t be limited to creative work. It needs to extend to every part of your personal branding. Resumes, cover letters, portfolio sites, business cards, and thank you notes not only need to look good and be thoughtful, they need to be error-free. 

Is the line leading consistent? Are there any unintended spaces in the paragraphs? Do the font sizes match up?* Has all the copy been proofed, then proofed again? Trust me on this tip: Don’t trust yourself to proof your stuff. Get a fellow student, a co-worker, or a writing intern to give everything the once over. The top writers at top shops use proofreaders. So should you. 

Why, you may ask, the fanatical focus on spec work and personal branding? Because if you don’t care enough about craftsmanship in your personal work, then most Creative Directors who interview you will assume that’s how you’ll treat their paid client work. And little missed details on client jobs can cost big bucks.

Starting to see the significance of the small stuff? Good. 

Now let me pass along two simple resources that can help save your butt from potential embarrassment: The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, and Eats Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss. They’re handy little paperbacks that every creative person should have on their desk for questions of grammar, punctuation, and editorial style. Order them today and start becoming a master of the details. 

*These questions obviously don’t apply if you’re David Carson.

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