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So many people overlook the importance of podcast artwork. They slap some text on a picture and call it a day. This is a huge mistake. Your artwork might be the only thing that a potential listener sees.
Podcasting is one of the fastest growing mediums on the internet right now. Everyone wants a piece of the pie. With over a quarter of a million podcasts on iTunes and growing, you can either slip into the noise or stand out and be noticed.
Cory Miller joins me this week to talk about the importance of great podcast artwork, why branding is about more than just visuals, and how you can stand out from the other shows in your niche and get noticed.
Highlights, Takeaways & Quick Wins
- You only have a fraction of a second to capture someone’s attention with your artwork and title. You can either stand out or you can blend in.
- Before any design happens, you need to have a clear understanding of what your podcast is, who it’s for, and why you’re doing it.
- Creating artwork that speaks to your target audience is more important than making something that you like.
- A good designer knows how to use artwork to communicate correctly. Good design is not subjective.
- If you want to stand out, stop doing things the cheap way.
- The job of podcast artwork is to get someone to make that first click and then read your description.
- Your artwork is there to break down the barriers between your message and your audience.
- You make people care about you by proving that you care about them.
- You can’t talk about everything, because if you talk about everything you talk about nothing.
- 5:35 Cory: Sometimes the only time anyone might see anything about you is your show’s name and your artwork. Your artwork cannot suck. It has to interesting and captivating. You have to make people care about you.
- 5:55 There are over 250,000 podcast is iTunes right now, and that number is growing. If you go look at podcasts in iTunes right now; it’s saturated. There are so many shows.
- 6:17 When people are scrolling through iTunes looking for a new show to listen to, they only see your artwork and name. The first impression they will get of your podcast is your artwork and title. It has to be interesting and captivating.
You only have a fraction of a second to capture someone’s attention with your artwork and title. You can either stand out or you can blend in.
- 7:33 Aaron: I do that. I’ll judge a podcast by it’s cover. I also look to the title to see if it’s something I’d be interested in listening to.
Should My Podcast Have a Unique Name?
- 7:51 John Loudon asked: Do you feel a podcast should have a unique name, rather than “business name” podcast or “website name” podcast?
- 8:07 Cory: Take The Dave Ramsey Show for example. The podcast title is his name, and the artwork is his face and logo. If I didn’t know who Dave Ramsey was, his face would make no sense to me, and the title of the show wouldn’t bring me in. I know he’s a financial expert who wants to help people get financial freedom, so I know that’s probably what the show is about. But imagine if I didn’t know who Dave Ramsey was.
- 8:47 Here’s why his artwork works; it’s not just his face and logo. He also has in big bold capital letters, “TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR MONEY”. Boom. That’s what his podcast offers. HUGE value proposition. “If you listen to this podcast, you will take control of your money.”
- 9:07 Not everyone needs this sort of clarity, and not every podcast has to have the tagline in the artwork, but he knows his target audience. He know who he’s reaching out to. He knows his potential audience is going to see his artwork and it’s going to resonate with them.
- 9:32 You can use your personal name for your podcast if you already have an audience. That’s fine. This works well for celebrities. If you don’t have an audience and no one recoginizes your name, you’re going to have to do a lot of work to get people to check out your show.
- 10:29 Aaron: Let’s take a look at my show, The Podcast Dude. I love my artwork. It’s beautiful (thanks, Sean!) But it doesn’t really tell people what my show is about. Neither does my title. It doesn’t have that instant value proposition. It isn’t promising anything. I did write a great description explaining what the show is about, who it’s for, and what people can expect to learn, but they’d have to click on my show to see that.
- 11:21 Your show title (Invisible Details), on the other hand, does give your audience a good idea about what your show is about. Your title gives them an idea about what to expect.
Should I Hire a Designer or Do the Artwork Myself?
- 11:46 Aaron: I think podcasters fall into three categories:
- 1. People who can afford to pay a great designer.
- 2. People who are good at graphic design and will do their artwork themselves.
- 3. People who don’t have much money and little or no design experience.
- 12:25 Would you recommend that people hire a designer, or try to do it themselves even if they don’t have much experience with design?
- 12:35 Cory: It depends on a few things. First, are you a designer? Do you understand your target audience? Do you have the money to pay a designer to provide the correct solution, or not?
