Are Your Social Media Profile Photos and Icons Up to Date?

We all know how important social media marketing is to our overall marketing strategy. We invest time, money and resources into creating content – copy, photos, graphics, videos – to engage with our audience. But when was the last time you looked at the profile photos and cover images on your social media channels? (True confession! I need to do this myself!)

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but social media websites are constantly tweaking and changing things. Sometimes the changes are for the better. And sometimes, you find that your perfectly crafted square profile picture has been converted to a cut-off circle! Or perhaps the images that looked great on your old phone look blurry on newer, high-resolution screens. The results can look sloppy and unprofessional.

It’s important to pay attention to your social pages and how they look to a first-time visitor. Are your images sized properly and do they communicate your overall brand?

Time for a social media cleanup

Block off an hour and conduct an audit of your social profiles. Here’s a checklist to get you started:

  • Look at your social network profile page as if you were a customer or first-time visitor to that page. Are the profile images the right size and proportion? Are they cut off or hard to read? Bonus question: Do they convey high-level brand messaging that’s easy to understand?
  • Do the images look different in the newsfeed versus the page? For example, when you visit your Facebook page, the profile image is a square. But in the newsfeed, it’s a small circle. Make sure you’ve uploaded a photo that will look good in both places.
  • Don’t forget about your cover photos. Make sure they look good on mobile and on a desktop. Bonus question: On Facebook, did you know you can upload a video as your cover image?
  • Start with high-resolution images. Often when Facebook resizes images they look blurry. That’s especially true if you start with a low-res, grainy photo.
  • Once you’ve updated your business pages, take a look at your personal pages too. Even though you may not promote those as part of your business, people can still find your personal profiles. They may be researching you for a potential project or as part of a job interview. Those profile images should also be sized correctly and be a positive and professional representation of you and your business – especially your LinkedIn page.

Sprout Social has a great guide on social media image sizes. Here you’ll find the exact image sizes on all the major social networks. Remember, though, these networks (especially Facebook) periodically make updates and changes to pages’ appearances. Take note and update your profile images and cover photos accordingly.

Are you promoting your social networks?

The next area you’ll want to audit is how you’re driving traffic to your social networks. Most people include icons on their website, in their email signature and often on print materials, such as fliers, posters or banners. These are all excellent ways to let people know you’re active on certain social networks.

Email providers like MailChimp or website platforms like WordPress and Squarespace typically auto populate social media icons and you simply add your link or handle. But if you’re doing a print product or custom design, you’ll need to add those icons yourself.

Things to keep in mind:

  • Use the official logo for each social network. Don’t just do a quick Google search and grab the first image that pops up. Plus, using an outdated logo indicates you don’t pay attention to changes in social media. That can indicate to potential customers you don’t pay attention to details. You’ll want to download the official icon from the individual network’s brand resource page.
  • Don’t alter the official logo unless you really know what you’re doing. Plus, you’ll want to follow the brand standards laid out by each social network, which may include not cropping or significantly altering the logo.
  • Sometimes it’s problematic to use the social icons in their native colors. A good solution is to convert them all to black and white for unity with your brand colors.  

Periodically review both your own profile images as well as the places where you’re driving traffic to your social profiles to ensure everything is up to date, easy to read and professional. It’s also a good opportunity to delete any social accounts you’re no longer using. Or at least remove any icons/links to those profiles. You don’t want to send people to your social media profiles if you aren’t actively keeping them updated. Good luck!

Have a great week,

sig

How Do I Find Good Stock Photography?

Whether you’re working on a brochure, a website, email newsletter or social media post, you’re going to need some images. In our highly visual world, it’s imperative to have great images, graphics and illustrations to help tell your story.

Stock images and stock photography sites can be an excellent resource. But the downside of stock photography is that it’s, well, stock photography. You and lots of other marketers have access to all the same photos and illustrations, meaning your project isn’t truly original. Pay attention to websites you visit and posts you see on social media – you’ll start to notice stock photos (maybe even some of the same ones) everywhere. In fact, if you want to hear an “insider baseball” rant, ask a graphic designer who their least favorite stock photography model is. They’ll probably have one. I’d post a picture to mine, but I really don’t want to see his face on my blog!

So, how can you incorporate stock images into your work so it still looks graphically pleasing and professional?

If possible, work with a professional graphic designer who can help you select the very best stock images and can skillfully weave together stock shots and custom images taken by a local talented photographer. This allows you to get the best of both worlds and you save a little money over using custom photography exclusively.  If you’re on your own though, here’s some tips.

