Our graphic designer’s top tips for creating compelling visual content.
Let’s start with a fact, when it comes to social content, visuals get 94% more views than text-based information (Ekaterina Walter.) But what draws someone to an image? We thought of a few reasons, but we wanted an expert opinion, so we had our lead Graphic Designer, Alexandra Reggi, give us her top 8 tips for creating compelling visual content.
1) Make it Recognizable
People “like” or “share” a piece content when it resonates with them, so you should be making content that’s relevant to your audience. You want to foster a connection between content and audience, and choosing the right visuals is a great tool in creating this connection. But it can be tricky to create a content piece that facilitates the right kind of connectivity, so Alexandra started us off with two great examples.
The piece above featuring Dory from “Finding Nemo,” generates connectivity by way of nostalgia. Alexandra used a recognizable character in the content piece in order to embody its message in a fun way. Don’t fret though, if “Finding Nemo” wasn’t quite your favorite Disney/Pixar Film, Alexandra suggests trying out this tip by utilizing images of celebrities, historical figures, or even shots of familiar places like The Golden Gate Bridge.
If you’re more comfortable with design, Alexandra advises taking things a step further, “Don’t stop at just characters or familiar scenes. Utilizing recognizable layouts or themes prevalent in popular culture creates a similar effect on your audience.” This real estate Facebook post playfully mocks the format of the popular dating app “Tinder.” Although nothing about Tinder is mentioned in the actual copy of the post, the layout is familiar to a widespread audience. What’s NOT to love?
2) Look at Current Design Trends
Sometimes it pays off to check out what the cool kids are doing. Do your research, what’s trending in the visual world?
Alexandra points out there’s often a reason for the popularity of a certain design technique or visual trend. Take the filtered image above for example, “filters give the image life,” she says, “let certain trends enhance a basic image.”
The same infusion of life goes for graphic design trends in typography. Taking a note from the inspirational post above, Alexandra suggests using various type-face and ornaments (when applicable) to make sure your text app is fresh and new, “really play around with how you can make your type interesting and unique.”
3) KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid)
We love this rule, and just as it applies to the textual portion of content, you should have simplicity on top-of-mind when it comes to your visuals. “People can only digest so much, ” Alexandra says, so grab their attention by creating a simple, well thought-out image.
Alexandra has a great rule when it comes to simplicity, “make your images look effortless.” When you break- down the post above, it’s really just an image of shoes on a neutral background, with text-overlay, but the simplicity of the post is elegant. The finished product should marry the image and the wording, “don’t choose an image that feels forced.”
As Coco Chanel famously advised, “before you leave the house, look in the mirror, and remove one accessory.” We know Ms. Chanel was speaking about personal style, but Alexandra believes all graphic designers should take her advice. So before you finalize a Facebook Post, a presentation, or an infographic, give it a nice KISS.
4) Don’t be a Square
How many images have you seen with block text centered in the middle of a symmetrical image? Alexandra can answer that, way too many. After a while, our eye craves intrigue, so don’t fear asymmetry!
The post above still adheres to our KISS rule, but instead of centering the text, Alexandra placed it on the bottom left, creating a more compelling image for the viewer. There’s a fine line between simple and boring, and it’s your job to make sure your images fall on the right side of that line (not right in the middle.)
5) Let the Copy Inform your Design (and vice-versa)
The marriage of copy and visual should be a very happy one. Alexandra says she constantly sees content with great copy, and a great visual, but together, they are telling two separate stories, “It’s very easy to make a text application that looks pretty but doesn't match the actual image.” To avoid this misstep, let the image inform what font and graphics you are using.
Originally intended as a content piece for a jeweler, the image above is a great example of what NOT to do. The brown bold text is in direct contrast to the softer feeling of the image. The stark contrast works in a negative way, making the post look harsh and impersonal.
Now that you know what NOT to do, here’s a great example of what you SHOULD be doing. In the image above, the text is pictured on a blackboard, and Alexandra chose her font and design accordingly. Creating a seamless integration of visual and text goes back to her “effortless rule,” don’t force it.
6) Use Images that Appeal to the Senses
Visuals aren’t the only medium Alexandra works within, “whether it’s food, a puppy, a crazy vacation spot, or an inspirational image, try to use images that appeal to the audience’s senses.” An image is more effective if it evokes a sensory response beyond a purely visual one. Playing to touch, taste, smell or auditory response also makes for more effective visual marketing, “sensory images bring the viewer into the photograph and make them want whatever the content piece is about.”
Travel images are often great embodiments of sensory elements. The image above gives off a very distinct feel. Travel images should place the reader or viewer exactly where you want them to be. Travel is an experience, a feeling, and content pertaining to that industry should make the social audiences crave that feeling. This post doesn’t tell it’s audience to travel, it dares them to.
Taste and smell are particularly powerful senses, and the above image of a cup of coffee capitalizes on both. The focus of this image is the cup, as that’s where the most powerful sensory response will come from. But Alexandra's textual application works together with the coffee cup, and the end product creates not just a visual, but allows the audience envision what that coffee cup smells, feels, and tastes like.
7) Dare to be Different
Choosing recognizable images works for a number of purposes, but you should also look to make you and your brand stand out. “If you rely solely on familiar visuals, chances are your audience will lose interest and scroll right past.”
There are plenty of stock images of carrots Alexandra could have used for this image, but by cropping the original photo in an intriguing way, the content piece will hold a better chance of standing out in someone’s social feed. “By finding images that are a bit out of the ordinary, your audience will want to take a look at it for longer. That’s the key--do your best to hold your audience’s attention for a few seconds.” Originality should be celebrated, and content pieces that haven’t been seen before have a better chance of being shared.
8) Give Them Something to Focus On
We’ve talked a lot about the content over-load your customers or audience experiences daily. “In today’s society, our attention spans are almost nonexistent, but that’s why visuals can make a huge difference,” Images can physically tell the viewer exactly what to focus on. “Put simply,” Alexandra says, “find an image that has a focal point.”
Any macro image (or zoomed-in image) that has a focal point with the rest of the image blurred will gain attention. At the very least, it’s aesthetically pretty, but it’s also mapping out the overall story by telling the viewer where to look. If your content post is about how to make quick dinners, like the one above, find an image of a healthy dinner in preparation, then zoom in and focus on the actual dinner so that the rest of the image is slightly blurred. Even better, Alexandra reminds us of another content rule by suggesting to, “add a filter for an extra boost!”
Just as we began with a fact, we’ll end with one, over 50% of your brain processing is visual. This statistic speaks volumes on the importance of making strategic and well-informed visual content decisions. “If there’s one overarching theme here, it’s simply the importance of visuals,” Alexandra says. At their core, all likeable images tell a story, and with Alexandra’s tips, you can make sure your story is a compelling one.
If you're looking for more tips to maximize your social media impact, check out the Likeable Local Resource Center.