- 12:58 A lot of people can design their own artwork, but that’s not necessarily the best solution.
Before any design happens, you need to have a clear understanding of what your podcast is, who it’s for, and why you’re doing it.
- 13:19 Cory: You have to know the answers to “Who, What and Why?” before you start designing your artwork. If you’ve already identified your target audience and you know what your podcast is about and why you’re doing it, and you have design skills, then go for it.
- 14:20 My co-host (Kyle Adams) designed the artwork for Invisible Details. It’s beautiful and acheives all the goals we agreed to… but mainly it speaks to our audience.
Creating artwork that speaks to your target audience is more important than making something that you like.
- 15:12 Cory: Going back to Dave Ramsey; his artwork isn’t going to win any design awards, but it speaks to his target audience.
- 15:23 I’ve had a few people ask me about guidelines and fonts for artwork or design. Personally, I hate certain fonts. There are some fonts out there that make me cringe every time I see them. I’ve avoided going to restaurants or buying certain products because they have a particular font in their logo or menu.
- 15:51 Here’s the thing though: If you’re starting a podcast about the Papyrus font and its various uses, and your target audience absolutely loves it, then you should absolutely use it. I would never recommend that font, except when it targets the correct audience. It’s not about me and what I like; it’s about what’s right for the audience. Whatever podcast you’re doing is not for you; it’s for your audience.
A good designer knows how to use artwork to communicate correctly. Good design is not subjective.
Why You Should Invest in a Typeface
- 18:32 Cory: The problem is people are hestitant to spend money to have something a little bit better. They’re not sure if spending $100 is going to net them better results than if they went with something free. If their budget is only $100, they might spend it on a microphone and just use a free font that they have on their computer, or one that they can download from some free font website. The problem is that people use the free fonts all the time. They won’t help you stand out.
- 19:18 This speaks to a deeper problem. You have to invest. You have to do the hard work to make something effective. If you want something that lasts, you have to put in the effort. You have to put in the time or money (or both). Otherwise, you won’t feel the burn of that investment and it’ll be easier to quit when you don’t see instant results.
- 19:50 Sure, you can use a free font for your design, but there are people who spend hundreds or thousands of dollars per year on licensing fonts. People invest big money in a typeface for their brand because it helps set them apart.
Don’t Take the Easy Way Out
- 20:36 Cory: Podcasting is hard work. Having a quality podcast requires you to do really hard things, and if you want something that lasts, you need to put in the effort. This is why it’s really valuable to have something that burns, either a monthly cost, an upfront cost, or even just total hours to do something.
- 20:48 Too many podcasters do minimal work and think it’s ok. I think it’s cheap and ignorable. People who put in the hard work and release podcasts every week, do featured images for every episode; those are the podcasts I pay attention to. They actually care the experience for their audience. So don’t take the easy way out.
- 21:52 Aaron: Many podcasters spend (on average) an hour preparing for each episode, and then an hour for recording. Let’s say they spend a couple hours editing the show, or they hire someone for $50-200/episode to edit it for them. Hosting is relatively affordable ($12-15/month for most people). Time is probably the biggest investment made in podcasting, but it can also get expensive if you hire someone to do post production.
- 22:40 Cory: That investment will help you feel more serious about what you’re doing. When I went to college, I knew nothing about finances and got a loan for my first year. It took mere minutes and a couple of button clicks to get into $30,000 in debt. Doing things the easy way might feel good up front and have minimal effort, but the results were years of paying someone else a lot of the money I was making.
- 23:14 If I would have had to hand someone $30,000 in cash, I would have never done it because it’s such a huge investment. If you want to make a podcast that matters, you need to invest. Get a good mic, get good artwork, get good shownotes, and make something good. Too many podcasts do minimal work and think it’s okay. It’s cheap and it’s ignorable.
- 24:01 If you don’t make an investment in your podcast, it’s really easy to get to episode 9 and quit. You don’t have anything to lose.
If you want to stand out, stop doing things the cheap way.
- 24:30 Cory: If you do things the cheap way, people will know because it’ll show in the content and work that you produce. I can tell when I’m listening to a podcast if the people who made it really care, if they’re invested. Push yourself to invest, either time or money. Investment helps to make you more serious about what you’re doing.