When mixing custom photos and stock images, keep a few things in mind:

  • As much as possible, keep the lighting consistent.
  • Avoid using too many generic shots, such as hands shaking or a smiling person on a headset. Your project ends up looking like everyone else’s.
  • Use a mix of stock photos and stock graphics, such as designs, illustrations and icons. This is a great way to add visual interest and stave off monotony.
  • Avoid cheesy pictures or images that are obviously stock. If it looks unrealistic, don’t use it. And, when in doubt, get a few opinions.

webpage with red mark up

Here’s an example of how I was able to use a blend of custom and stock photography:

Selecting the best stock photo sites

Choose your stock photo sites wisely. Two sites with a large catalog of images at a good price are ShutterStock.com and AdobeStock.com. These sites do cost money, but are more affordable than they used to be. If you’re planning to use a lot of stock photography, you might want to invest in a subscription versus paying for each photo individually.

If you are fortunate enough to have a big – or unlimited – budget, use GettyImages.com. It’s the gold standard for stock photography but it doesn’t come cheap with a single image starting at $175.

Free, low-cost photo options

OK, so what happens when you have little to no budget or you’re a nonprofit trying to create blog posts and social media content on a dime? A number of free or low-cost stock image sites are available, and some actually aren’t bad depending on your project and specific image needs. Just remember, when it comes to free or low-cost stock sites, the hardest part is combing through all the files to get to what’s good. So set aside some time for sorting, sorting and more sorting – that’s half the battle!

Unsplash.com, DeathtoStockPhoto.com, and BarnImages.com have cool commercial photography available for free. Also check WikiMedia Commons and Flickr where you might find images available for use under public domain or a creative commons license. Some government sites also have images available in the public domain.

Get permission for photo use

Whether you’re using free or paid sites, make sure you’ve looked at the licensing agreements and understand how you can — and most importantly can’t – use the images. Some are available for editorial use only and some require attribution. Do you need a model release? Is there any time limit to when you have to use the images you purchase?

Making certain you have the rights to the images you’re using is critical. Certainly don’t just download any image you find on Google or someone else’s blog or website.

Bottom line

When it comes to creative work, great imagery can take your project to the next level. Even if you’re working with a small budget, there are ways to make your projects look high-end. This is where consulting with a professional graphic designer is helpful. We can come up with creative ways to get around a low photography or stock photo budget.

Here’s an example of how I was able to get creative and use low-cost stock photography for a project that had a small budget for photography:

open spread pages with red mark up

I’d love to hear how you find and use stock images. Do you have a favorite site? Let’s hear about why it works for you.

Have a great week,

sig

How Do I Remove the White Background from a Logo?

Ever tried to overlay a logo or other graphic onto an image only to find there’s an annoying white background behind it? Frustrating for sure.

If you’re looking for a graphic with transparency to use in your design projects, there are three potential solutions. Note, these solutions require that you have access to Adobe Creative Suite. If you don’t, skip on down to solution No. 3.

1) In Illustrator

icon resizingIf your graphic is a professionally created logo, one option is to get access to the original graphic file – preferably an EPS or Adobe Illustrator format. What you want is a vector image, which means the image has been created digitally in such a way that it can be re-scaled up or down without losing its resolution and becoming pixelated.

It’s likely the vector file already has built-in transparency. That pesky white background doesn’t appear until someone saves a version of the graphic in a format like a JPG or GIF to use on the web. Take that EPS or Adobe Illustrator file and save it as a “PNG” file. Make sure you check the box labeled “preserve transparency.”

2) In Photoshop

Open a relatively high-resolution version of the graphic in Adobe Photoshop. Use the pen tool to trace around the object and then create a clipping mask. This is pretty technical and can be challenging if you don’t know your way around Photoshop very well or if the graphic is complicated by features like hair, soft edges and lots of “holes” like those in the letters D, O and R.

pen tool cutting letter

You can sometimes get away with using the “Magic Wand” to select around your logo/graphic especially if the graphic is pretty simple. Once you’ve masked out (or deleted) the unwanted background, export your image as a PNG with transparency preserved. If you don’t preserve the transparency, Photoshop will add white back into the areas you just cleared away.

3) But I don’t have these fancy programs!

If you don’t do a lot of graphic design work, you may not have Photoshop or Illustrator. In that case, try one of these programs:

GIMP is a free Photoshop alternative. It’s powerful, but not the most user-friendly so it might take you a little time to learn your way around this one.

Inkscape is a free vector program will do the trick. As with Gimp, this app is off the beaten path so there may be a steep learning curve.

