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Creating Visual Content: The Favorite Tools & Tips for Non-Artists
26th May 2015 • Hit Publish • Rainmaker.FM
00:00:00 00:18:13

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You don’t have to be a trained artist to create stop-them-in-their-tracks images that boost your content’s effectiveness.

These days, you can find easy-to-use free tools that will allow you to create beautiful images for your blog, website, and social media.

This week on Hit Publish, I’ve invited three Copyblogger experts to share their best advice creating remarkable visual content.

Tune in to hear from Demian Farnworth, Chris Garrett, and Lauren Mancke as we discuss:

  • Why images “put the brakes” on readers, and why that’s a good thing
  • Which “off the beaten path” visual content creation tools you should start using today
  • Crucial tips non-designers should keep in mind when putting together images

Listen to Hit Publish below ...

The Show Notes

The Transcript

Creating Visual Content: The Favorite Tools & Tips for Non-Artists

Voiceover: This is Rainmaker.FM, the digital marketing podcast network. It’s built on the Rainmaker Platform, which empowers you to build your own digital marketing and sales platform. Start your free 14-day trial at Rainmaker.FM/Platform.

Pamela Wilson: Hi. It’s Pamela Wilson, and you’re listening to Hit Publish, where I cover simple ways to get better results with your online business.

Today’s episode might transform the content that you create online. Really!

Here’s the thing. We are visual creatures living in a verbal world, and by that, I mean that our brains are wired to process the information in images at a speed that far outpaces our verbal processing speed.

Yet, at the same time, we are reading all day long. We’re processing words, and over in this other section of our brains, we have this high-speed image processing engine that’s just sitting there idling.

All your website visitors have that same high-speed image processing engine in their brains.

Did you know that it only takes 13 milliseconds for us to read and understand an image?

It may actually be less time, but 13 milliseconds was the smallest amount of time that the scientist who performed this experiment could measure.

I want to read you a quote from David Williams, the Director of the Center for Visual Science at the University of Rochester.

David says, “More than 50 percent of the cortex, the surface of the brain, is devoted to processing visual information. Understanding how vision works may be the key to understanding how the brain as a whole works.”

That’s a lot of firepower behind understanding visuals.

Pairing strong visuals with your verbal content will help you to boost how quickly your messages get across.

In today’s episode, you’re going to hear why images ‘put the brakes’ on your readers, and why that’s actually a good thing.

You’ll also discover which ‘off the beaten’ path visual content creation tools you should start exploring and using today. I’ll share tips that you can keep in mind if you want to create images for your content, but you don’t have any design or art training.

I want to thank you for downloading this podcast, and I want to thank Rainmaker.FM for hosting it.

Are you ready to create beautiful images to go with your content?

Let’s Hit Publish.

Hit Publish is brought to you by the Rainmaker Platform, which handles all the technical elements of good online business practices, including design, content, traffic, and conversion. To check it out, head over to Rainmaker.FM/Platform right now and get started building your online business.

Why Images ‘Put the Brakes’ on Readers, and Why That s a Good Thing

We’re going to hear from Demian Farnworth first.

Demian has been a writer for many, many years and is one of those writers who’s just into images.

He really enjoys carefully pairing well-chosen images with his words, kind of like a well-chosen glass of wine that makes your food taste even better. I guess that makes him an image connoisseur.

Anyway, I wanted to hear directly from Demian why he thinks visual content is important.

Demian Farnworth: The web is a visual media. Even for those of us who love to read, again, you can’t resist how pretty huge images look and HD quality videos look.

Online, even if you are a podcaster or a blogger in the old traditional sense of writing, visual content is important for two reasons — from the reader’s side and from your side.

From the reader’s side, it’s the way to grab somebody’s attention. I learned this trick from Robert Scoble a long time ago. He was telling Tim Ferriss how he whizzes through 1000 blog posts a day within 20 minutes or something like that — just to get an idea, a feel for what’s out there, what’s interesting, what he can share on his Twitter account.

Basically, what he did was, he’d sit in his RSS feed and scroll through there fast, and one of the things that got him to stop was always a great image.