- 24:58 Aaron: I want to give a shoutout to a guy who does a great podcast. I can tell he really invests in his show. The guy’s name is Jonathan Cutrell. He does a great podcast called Developer Tea. It’s a solo show, and he releases 2-3 episodes a week consistenly. It’s clear that he prepares for each epiosde and he provides valuable content.
- 26:12 If a podcaster invests in their show, I notice. The listeners notice. Those are the shows that are loved and they’re the shows that will last.
- 26:12 If you’re just rushing to get something out and you don’t want to spend time on it, that’s just telling your audience that it isn’t important to you. And if you don’t think it’s important, why would they?
You Don’t Have to Spend Much to Stand Out
- 26:45 Cory: If you spend any amount of money on a typeface, you’re already setting yourself apart from the people who just going to use Helvetica.
- 27:11 With such an oversaturated market, you have to stand out. You have to push above the noise. Great artwork will do that. Writing show notes will do that. Email newsletters will do that. It’s all part of making sure you reach your target audience effectively.
Designing for Social Media Platforms
- 28:09 Cecile asked, How can you stay the most updated with the new social media formats when publishing a custom featured image for a blog or a podcast epiosde?
- 28:31 Cory: I think what she’s asking is, “How do you make artwork that will stand out and work on the various social media platforms?”
- 28:50 Just make sure to do your research on sizing and scale. Is it readable at a large scale and understandable at a small scale? If you’re doing it yourself, you need to have some kind of understanding of basic design principles.
- 29:06 Aaron: What are some of the basic design priciples?
- 29:17 Cory: Things like color harmony, color psychology, and heirarchy… there’s a few things that you should spend a little time learning about.
- 29:59 Aaron: Two things that are big for me are white space and simplicity.
- 30:17 Cory: Your podcast artwork isn’t your message. Your podcast is your message. I read a great article recently about being a conference speaker. The author said when you’re writing the title for your conference talk, the purpose of the title is not to get someone to go to your talk, it’s to make someone read the first sentence of your description.
The job of podcast artwork is to get someone to make that first click and then read your description.
- 31:23 Cory: One more thing about social media formats; it helps to know what platforms you’ll be marketing on as well, because every platform is different. When you link a page on Facebook, for instance, it shows a 16:9 crop of one of the images on the page. However, if you post a picture, in most cases it shows up natively but cropped to a square on the main feed. Twitter is different, Pinterest is different…you have to do your research and know where you’ll be posting.
Apps for Designing Podcast Artwork and Featured Images
- 34:02 Aaron: If someone is interested in designing their own artwork or featured images for their episodes, what apps would you recommend? When I first started getting into graphic design, I always heard about Photoshop but it was $600 and I couldn’t afford that. I bought Pixelmator instead. These days, I’m designing in Sketch. What do you use, and what would you recommend?
- 35:04 Cory: I use and love Photoshop. I’ve tried a few others including Affinity Designer, which has been getting a lot of good reviews lately. I’ve only used a few of these and for a very short amount of time, so I can’t put my full weight of recommendation behind it, but there’s plenty out there. You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars but you should spend some money to get started. There are tons of free design tutorials online to help you learn as well.
What Size Does My Podcast Artwork Need to Be?
- 36:32 Your podcast artwork needs to be at least 1400×1400 pixels, but you can use up to 3000×3000 pixel. Many apps and websites display a very small thumbnail, so make sure it’s readable at small sizes as well.
What is Branding?
- 37:38 Cory: The term “Branding” can be misleading because people associate it primarily with what others see (visual things). Ultimately branding is more about defining your values, mission, and purpose. What are you doing? Why are you doing it? Who are you doing it for? What will you do and not do?
- 38:17 Your brand is what people think about you. It’s not just what they see, it’s also their perception of who you are through the eyes of their circumstances and experiences.
- 38:32 A brand is a promise. It is saying, “This is who we are and what we do,” and delivering on it with consistency and excellence. Podcast branding contains visual elements, but it’s also about saying, “This is what we’re going to provide to you.”
- 39:11 Aaron: But it is important to have a consistent visual style between your artwork and website, right? If you’re using different fonts and colors everywhere, that’s going to confuse people.