If you don’t have access to the high-resolution version of your logo or the original files, it’s going to take you a lot of time and energy to do this on your own, especially if all you have is a low-resolution graphic. This might be a good time to hire a professional graphic designer to re-create your logo. Graphic designers then provide you with all the various file formats you could need – saving you a lot of headache in the future.

Need help re-creating a new logo or need additional formats for an existing one? Get in touch at ab@andrewbartondesign for help. 

Have a great week,

sig

Heritage Podcast Artwork

Podcasts are an amazing innovation.  I love listening to them because they are educational and entertaining. Or perhaps, I just work by myself all day and it’s good to hear another human voice. There are a handful of podcasts that have become an almost sacred part of my weekly routine.

Will Webb’s The Heritage Podcast is one such podcast. Will’s goal is to offer an entire liberal arts education in podcast form. That is a tremendously aspirational goal, he admits. Basically, he’s reading a whole bachelor’s degree worth of books and giving the listeners a free book report. It’s fascinating.

I enjoyed the podcast immensely but, as a visual person, I felt the podcast graphics, while on-theme, didn’t really do Will’s audio content justice. The things that make his podcast so enjoyable, his quirky sense of humor and casual tone, weren’t being portrayed at all. Take a look at where we started. It’s not terrible, but it is a little bland.

globe with text

I reached out to Will and offered my services to re-brand his podcast. He accepted. We started down the discovery process and I came back with a handful of concepts:

logos

Anything look unexpected? Yeah, those last two. The dolphins. What’s that about? You see way back in an early episode he recounts a ludicrous story from antiquity (Herodotus’s History) about a man who rode on the back of a dolphin across the sea. More on that here. Herodotus’s episode is a fantastical account scattered amid the rest of his seemingly believable tales. It’s kind of like if a witness was called into court to recount a crime they saw and just when they were wrapping up their incredibly convincing eyewitness account, they mentioned that after they get out of court they’re going to go for a unicorn ride. You, as a juror, would be hardpressed to take the rest of the witness’s testimony seriously.

Anyway, in order to highlight the absurdity, Will intermittently uses a dolphin sound effect here and there for giggles and/or to make a point about the reliability of source materials. It works although you probably have to hear it for yourself.

So that’s the logo Will selected. I took it back to the lab and polished it up. The rest is history. Here’s the final:

 

final logo

 

And here’s a video of the process:

I really enjoyed working on this project because I believe so much in what Will is doing. If you’d like to check out his website to learn more, click here.

Have a great week,

sig

Fine Art Book

Last year, one of my clients asked me to design an “art book” to celebrate their exhibitors. I find that one of the best ways to design with fine art is to get out of the way and let the pieces speak for themselves. The project was a study in simplicity. The cover of the book has a gold foil treatment and is perfect bound. We then added a printed sleeve to keep the booklet protected during shipping.

cover with sleeve art book coming out of sleeve art book on top of sleeve interior spread with wild cat artwork interior spread wtih fox artwork interior spread of art book back of art book - foil logo

 

I was very pleased with the results and so was my client.

Have a great week,

sig

The Case of the Pineapple Cliché

A short (& cheesy) detective story

It was a day like any other day, sunny and hot. I was sitting at my desk (sitting is the new smoking) when the phone rang loudly. The dame on the other end of the line was in distress. I jumped in my car and headed East of the Cooper. When I arrived, my client – let’s call her Trixie – looked up from her desk, anxious, with a handful of papers and a look of panic in her eyes.

Me: Hello, kid. You rang?

Trixie: I need a flyer designed, Detective. It’s for a special event I’m putting on for members of the hospitality industry. I can’t think of any imagery that would work. Can you help?

This case could be tricky, I thought. In a world of endless advertising, it can be hard to express old ideas in new and engaging ways. I went with my gut: Keep It Simple Stupid.

Me: How about using a pineapple? It’s the universal symbol for hospitality.

Trixie: No! I hate pineapples. They’re so overused and cliché.

Me: Trust me, kid. I gotta hunch.

I went back to my office and got to work. A few days later we met again, only this time, I was carrying the papers. I opened up my briefcase and showed her the work.

mount pleasant echa flyer design

Trixie: Oh Detective! It’s perfect.

Me: It’s all in a day’s work, kid. All in a day’s work.

Case Closed. I went back to my office and had a long sit.

The end.

Have a great week,

sig

P.S. A good designer can always find new ways to express a worn-out idea or cliché. If you need a good designer, get in touch: ab@andrewbartondesign.com or (843) 882-7627.