So ever since that point, that it was in 2006, 2007, that stuck with me, and I was like, “I’m always using that” — because it’s true, images grab people’s attention.

On the other thought side, from the creator’s side, I like using images because it’s another way in which you can express who you are and your personality. I always get great compliments on the photos that I use.

I do take a considerable amount of time on my personal site, The Copybot, because I choose them based upon my personality and what I would think. People who appreciate that kind of artistic expression start to gravitate around you for that sense alone but also for your copy, too.

From those two avenues — from grabbing somebody’s attention and also another vehicle in which to express yourself — that’s why visual content is really important on the web.

Pamela Wilson: I love it. Our goal should be let’s get Robert Scoble to put the brakes on.

Demian Farnworth: Exactly. That’s a good way to put it.

Pamela Wilson: Stop for our blog and read it. And anyone else honestly, because a great visual will do that. It puts the brakes on and forces people to take a look and then hopefully draws them right down into your copy.

Demian Farnworth: Yeah, I have to emphasize, too, is that it’s OK, sometimes it would be half an hour, pushing an hour looking for the right image and the worst part of that is because you’re looking for the right image that you can actually use without getting in trouble, but it’s worth the time.

Eventually, all the pieces come together. It’s something that just reinforces what you’re talking about in your blog post, but also it just stands out. It’s striking, and that’s a good thing. Spending anywhere between half an hour to an hour on an image is OK in my book.

What do you think? Is that OK?

Pamela Wilson: I think that’s OK. I don’t usually take that long. I don’t know why that is. I’ve been looking at images — I’ve had a career as a designer and an art director for decades at this point. It doesn’t usually take me that long.

I think part of it is becoming familiar with these different stock photo sites and the different places where you can find images. You just have a better chance of hitting the correct site for the kind of image you want. That’s part of it, just starting out in the right place.

Then I find when I’m looking for images, adding the right keywords when you’re searching can make things really interesting. For example, adding the word ‘concept’ or the word ‘abstract.’ If you’re looking for an image to express speed, you can add ‘speed’ and then the word ‘concept.’

Then sometimes the images are just a little bit more interesting than what you would get if you just added the word ‘speed.’ Little tricks like that help.

The other thing is, also, I look for an image, but I also recognize that there’s sometimes that ‘perfect image’ you have in your head. You’re just not going to find it. You have to keep an open mind and look at images and say, “Well, that’s not what I was thinking I wanted, but it might work great.”

It’s like anything else. The more you do it, the better you get, and the faster you get.

Demian Farnworth: That’s right. I should probably point out, too, that’s not average. I meant to say it more that if you ever find yourself in that situation, that’s OK.

Pamela Wilson: Right. It’s worth the effort. The effect that it has is definitely worth the extra time that it may take to find an image that really works, so I agree.

Demian said visual content gives you a way to grab someone’s attention. It kind of stops them in their tracks. That’s important. With so much content out there, good strong visuals will help your content to stand out.

Which ‘Off the Beaten Path’ Visual Content Creation Tools You Should Start Using Today

Pamela Wilson: Next up is Chris Garrett. Chris may not have studied art or design, but he enjoys using images in his work. I can tell that he likes exploring what they can do and how they complement his verbal communication.

I happen to know that Chris uses some unconventional tools for creating images. I asked Chris to share his favorite free and low-cost tools for putting together visual content.

Chris Garrett: My free tools, the ones that I use all the time, probably a little bit unusual, I like Skitch, MindMeister, and Apple Keynote. I think the latter is probably the strangest one.

Skitch is great for screen capture. It’s also really good for resizing and adding captions and arrows. I know you can do a lot of that stuff in Canva, but I do like it on my desktop. I like it available for a keyboard shortcut. I use it all day, every day.

A big tip is right now I use the old version, which is 1.012, because they created a new version and actually removed some features, so I like the old features. I’m sure they’ll reintroduce them, but they do have a download of the old version if you look for it.

MindMeister is for using mind maps. And they are really good for creating bonus material, as well as being a planning tool. MindMeister I use because it’s collaborative, and you can export as different formats.

