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Podcast Artwork

Lesson 2 from: Product Packaging for Podcasts

Dan Misener

Podcast Artwork

Lesson 2 from: Product Packaging for Podcasts

Dan Misener

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Lesson Info

2. Podcast Artwork

Next Lesson: Podcast Categories

Lesson Info

Podcast Artwork

I would argue that your first job, whether you are thinking about creating some podcast artwork or you already have some podcast artwork and are thinking about revamping it, I would argue that your very first job is research. And I know Brad mentioned this in his session about looking through, scrolling through what's out there and seeing what catches your eye. Before you begin, or if you're thinking about a rebrand, you wanna go through and look at what is out there. You need very strong, very visually compelling artwork. And a great place to start is right here on your computer desktop iTunes. And you can browse the front page of iTunes. And one of the really nice things about the front page of iTunes is that it is largely curated. There are top episodes charts and there are top show charts, but almost everything that you see here in the flow case, these hero spots, or in the New and Noteworthy section, or Editor's Summer Picks, these are all handpicked by people at Apple. So, if you...

're looking for examples of really compelling artwork through the eyes of Apple, a great place to start is right here. They tend not to feature crummy artwork. Even if it's a great show that has crummy artwork, that may be a ding against it and they may not feature it. So, this is a really, really great place to start. It's interesting, different things pop out to different people, but I know the episodes here that really visually pop for me. And I know which of these episodes communicate something about the audio that I am about to hear. So I would encourage you to do exactly the same thing. Before you ever start to design something, or put together a brief for a designer friend or a company that you're hiring, do the research, look at what is out there. See what appeals to you, and try and find elements that you wanna borrow from. Do not stop at desktop iTunes because there are lots of other places where podcast art shows up and where podcast art tends to be curated. I'll give you a couple examples of that. From the left, we're looking at, I believe this is Pocket Casts, which is a third party podcast app developed in Australia. In the middle we have Google Podcasts which is the default podcast app that is built into every single Android device on the planet. And on the right we have Spotify, which has a podcast section. And they all look slightly different, and they all have a different approach to highlighting cover artwork. They're all showing show-level artwork. But these are again curated lists of shows. So, if you look at Pocket Casts, this is the featured tab inside Discover. These are handpicked. Again, they do not show crummy artwork in these handpicked editors' selections. Same thing with Spotify. Google is a little more algorhymthmically generated, so I don't think there's a human team there putting together exactly what you're gonna see on the front page. Stuff bubbles up based on user interactions with it. But these are really, really great places to start. So, don't stop at iTunes. Go look at a couple of other places where podcast art appears. And don't just stop at the front page. I would encourage you to deep dive by searching or browsing through categories. Look at other shows in the category you are thinking of submitting to. Do search terms. Hit the search button and look for shows that share search terms with your own show. If it's a cooking show, how is your cooking show artwork gonna stack up against somebody else's cooking show artwork? Are there visual tropes or cliches for a cooking podcast that you might wanna avoid? You wanna scope out the competition, such as it is. Because what are listeners going to do when they're looking for a new cooking podcast? They're probably gonna open up search and type in cooking, or whatever the related keyword is, and your competition is not necessarily what's on the front page of these apps. It is what is in the search results of these apps. And many of these apps do show cover art very prominently alongside search results. So, ask yourself how can I stand out from the pack. There is no recipe or formula for great cover artwork, but great cover artwork tends to have a few things in common. It is first and foremost simple. It also needs to be legible. You need to be able to read whatever the text is on the screen, even it is scaled down very, very, very small besides the thumbnail. Iconographic, which is a word that I had to look up, but basically my understanding of the word iconographic means you're using pictures to illustrate ideas. And because the screen real estate is so small, and because the podcast artwork tends to show up so tiny on many, many devices, anything that you can do to use a visual shorthand that is not actually words typed out, is gonna work in your favor. So, iconographic, and I'll show you a couple examples of that, and scalability is huge. Again, your artwork is gonna show up in lots of different places at lots of different sizes, and it needs to be versatile. I'm gonna show you a couple examples of artwork that I think does a great job of all of those things. The simplicity, and the legibility, and the iconography, and the scalability. On the left we have Serial, a very popular podcast. Many people cite it as the show that invented podcasting. Not true. 99% Invisible, which is Roman Mars show about art, and architecture, and design, and the built world around us. And on the right-hand side we have WHY OH WHY, which is a show that is no longer publishing new episodes. It's by Andrew Silenzi, and it's about dating, and relationships, and the messiness of online relationships. If you don't know any of those shows, that's what they are. And you just shout this out. What strikes you about the Serial logo? What is great about this Serial logo? It is totally simple. That S is a shorthand for the show. It scales up and down beautifully. It is absolutely simple. I don't think you could get much more simple than this when it comes to a podcast piece of cover art. What else strikes you about the Serial one? The contrast. The contrast. Really high contrast black and white, and then the highlights of red on the inside. There are three colors on this, right, absolutely. What else strikes you about Serial? The repetition. And that is, I think, the iconographic nature of this. Serial, if you don't know it, is a show that is an entire story told over a number of episodes, and they break those up into seasons. And