Less is More: Designing Great Podcast Art
The idiom “Don't judge a book by its cover” is meaningful when it comes to people, but it's pretty blatantly ignored when it actually comes to books.
The same is true for podcasts.
Your podcast's art is the first thing new listeners will see when trying to find a new listen. Before they look at your podcast's description, they'll want a sense for your show based on its image in their podcatcher.
So, how do you create great art for your podcast? Always remember: less is more.
Show what you're about
Think about what's most important about your podcast. What are your main topics of discussion? What categories is your podcast in?
Then, take those ideas and think about what symbols usually accompany them. Podcasting about finance or accounting? Think about the dollar sign, the Pound sign, the Euro sign, the yen sign. Podcasting about movies or TV? It's hard to go wrong with a film reel or, you know, a TV.
All of those objects alone are probably going to be mundane, but it's how you combine them that will make you stand out. There might be lots of podcasts about finance or TV, but what else makes your podcast special?
Be sure to incorporate those things, too.
Let's look at Conversations with People Who Hate Me‘s art as an example.
Conversations with People Who Hate Me is a podcast in which the host, Dylan Marron, has a conversation with someone who's left him a hateful message online. Let's break down what's going on in this art:
- Speech bubble: The show signifies its conversational aspect not just through its name, but through a big comic book style speech bubble right at the top of the image.
- Dylan Marron: Marron is well-known online, so his image here makes sense, and the cartoon makes it a little less intense than a standard headshot. His pose is comfortable and casual, inviting and warm. So is the chair he's in.
- The laptop: The open laptop he's looking at shows that this podcast is going to handle how we talk about things online.
- The Facebook thumbs down: Facebook notoriously doesn't give users a thumbs down reaction for posts, but here, it's used to show that the podcast will discuss the negativity of social media.
The creator of this podcast's art could have just gone with the speech bubble, Dylan Marron, the laptop, or the thumbs down.
But all of those things alone wouldn't allow the podcast to stand out. It's how they come together. This isn't just a podcast about conversations; it's a podcast about conversations and hate online.
That's a huge difference, and it makes their art accurate and unique.
Keep it simple
Before you start getting too excited with all the images you could use, though, think about what Coco Chanel said about accessories: “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.”
Conversations with People Who Hate Me uses about 4 images to convey its meaning. 4 isn't a lot, but any more and the art could quickly become overwhelming. But if you can do less and still capture the spirit of your podcast, you should always do less.
And speaking of the spirit–let's look at Spirits as an example.
Spirits is a podcast about drinking and discussing mythology, folklore, and urban legends. Each episode, they make a drink that pairs with that week's subject. The podcast's tagline is, “Kinda creepy, kinda cool.”
All of that comes together perfectly with just two images here: the martini and the skull.
Spirits could have gone with any number of images from the stories they discuss, but instead, they kept it simple. It makes their logo extremely memorable and striking.
Most people's brains are pretty bad at memorizing images. The less data you give them to store, the better they'll store it.
If you want your art to be memorable, it needs to be as simple and clean as possible.
Think about your font
When people think about art, they usually only focus on the images.
Don't ignore your font. The way your title is written can convey a lot of your tone.
When you think about your font, your first criteria should be legibility. You don't want anything too intricate. You want to make sure each letter is clear.
Your next criteria should be figuring out how your font's aesthetic fits in with your podcast's aesthetic.
People's eyes read sans-serif (fonts that don't have decorative lines at the bottoms or tops of letters) fonts better on screens than serif fonts.
Most podcasts do well with sans serif fonts, but if the tone of your podcast is more classic than modern, you might be able to get away with a serif font.
Serif fonts are best for podcasts that are traditional, professional journalism, or discuss something like literature or art. Serif fonts will give a more traditional, scholarly tone.
If your podcast is fiction, you can get a little more creative–especially if your podcast is set in a specific era.
Let's look at The Penumbra Podcast‘s art for an example.
The font for The Penumbra Podcast is halfway between a serif and sans-serif font. It can get away with being more decorative because it takes up most of the space in the art–making it easier to read–and because it convey's the podcast's noir tone even more than the actual image being used.
The image here references that the podcast takes place in a hotel. The font, though, is what shows it's going to feel like the noir movies of the 1940s.
Your font can carry a lot of your podcast's tone. Make sure it's easy to read, but also make sure it shows what your podcast feels like.
Make it small
Because my hands are tiny, I only buy tiny phones. Because my phones are tiny, everything on them is tiny.
That means that your tiny little podcast art in a podcatcher looks even smaller to me than it probably does to you.
And it still has to look great.
When you start getting down a preliminary design you like, stop before you finalize anything. Then, make it small.
How small can you get it while still being able to see everything important?
There's a good chance that when you zoom out on your work, you're going to see that it's more cramped than you realized–or that there's too much blank space, or that your title just disappears.
Make the edits you think you need, keep working, and then repeat this again.
Doing this might mean that you have to change your font to something bolder or delete some design elements. This will feel frustrating at first. It will feel like you're not doing justice to all of the things that make your podcasts unique.
Don't listen to that instinct. Go for more simplicity. Remember, you can always change the art later if you need to. For now, though, make sure your art looks good when it's small.
Make it big
Apple requires a 1400 x 1400 pixel piece of art for your podcast, and that's great. You always want a huge image to make sure you've got something high quality when you want to make a header image or physical items like business cards or shirts.
But that naturally begs the question: what are you going to do about header images, business cards, or shirts?
Podcasters always seem to forget header images. Header images are high-resolution, landscape-oriented images that you or other sites can use on a website. You can't use your square podcast art as a header image on a website without it looking blocky and poorly proportioned. A header-style image should be about a 3:2 ratio, so something like 2100 x 1400.
So, how can you make your podcast art big? What can you add to either side to make it landscape-style? How can you do this without making it look like you just slapped something on the sides of your art?
Will you have to make completely new art for this? Maybe. But good, simple logo designs should lend themselves to nice header images too.
You can also find interesting ways to change your art up without losing its feel.
Then, think about your merchandise and business cards. Will you use your logo for those?
Business cards aren't squares (unless you specifically buy square business cards), so you'll have to think about how to incorporate your logo into a portrait or landscape rectangle.
Like we talked about on our merch article, most human torsos aren't just squares. How will you change your podcast's dimensions to look nice on a tee shirt? What elements will you need to lose to make it look good on a tote bag or a hoodie?
Making great podcast art is huge when trying to find your audience. New listeners will judge a book by its cover.
But making podcast art doesn't have to be difficult.
Think about what's important to your podcast–both what category it fits into and what makes it unique. Factor that into the images and the font.
Make your art simple. That makes sure it's memorable and clear even when it's small.
When you're designing your art, zoom out to make sure it still looks good when it's small, too.
Don't forget to plan on what your header images and merch will look like.
What's your favorite podcast art?
What podcast art sticks out in your memory the best? Do you love the simplicity and great colors of Girl in Space? Or are you more a fan of The Truth‘s references to postmodernist art? What makes the art stand out to you, and what makes it a great fit for the podcast? Let us know in the comments!
Need podcast art?
If so, have a look at our Custom Podcast Artwork Service where we can work with you to design the perfect image for your show!