When browsing through podcasts via services like Apple Podcasts, before anybody hears your podcast or even reads the title of your show or episode, they see a graphic representation of it. This graphic, known as "podcast cover art," will often determine whether or not people click to get more information on your podcast or listen to it.
When you think of your podcast cover art in this way, it's more important than any of the other information a potential listener sees when he first discovers your podcast on Apple Podcasts, including the name of your podcast. At the very least, your podcast cover art is as important as what's "under the hood" of your podcast including audio quality, the equipment you use to record, the length of your podcast, who you’re interviewing, or the topic of your podcast.
"Podcast Cover Art" consists of two things:
- Show Art - This is the image most people refer to as "podcast cover art" and defines your podcast as a whole. It's the graphic people think of when they think of your podcast and the one people first see when your podcast is displayed on Apple Podcasts or Google Podcasts.
- Episode Art - This is art for each individual podcast episode, which listeners see once that episode has been downloaded. If done right, these episode graphics are based on your show's cover art and contain many of the same elements.
Why Unique Artwork For Each Podcast Episode Is Important
One of the biggest issues podcasters face is "banner blindness" — visitors to a website or subscribers listening via a podcast player consciously or subconsciously ignore a graphic if it appears too often. Or more often in the case of podcasting, listeners confuse different episodes of a podcast because each episode uses the exact same cover graphic.
The more podcast episodes you release, the more likely you'll have this issue. As an example, my marketing podcast for podcasters, Build A Big Podcast, started as a daily podcast. Not using different art for each episode would mean subscribers would see the same image in their feeds 31 times per month.
That would get old. Especially since the "black and white" cover art image for Build A Big Podcast isn’t very exciting...
Black and white podcast cover art can stand out when compared to full-color graphics, which is what 99% of other podcasts have and why I’m using it. But if you any image more than a few times, especially a single-color image, it’s easy for it to get lost.
The Secret To Great Podcast Episode Art
To help episodes of Build A Big Podcast stand out from other podcasts and differentiate themselves from each other, I have more than 120 different episode graphics.
Images like these:
Each episode graphic has the same motif, so it’s obvious from looking at any of them which podcast they belong to. This is key — when somebody looks at your episode art, he needs to know which podcast the episode is from. Random graphics, even though they may help a podcast episode stand out in a feed, don’t do this.
Here’s an example of podcast episode art from Collected Clan:
Again, each has the same motif. so it's obvious to which podcast the episodes belong when viewing them in a feed.
I do something similar with the episode art for RED Podcast, rotating between red, black, and white backgrounds.
If I do a special series of episodes, like I did for the release of The Free-Time Formula by Jeff Sanders, I can change the colors to let people know an episode breaks from my standard format while still keeping the overall design intact.
Below are additional variations of "special episode" graphics with colors that reflect the subject of the episode:
Resources To Create Podcast Cover Art
Canva is free (for the basic version) and quicker to use than Photoshop. As a bonus, Canva has dozens of great "CD Covers" templates that work well for podcast cover art and will get you started on a great design.
Stencil is similar with both free and paid options.
Want another option? RelayThat that will take the basic elements you want to include in your podcast cover art, such as your podcast's logo, podcast name, and episode title, and automatically "remix" them to generate dozens of different design options. This is a great tool if you want to generate individual episode graphics not just for your podcast episode itself, but for social media outlets and other places where you promote your podcast.
General Rules For Great Podcast Cover Art
Both show and episode cover art for your podcast should be big and bold. What looks great on the canvas that Apple Podcasts and other podcast distributors require for podcast artwork (3000 x 3000 pixels is common) isn’t nearly as easy to read when it's compressed down for use in the Apple Store or displayed on small screens such as mobile phones.
The "big rule" here is what you want simple graphics for your podcast cover art that will be easy to read on a small screen.
- Less is more.
- No more than five words on your podcast cover art. Anything more and the font size you’ll have to use to fit everything in will be too small to easily read on a mobile device.
- No "fancy" fonts. Avoid handwritten and "cursive" style fonts that make people work to figure out what you’re trying to say.
- No dark text on a dark background (or light text on a light background).
- No text on top of a photograph or complicated background.
Want more specifics? Daniel J. Lewis from The Audacity To Podcast goes deeper into the subject of great podcast cover art in his article (and podcast episode) called How To Make Great Podcast Cover Art.