Most creative briefs that cross our desk these days include a phrase that says something like this:
Make this an image-based story. I don’t want it to be copy-heavy.
The funny thing is that we can hear that line when the content being discussed is anything from a corporate report to an actual video.
It’s a simple fact of life that marketers need to be able to think visually.
Best Visual Practices
There are some general guidelines for creating visual content. Having a general understanding of “the rules” helps you know when to break them! One of my favorite books on the subject, The Visual Marketing Revolution by Stephanie Diamond, offers six guidelines for good visual presentation.
- Understand the mission of your images. What are they put in your content to do? The most stunning photograph can’t move your marketing down the field if it isn’t the right stunning photo.
- Make it simple. We are all fighting the clutter of the internet. Make your images simple. Especially if they are presenting data, such as an infographic or chart.
- Make it real. It’s the marketer’s dilemma – you need stock imagery, but you don’t want it to look like stock imagery. Be as picky as possible about your stock images. Just for fun, check out these hilarious “stock” images that used actor Vince Vaughn and his co-stars in place of the usual smiling stock image models.
- Don’t reinvent the wheel. When using symbols and other concepts, stick with the widely understood meanings. If you have to teach your audience what your image is representing, you’ve lost their attention.
- Be professional. While people connect to “real” images, they do not connect to bad ones.
- Use suitable fonts. And limit the number of fonts on your page. Too many and you risk being perceived as a ransom note.
How to make your images look good
HubSpot has some suggestions on applying consistent standards to your images so that they all blend harmoniously on your website and your social media. Each time you touch your potential clients, you want to present the same brand story. Being consistent in your visuals will help you accomplish that goal.
- Consistent color palette. Use 2-4 consistent main colors in your visuals. Target is always going to lead with their red color, and Cadbury will have purple. Hershey’s is brown.
- Fonts. Standardize the fonts you use in your organization, and then stick with them across all platforms.
- Appropriate imagery and filters. Corona always applies a sunny, light-drenched filter to their images to make them consistent with their brand. Consider what filters would work well with the story you are telling.
- Create templates. Even social media images can follow a certain pattern and give your readers clues as to your contents and branding. Templates will also save you time by eliminating some of the design choices every time you go to create.
Some additional motivation
According to an article on B2B marketing insider,
Articles with images get 94% more views than those without. And posts with videos attract 3x more inbound links than plain text posts. A study by 3M showed that 90% of the information sent to the brain is visual, and visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text.
And this holds up when you look at how the social world is evolving. The meteoric rise of sites like Vine, Instagram and Pinterest, as well as the efforts by Facebook and Twitter to add more visual elements to their platforms are simply following the trend that visual content is the best way to reach short-attention-span audiences in a world filled with so many content choices.
It’s difficult to become proficient not only in strategy and words, but in visuals and design. However the time spent becoming a student of visual conventions and best practices will yield dividends in making your content stand out from the crowd. The following are a few books we recommend on the subject.