As a blogger you have to wear many hats. Usually when you start a blog, you’re a team of one.
You’re a CEO, a writer, a strategist, product developer, and so much more. You have to juggle it all, but one role that most people think they can’t tackle is the role of designer.
A good designer is worth their weight in gold. When you find a designer whose work style matches yours and you have a good rapport, keep them close. Having that relationship will be invaluable for business.
But as a new blogger, you might not be able to afford a professional for all the designy things you need for your site. There will always be small graphics, social media images, and blog post images to make that you either don’t want to or just can’t constantly be hiring someone to create for you.
For all those times, you need to have some basic skills to create images and graphics for yourself. Later on I'll share some links for easy-to-use image creators and extras to create blog imagery no matter your skill level, but let's talk about the overall aesthetic of your blog.
Why good blog design gives your blog a boost
You probably already have a general sense of why good design is so important because you experience it every day. Before you dive into written content, you pay attention to the blog design, right? And when something is visually pleasing, there’s an automatic attraction. You’re drawn to one book cover because it’s more aesthetically pleasing than another, or you read Blog A because their graphics are more consistently cohesive than Blog B.
But creating good blog design does more than just visually stimulate the reader. Good blog design also:
- Shows value in your work– A well-designed site with interesting graphics and images shows a new reader that you’ve put a lot of effort into your site and care about your work. It shows that every aspect of how you present yourself matters and can lead the reader to assume that you will take the same kind of care with them.
- Helps communicate quickly– Readers on the web tend to be skimmers. If you can create content that conveys your point with a graphic, you’ll be more accessible to the average reader. In fact your image may connect with your reader in 13 milliseconds (or less).
- Increases your brand, experience, and marketing– Articles with relevant images get 94% more page views and 50% more shares than pages without images. That means if you want your blogs to get shared across the Internet you need a solid game plan for creating images and graphics.
Now that we’ve realized how important the look of your blog is to the future of your business, we should start talking about where blog design should spring from. Before you can create images for your blog, you need a strategy to create consistency. This is your visual identity.
Why your blog needs a visual identity
Creating a visual identity is an aspect of blog design that many bloggers don’t think about, especially new bloggers. The problem with that is, without realizing it new bloggers will pull images, create graphics, and build flows in their blog that talk over each other or just don’t look good with each other when you step back and see the bigger picture.
Our designer, Charli, says it best:
Think about your blog design and imagery as the visual representation of what you stand for as a brand. You want people to look at your content and get a sense of who you are, so when you’re choosing imagery, fonts, and colors ask yourself if they give the right message that you want to portray.
If your blog is a representation of you who you are, don’t you want to create a calm, well-thought-out space for your reader? Creating one-off images and changing your point-of-view every week is going to look like chaos.
Having cohesive imagery that ties together nicely throughout your blog (eg: same photo style, a small set of fonts and colors used throughout) also makes your blog look way more professional and strengthens your brand.- Charli
Setting your standards for design at the beginning of your blogging journey will help you avoid visual confusion and keep you from spinning your wheels with new designs. To make sure you stay on track with what you believe are your standards, it’s time to create your blog’s brand guide.
How to create your blog brand guide
A blog brand guide is a manual you create that documents your visual identity. It explains how and when design elements are used and helps create a cohesive style for your blog. It’s also great to have set up before you bring on any team members so they can be brought up to speed quickly on your visual identity.
There are many pieces of design that can go into a blog brand guide. But to start out, here are the four main aspects you need to be set on to create images and graphics for your blog and social media.
Four aspects to hit in your blog style guide
- Fonts: Pick 2- 3 fonts that compliment each other to use in your blog posts for body content, subheads, and graphics you create.
- Color: Choose 2-3 primary colors that are consistent with your brand for things like background and font color. Choose 3-4 secondary colors that can be used to add interest (ie- buttons, links, forms).
- Logo: Create a couple versions of your logo that fit different sizes and varied backgrounds.
- Photos: This can include what sites you use for stock photography, what style of images you use (landscapes, portraits, objects, color schemes, etc), and sizes.
Once you have these set, make sure to always check back with your brand guide to make sure you’re staying true to your new identity. But don’t be afraid to redefine your visual identity when the time comes.
If you haven’t noticed, we recently changed the visual identity for our blog. Here’s Barrett, our Tradecraft editor and Director of Marketing, on why we changed it up and how we’re moving forward,
As we took a step back to look at our overall blog strategy, we had this rare opportunity to reconsider everything about the way we were running our blog here at ConvertKit. That included everything from the blog categories, to the topics we were covering, to how often we publish to, yes, the photos we use for our posts.
As I scrolled through our old blog posts, I was uninspired by our imagery. Desk photos had become a defacto part of every blog post, as had stock photos of Apple products, planners, and writing utensils. It left me wanting so much more from our imagery.
We knew we wanted to do something different – potentially drastically different. In considering how to do that, we asked ourselves what it is that inspires our readers. What do they aspire to? What kinds of imagery represents the lives they hope to lead as a result of starting a blog?
We ended up settling on this kind of hipster-chic, outdoorsy, Instagram-perfect imagery that's very much of the moment we're living in and representative of the lifestyle so many of our readers are attracted to. We also decided to go for a more crafts(wo)man aesthetic to the workspace photos we use from now on.
To the raw photos, Charli has added this subtle but beautiful layer of hand-drawn (on her iPad) embellishment that adds just enough flare and personality to turn the photos into our own visual identity for Tradecraft.
The tools you need to make images and graphics for your blog design
Good blog design is all around us, and creating it doesn’t have to be outside your reach. There’s no need to pay a lot of money to buy products like Photoshop to help your blog look good.
Here are some free to minimally priced tools and assets to help you create social media and blog posts images that will help you create a cohesive visual identity:
- Canva- (my personal favorite)
- GIMP – a photoshop alternative
- PicMonkey – often used for adding text to images
- Easel.ly– infographic creator
- Piktochart– infographic creator
- Infogr.am – chart and graph creator
- Beacon- content upgrade creator
- Noun Project (Unless you sign up for a Pro account, Noun project icons are creative commons, meaning you have to give credit to them on their site.)
Create your own graphic for this post and share it!
A lot of planning goes into finding the right feel for your blog design, but keeping up with those standards on your own is absolutely possible. There will be times when a professional designer is needed, but now you’re prepared to take on those smaller, day-to-day images all by yourself. All you need are tools you’re comfortable using, professional looking assets, and a visual identity to check in with.
Did this spot give you the confidence to design your own social media and blog images? If so, share this post on Twitter and attach your own graphic for the social post’s image. Show us what you’ve got!