By Robert Katai published April 30, 2017

5 Important Visual Lessons From Designers for Content Marketers

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I don’t want to write another article explaining the importance of visual content in your content marketing. And Joe Pulizzi already included the topic in his article about the biggest content marketing trends in 2017 so we don’t need to outline it anymore.

But a lot of marketers still don’t understand visual content.

Visual content is something that you, as a marketer, should work with a designer to create.

Think about it this way: You need to influence people by touching an emotion that will make a segment of readers/consumers interact with you as a brand. And because the internet is so crowded with content, you need to take a step further to attract attention.

What type of content will 65% of the population be more likely to recall? Visual.

65% of the population is more likely to recall visual #content via @SSRN. Click To Tweet

You can’t speak proficiently about visuals for your content marketing if you don’t talk with the people who create them – the designers. Call them however you want: UX/UI designer, web designer, graphic designer, creative director, visual content creator, or art director. They are the ones who consume visual content, create visual content, and think about visual content every day.

And that’s why in this article, I go to these visual experts to share the five lessons content marketers need to know about visual content.

1. Know less is more 

“When marketers feel that every little bit of info needs to be included on a piece that’s when things get very muddy and messy,” says Joseph Kalinowski, creative director at Content Marketing Institute.

And I agree with him.

If you think creating a lot of content will bring you the results you want, well my friend, let me tell you that you are wrong. Creating a lot of content, articles, videos, and social media posts won’t get you more clicks, leads, or whatever else you want to get.

When I asked designer Paul Jarvis what content marketers need to know, I assumed he would reply in three words: Keep it simple. But I was wrong (and right):

Less is always more. Non-designers seem to always want to add elements, more fonts, more colors, more stuff to designs to make it ‘pop’ or stand out. When design, professional design, works best when it’s focused and to the point.

Less is always more when it comes to #design, says @PJRVS. Click To Tweet

Many content marketers want to write one more piece of an article, to insert one more image, or to record one more video. But what if they focused on the thing that is important for them and their audience? Focusing on one point brings them value.

As Mihai Cora, UX/UI designer for Smartketer, says:

Give enough space between the lines. This will make it more comfortable to read.

And I couldn’t agree more.

Yes, your content needs space and time to breathe. Your content needs to let your audience consume it, think about it, and interact with it.

As Jozef Matas, head of design at Teamweek, says, “Reduce clutter and make it breathe.”

Takeaway: Don’t go overboard with text – design to give your content the space and time to be consumed easily by your audience.

Don’t go overboard w/ text. Design to give #content the space & time to be consumed easily.@katairobi Click To Tweet

2. Strike a balance

What’s the right mix between text- and visual-based content?

A 2014 Blog Pros study shows that the 100 most popular blogs on average use one image every 350 words. That means if you write a 2,000-word article you should use at least six visuals, including the featured image.

Use one image for every 350 words in an article, says @blogpros. #design Click To Tweet

But throwing a few visuals in a blog post doesn’t mean that you are doing a good job, or as Joe Kalinowski says:

Many marketers in general have a good sense of design, but there are many times when they overlook some of the basic design principles that should be adhered to when trying to create visual content.

Basic design principles should be adhered to when creating visual content, says @jkkalinowski. #design Click To Tweet

Only half of B2B marketers say creating visual content is a priority. What about the other half? Aren’t they interested in visual content?

Ian Paget, a logo designer and visual content creator, outlines the importance of visual content for a successful content marketing strategy:

Adding imagery every few paragraphs makes the content feel more engaging. Images can be created in a few different ways. Create your own imagery, using photography, software such as Photoshop, or online tools such as Bannersnack. This route is more time consuming, but means that you can create exactly what you need, and have a consistent style throughout your content.

Adding imagery every few paragraphs makes the content feel more engaging, says @Logo_Geek. #design Click To Tweet

Takeaway: Visual content creation should be as important as text or audio content creation.

3. See the color

I believe I lost a few great articles and stories because of the color of the website. I couldn’t understand why the designer (or developer) behind that website used that ugly combination with red and orange, or green and yellow.

Think about how many users you lose each day because of your color combinations. Joe offers this suggestion:

“Think back to the days of your high school art class when you had to make the color wheel. Contrasting and complementary colors, primary, secondary and tertiary colors, the list goes on. You don’t have to get crazy … Just remember that unless it’s the holiday, try to steer away from placing green type on a red background (LOL).