they've got these cards, and it's such a beautiful, elegant, simple, visual representation of the narrative storytelling style that they have adopted. And in many ways in Podcast land, that they have pioneered. I think a lot of stuff is working really, really well with this Serial logo. What about 99% Invisible, what strikes you about that? It's a lot of those same things, right? It also has the contrast between the black and the yellow. The contrast between the yellow and the black, and there's also the white there as a highlight. It is a visual representation. Yeah, so if you don't know 99% Invisible, it is a show about the unseen details, the design details in the world around us that many people don't notice or often go unseen, and they shed light on those design details. And how many squares are in the 99% Invisible logo? There are 100 squares and one of them is yellow. And it's so clever, and it is so beautiful, and it is such a great representation of what the show is. Again, I mentioned iconographic, this is iconographic. It is using a very simple visual motif to illustrate the underlying or the core idea of the show. I think this is so great. If you look at Why Oh Why. Again, this is a show about relationships, dating, and the messiness of technologically-mediated romance and dating. What strikes you about this one? (student off mike) Relatable, relevant. I mean, they have clearly more of the visual style of a messaging app. And the detail that I love most about the WHY OH WHY cover art is the dot dot dot at the end. It is a thoroughly modern kind of thing, but you've got the title of the show, again, it's very simple. You've got reasonably high contrast between the white and the blue, but it's this detail at the bottom. It's the dot dot dot. It's the waiting for the response. In a very simple, tight little package they have, I think, telegraphed the tone of the show, which is the nerves or the anxiety that are often associated with online dating or app-based dating and relationships. Anything else strike you about the WHY OH WHY? What I like is that it's WHY, send, OH, send, WHY, send, so it's like that. Right, it is the sort of sequential messaging of it. It's the back and forth. In a very simple pictographic representation, they are encapsulating the nature of what it is to date online. And, of course, that is what the show is about. In addition to the simplicity, the legibility of all these, the scalability, what I love most is that they do such a great job of telegraphing the tone of the content and the format of the show. If I said to you, without ever having heard Serial, what is serial about, I don't know if I could tell you. Same thing with 99% Invisible, same thing with WHY OH WHY. I don't necessarily know from the titles or from this artwork what those shows are gonna be. But once I have listened, every single one of these reinforces what I know about the show. The artwork and the content are totally pointed in the same direction. So I mentioned scalability. I just wanna show you what this means. Lots of podcast apps are going to scale your artwork for you, and they are going to scale it from very, very, very small to almost the entire width of your phone screen, and everything in between. If you want to check what your podcast art looks like, not just by scaling it up and down yourself, but if you wanna look at it in context, in situ, there are some really great tools out there where you can upload your artwork and it will place it in a thumbnail in search results. It'll place it in the now-playing screen on a various set of podcast listening apps. There's something called Preview Your Podcast Artwork tool. It does exactly what it says on the tin. Before publishing anything, if you wanna see what your artwork is gonna look like, I highly recommend Preview Your Podcast Artwork tool. If you search for it, it will pop up. But it really needs to scale gracefully. And that's, I think, the three examples that we just looked at, and Serial as we see here, it really does scale up and down nicely. And I think a big part of it is the simplicity and just that visual mark of S. So, things that you wanna avoid in your show artwork. Tiny or illegible text. If you've got a long show name, this can be particularly difficult. You also want to avoid podcasting tropes. This means, with a few exceptions, if you've got a pair of headphones or a microphone in your podcast artwork, that's probably visually redundant. People are going to listen to your show in a podcast app. By and large, they know it's a podcast. You do not need a visual cue to say, hey, this is a podcast, you listen to it with headphones. So, avoid tropes. We talked earlier about the two examples with logos, network logos, corporate logos. I just wanna say it's really important to be careful with this. If you are doing work with a company, if you are part of a podcast network yourself, you may feel pressure to stick a corporate logo or to stick a network logo from your network on your artwork, and it can be a double-edged sword. Because in some cases, a network logo is really going to strengthen your podcast artwork. If you think about a logo from an established media brand, and I think about The New York Times and The Daily. The fact that The New York Times word mark or logo is on The Daily's artwork is a plus. Because if I don't know The Daily but I do know The New York Times, there's more trustworthiness there. Or I feel differently than if it wasn't there. But if you are part of a growing podcast network that some people, but most people, have never heard of, you might wanna think twice about this. The flip side of it is if you're doing work with brands, as I often do, sometimes a brand can add a lot of credibility, sometimes it can be a speed bump for people. If I stick a brand's logo on my podcast artwork, that may actually be a roadblock to having somebody check it out, or try it out, to sample it. And I do not wanna create road blocks where I can avoid them. So, generally speaking, unless there is a very strong reason for you to include some kind of corporate or network logo in your artwork, avoid it. But if you happen to partner with The New York Times, I would stick their logo on it if you can. The other thing about network logos is especially that scalability factor. When you look at how network logos appear, you're talking about a logo on a logo. Which, when scaled down to a tiny thumbnail, is probably going to be illegible and may not have the effect that you are looking for.

Ratings and Reviews

Abisoye Akinola
 

Dan highlighted the items that we overlook over time and it was awesome to note these things. I will totally recommend this course. Thank you, Dan!

Ginger Winters
 

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