- 39:32 Cory: Absolutely. What you project needs to have clarity between the mediums you produce content in. If your website and your podcast are linked, then there should be consistency so that people know that they are related.
Your artwork is there to break down the barriers between your message and your audience.
Why is Branding Important?
- 41:04 Cory: People ask me why branding is important. The reason is nobody knows about you, and the truth is nobody cares. You’re not the hero in anyone else’s story. Everyone is their own hero and they want to know how you are going to help their story along.
- 41:45 You have to tell a story and provide content that connects with people to amplify them in their own journey of life.
You make people care about you by proving that you care about them.
- 42:10 Cory: If you make a podcast for yourself, no one is going to care. If you make artwork for yourself, no one is going to care. You can make your audience care, and they want you to make them care, but you have to provide value. You have to give them something that enhances their story. You have to show your audience that you’re creating something for them, through your content, your marketing, your episode titles. Understanding who you are, what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it will help you be more intentional and focused in your podcast.
How Should I Describe My Podcast?
- 44:01 Aaron: You have tell people what you’re going to give them if you want them to listen to your show. There are two different pieces to a great description:
- 1. Develop a punchy, single sentence tagline. Come up with a one-liner that describes what your show is about and who it’s for.
- 2. Write a longer description that goes into more detail about the benefits of listening to your show. Explain what your audience will learn about and what they’ll get out of the show. Describe who you are and why you’re doing the podcast.
- 45:14 Cory: Focus the description on the audience. The show is for them, not for you. The moment you believe your show is about you is the moment it has failed.
Don’t Try to Reach Everyone with Your Podcast
- 45:46 Aaron: You say in your podcast description that Invisible Details is for people who want to build a brand. What about all the people who don’t want to build a brand? Wouldn’t you like them to listen too? Why limit your audience?
- 46:03 Cory: Those people aren’t my target audience. Our show is not for everybody. You can’t make a show for everybody.
You can’t talk about everything, because if you talk about everything you talk about nothing.
- 46:28 Cory: You have to focus and niche down. You have to say, “These are the people I’m going to be podcasting to, that I’m going to be writing to, that I’m going to be developing this product for.” If you try to reach everyone, you’re going to reach no-one. If you try to reach somebody, if you niche down and you say, “This is my target”, then you can be effective. The more you niche down, the more successful you can be.
- 47:40 Artwork and Branding is how you can make your show stand out.
- 48:00 Creating artwork that speaks to your target audience is more important than making something that you like.
- 48:20 If you want something that lasts, you need to put in the effort. Stop saying that you don’t have time and start making time. Put it on the freakin’ calendar.
- 50:10 If you don’t make time for your podcast, your audience won’t make time to listen to it.
- 50:18 If you are going to design your own artwork, do research and see what resonates with your target audience. If you have friends that are designers, ask for feedback.
- 51:23 You make people care about you by proving that you care about them.
- 56:53 Eric asked, Is it a good idea to make your podcast artwork a “clever” graphic so it’s more memorable? Or is it best to keep it straightforward?
- 57:08 Cory: Very simple; if it works for your target audience, do it. You could have a clever graphic that is memorable, or you could have something simple, but make sure it speaks to your audience.
- 58:18 Robert Guzzo asked, One of the things I love about podcasts on the seanwes network is that they use featured images for every episode. I’d like to do the same when I start podcasting. What are some ways to keep my featured images consistent with my podcast image and overall brand, while at the same time conveying a sense of an episode’s content?
- 58:47 Aaron: We have a typeface that we use for everything seanwes (Le Monde Courrier). Sean pays for it, and it’s what we use for all our featured images. Having a custom typeface for your brand/podcast is one way to create visual consistency.
- 59:29 Cory: Set yourself up with some guidelines. Choose a typeface, choose a color palette. Use them for all your images. Create a look that is cohesive and consistent.
- 1:03:07 Emily asked, I had a client say, “I don’t want my artwork to be too different from all the others in the finance category.” Is there benefit to podcast artwork looking similar to others as far as format/style, or should each podcast’s artwork be unique?
- 1:03:25 Cory: Who is your target audience? Your artwork should speak to them, but don’t blend in. If your artwork looks the same as every other show, no one is going to care. No one is going to know that you’re doing something different. Do your research, find out what works and what doesn’t. Make it unique, make it stand out.