Apple Keynote, which is the one I said was a bit strange, it’s free to Mac owners, and you can do all kinds of visuals in that. You can even manipulate your images to an extent — like remove the background automatically, which can come in handy. You can also export as a PDF or an image, so I like that aspect of it as well.

Pamela Wilson: It’s very easy, too. I mean it’s different than a lot of the other image manipulation programs, but once you get a handle on Keynote, it’s amazing what you can do.

I love that. These are not the recommendations I expected, but they’re great. Thank you.

Chris Garrett: The really cool thing about Keynote is you can actually do almost vector drawings like you would do in Illustrator. You can actually edit the lines. If you want to get really nerdy and do a really detailed illustration, you can even do that in Keynote, which may not be advisable, but it’s free for Mac owners.

Pamela Wilson: Who cares how you put the image together? Chris’s unconventional image creation tools serve as a good reminder — use the tool that you are most comfortable with to create images. It doesn’t have to be fancy, and it certainly doesn’t need to be costly.

Crucial Tips Non-Designers Should Keep in Mind When Putting Together Images

Pamela Wilson: To wrap things up today, we have Lauren Mancke.

Lauren is a top-notch designer who’s the force behind all the beautiful podcast cover art that you see on Rainmaker.FM. She’s also the lead designer at StudioPress and is responsible for some of the most beautiful themes that we sell.

I asked Lauren to share what non-designers should keep in mind when putting together visual graphics like social media images and infographics.

Lauren Mancke: The first thing to keep in mind is that your content should drive the design. The number one goal of any graphic design is to present information.

You’re more likely to end up with a graphic that’s effective, drives traffic, and reinforces your message when you’ve designed it after the content has been written.

Your graphic needs to be unique enough to attract attention on a crowded social network and spark curiosity, but at the same time, convey the message of the post to the reader.

You want to make sure all of the elements in your design have a function that supports that message. Leave them out if it doesn’t.

Good design should never overwhelm or confuse a user with unneeded information.

You want to keep it simple, and you want to also make use of white space. A lot of designers know the importance of white space, but someone who’s just starting out might not. It’s imperative.

You need to have white space around all of your text, images, lines. You need to include it between your elements and the edge of the graphic. It really helps with readability and, ultimately, the ease in which your message gets to the reader.

It doesn’t always mean going for a minimalist look. It just means understanding your components and how they relate to each other and, really, the successfulness of the overall graphic.

Pamela Wilson: So you shouldn’t say, “I need to cram as much information as I can into this space”?

Lauren Mancke: Right. You also want to keep in mind your typography choices and using visual hierarchy to highlight those. Less is more when it comes to typefaces.

A couple or even just one in a family of complementary fonts can be far more impactful and effective than a jumble of varying styles. If you use too many fonts, you run the risk of looking cluttered and lacking a clear message, which is really the point.

You also don’t ever want to stretch out your font. If it needs to fill a space vertically or horizontally, look for a taller, thinner typeface or a more horizontal typeface.

Pamela Wilson: I know visual hierarchy is how we present information in a way so that people understand what’s most important and then what’s the next most important thing, what’s the least most important thing on the page so that they can make their way through the information.

We’re doing that through the way we apply color and size and the way we position things on the page or on the graphic, right?

Lauren Mancke: Yes, and you want to pay attention to details like that. Design is in the details. Even if your design is simple and you’re using a minimalist approach, that just means your design probably has more white space and more space for flaws to become apparent.

You should always use a grid and guidelines to make sure all of your elements are lined up and spaced evenly.

You want to be aware of how each element relates to each other, so even when you do break the rules and you break the grid and allow elements to go across two columns, do it purposefully so that it’s clear that it’s a conscious choice. If it’s too subtle, it may just look off.

Pamela Wilson: Yeah, I agree. I think that’s a mistake a lot of people make. It’s like you have to make your decision with gusto and show that you really mean to break the grid.

Lauren Mancke: Yeah, exactly. You also want to keep in mind cross-platform. Whether you have a mobile-first or desktop-first workflow and you...





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