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The making of

How copywriters live or die by the designers they work with.

In 2017, this website won a D&AD award in ‘Writing for Design’. But that category name was a bit misleading. What people liked about the site wasn’t so much the copy, as the idea. And that came out of a 50/50 collaborative process with the design agency Music in Manchester.

As such, it’s a really good example of how writers work with designers and a great example of how working with great people is the difference between doing good work and work you’re really proud of.


From scribble to finished design.

Here are 5 ways designers made all the difference:

1. To get the ball rolling, I showed Music two approaches that I thought were dead funny. Cue blank looks. “Could we do something else?” they said.

2. When I went in to see Music again, they hadn’t any specific approach in mind, but said “We really like the idea of the site just being words.”

Some of the ref we had for “just words”.

3. The sliding tone of voice idea emerged after we’d discussed loads of different ways to make “just words” interesting. I think my original idea was to have an intro para that you could click on to read in lots of different styles. This then mutated into a sliding bar. It was one of several playful approaches that would be stacked on top of each other as part of a scrolling website. Then came the dreaded words, “We’ve shown the designs to our Exec Creative Director and he had a few thoughts.” Music’s ECD, David Simpson, thought we should make the whole site about the sliding bar, as this was by far the most exciting idea in the design. I have to admit to sighing when this news was relayed to me, as I was in love with the design we had. But I thought I‘d give it a fair chance. And once I started thinking about it, I realised he was dead right.

The original scrolling design

4. As with any project, we made hundreds of micro-decisions as we went along. Should the sliding scale be from “formal” to “casual” or from “hard sell to “soft sell”? Should the font change as the messages change? How many versions of the copy did we need to make this work? How early should the images start to appear? Were images a good idea, in fact – wasn’t this supposed to be about words? Between me, Orla the Creative Director and Mike the developer, I think we got most things right.

More scribbles

5. From the off, I’d hoped the site would be interesting enough to win industry awards, as the people who paid attention to them were exactly the people I wanted to impress. I owe the D&AD win to the sagely advice of Music’s Adam Rix (who’s won an award or two in his time). He said, The trouble with smaller websites is that you’re always up against some kind of massively technologically advanced effort from AKQA or Nike or something. My advice would be to stick it in self promo / writing for digital categories if I were you.” Thanks Mr Rix.

HAPPY 2018

Helped The Common Room with this neat Happy New Year card they sent to their clients.


Worked with Peter & Paul in Sheffield on these ads for EIZO’s professional monitors. Nice to write a few hundred words in an ad for a change. Click on the ads for bigness.




LATES posters

Wrote the copy for these lovely award-winning posters for The National Media Museum’s LATES programme. Concept and art direction by B&W Studio. Images of fading or derelict entertainment venues shot by John Angerson around Bradford in the dead of night. I rocked up after they’d spent weeks crafting them and wrote some copy. They picked up awards at Roses Creative Awards and Drum Design Awards.


Bradford’s late-night entertainment alternative.

Take your nights somewhere dark and new with LATES at the National Media Museum. This experimental programme of after-hours entertainment is filled with cutting edge science and exciting talks.

It takes a few risks. It broadens horizons. It takes your evenings off the straight and narrow. Embrace the dark and discover Bradford nightlife like you’ve never seen it before.



2017 awards update

Been a great year for awards and weirdly I get to keep most of them, as they were for my own promotional material, rather than work for agencies. One of them was a graphite D&AD pencil, which means my ego is now swollen to the size of a Pacific island. Best not book me for a few weeks. I’ll be unbearable. Anyway, here’s the full list:

D&AD Graphite Pencil in Writing For Design (for this website)

Roses Gold for Copywriting (for this website)

Roses Bronze for Website (for this website. The stingy buggers!)

Roses Silver x2 for Poster & Photography (for LATES at the National Media Museum – work done for B&W Studio)

Roses nomination for Item of Self-Promotion (for Agency Crap Pot Plant Diary)

Roses nomination for Poster (for Brookes – work done for B&W Studio)

Roses nomination for Identity (for LATES at the National Media Museum – work done for B&W Studio)

I’d best get this cleared then!

PS At the Roses Awards I was put to shame by my wife, who beat a room full of advertising professionals to win the #OneMinuteBrief award. We got to stand on stage together though, which was really nice. Well done Rach!

The wonder and weirdness of going viral.

On 28th March, this website got nominated for a couple of Roses awards. Thanks judges! The next day a few people tweeted about how much they liked my site. Fast forward 10 days and I had hundreds of emails in my inbox, my Linkedin message box was creaking, I had 20 times as many twitter followers and a bloke was on the phone from my hosting provider telling me I’d crashed one of their servers.

Highlights of this 2 weeks of madness included:

Mentions on It’s Nice That and Hover States.

Praise from Dave Trott.

And this interview with Adweek with the most flattering headline of all time.

But perhaps the nicest thing was getting lovely emails from total strangers, such as this one:

“So, I’m sitting at work on a Saturday (sigh) eating leftovers for lunch and scrolling through my Facebook feed to see how great the lives of my friends are when a link pops up to your site joecoleman.localhost

I’m over the other side of the world, my agency doesn’t need a copywriter and I should really be writing a baby toy brand strategy right now, but I just wanted to take five minutes to say – love your site, man.



Thanks everyone. It’s been a lot of fun.

Have you stepped into an award-winning design studio?

Have you stepped into an award-winning design studio?
Look for these 17 giveaway signs in 2017.

  1. You’re in a tasteful mill/factory/church conversion.
  2. Several very expensive road bikes are hanging on the wall.
  3. Radio 6 Music is playing.
  4. There are beards.
  5. An eager intern is asking you if they can get you a drink.
  6. An awards trophy from the noughties is being used as a doorstop.
  7. There’s a white IKEA Expedit bookcase full of Laurence King and Phaidon books.
  8. There’s a pile of Howies catalogues on it too.
  9. There’s a shelf full of pencil-shaped statuettes and slabs of glass.
  10. People are sniffing the pages of new print as if that’s a normal thing to do.
  11. Someone’s walking around with a camera.
  12. A pile of D&AD annuals are being used as a laptop stand.
  13. There’s decent 120gsm paper in the printer.
  14. There’s a mural.
  15. You can smell proper coffee.
  16. Plastic Japanese action figures worth a fortune on ebay are sitting on people’s desks.
  17. No one has any idea when the Creative Director is next going to be free. Or indeed where they are.

Introducing ‘The Agency Crap Pot Plant Diary 2017’

Just produced these as a mailer for my advertising and design agency clients. 12 shots of hopeless horticulture collated over 5 years in the North’s top agencies. Design by Caslon & Co. Want one on your desk? Of course you do. Then buy yours here [SORRY – SOLD OUT. Email me if you’re desperate for one!].

UPDATE March 2017 – This was nominated in Best Item of Self-Promotion at the Roses Creative Awards.

3-diaries-in-pile-medium bw-spread-medium hub-plant-medium red-diary-solo-medium spines-medium

How I helped push trucks

I recently wrote some ads for DAF, which are running in trucking magazines. Not a subscriber to Commercial Motors? Don’t worry. You can see them right here. Created with A&P.




Getting festive with Manchester City

Manchester City wanted a line for their big festive promotion and went with my “Festive Face Off”. The poster outside the ground is massive! Produced with Absolute.

Manchester City Etihad wrap