“… If you have a general idea of a color that you would like to use as a base, there is an abundance of online tools like Sessions College that can help you choose colors that will work well with your palette.”

Though the psychology of color is one of the most controversial aspects in branding, you still need to understand its importance.

Takeaway: Every time you launch a content marketing project, make sure your use of color stays true to your brand.

Every time you launch a #contentmarketing project, make sure use of color stays true to your brand. @katairobi Click To Tweet

4. Think about typography

What is the difference between a Sans Serif font and Comic Sans or Curlz? If you’re a designer, I bet you have a few ideas. If you’re a marketer, you may ignore that question but you shouldn’t.

If your type is hard to read, readers will ignore your articles. Jacob Cass of Just™ Creative explains:

(T)ypography plays a huge role in communicating a message visually. Every typeface has subtle nuances that will make or break your visual communication. So learning about the basics of typography will help set you up for visual marketing success.

Every typeface has subtle nuances that will make or break your visual communication, says @JustCreative. Click To Tweet

You don’t have to be a professional in web design and understand the role of every type font, size, and color, but you need to know the basics. Jacob recommends a great book for you: The Non-Designer’s Type Book.

I love the way Joe puts together the importance of typography in this analogy:

Think of a newspaper’s front page, big headline, medium-sized subhead, small body copy with a nice accompanying photo that works well with all of the fonts and sizes. Now, imagine how hard that newspaper page would be to read if everything was the same size, font, font weight. Adjusting size and weight of items in your visual content is a must.

Takeaway: Educate yourself on the basics of typography to ensure that readers won’t find your content hard to read.

5. Don’t let page-load time deter visitors

When your website is loading so slowly that you can watch one season of House of Cards (OK, I’m exaggerating a little bit, but you got the point), you have big problems.

As Google says, the best brand is the one who is there, useful, and quick.

Ian suggests one way to speed things up in design – optimize images: “Make sure when creating images for the web, images are sized and compressed correctly.”

And Patricia Coroi, graphic designer at Flipsnack, says:

More people are consuming content using mobile, so being optimized for mobile is very important. And the best way to check out how ready is your website for mobile is by checking it with Google’s tool.

Takeaway: Make sure your visuals are optimized for the online environment.

Conclusion

I let Denis Matveev, product designer at PromoRepublic, have the last word because he makes the value of design to all content marketers clear:

Apart from art, design is a suite of rules and laws, such as typography, composition and color. When doing design, you don’t steal, but borrow the best decision. Always seek for trends and reference in order to create a working, eye-catching, wow-effect visual.

Apart from art, design is a suite of rules & laws, such as typography, composition, & color. @Matsofski Click To Tweet

So here are the five important lessons from designers every content marketer should learn:

  1. Know less is more – give visitors space and time to pace their viewing.
  2. Strike a balance – see visual content creation as important as text or audio creation.
  3. See the color – stay true to your brand.
  4. Think about typography – give visitors an easy-to-read experience.
  5. Don’t let page-load time deter visitors – optimize your visuals.

Now, get back to your content creation and see what you need to adjust to do a better job. But before you go, which one of these lessons do you think is a general problem for the content marketing industry? Let me know in comments.

Want help in balancing your content marketing mix? Whether it’s visuals vs. text or something else, get advice from experts in CMI’s daily newsletter. Subscribe today – it’s free!

Cover image by SplitShire

Please note:  All tools included in our blog posts are suggested by authors, not the CMI editorial team.  No one post can provide all relevant tools in the space. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used).

Author: Robert Katai

Visual marketer, blogger, and brand evangelist at Bannersnack, a professional banner creation app for designers & marketers. Passionate about visual marketing, Instagram, content marketing, and always up-to-date with the latest trends.

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  • Roger C. Parker

    Dear Robert: Congratulations on a masterful distillation of the 5 important things every content marketers must know about design. There is a pressing need for greater design education among clients.

    I’ve seen so many examples of “over-designed content” that is nearly impossible to read that could have been avoided if tips like your Point 4: “Think about typography – give visitors an easy-to-read experience” had been followed.

    I’d love to see your 5 points made into a “suitable for framing” infographic!
    Roger

    • http://www.robertkatai.com/ Robert Katai

      Thank you @roger_c_parker:disqus for taking your time on reading this article.

      Can you explain your interest on the 5 points into a “suitable for framing” infographic? Are you interested in the design process, research or promotion?

      Robert

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