Creating a visual identity is one of those tasks many bloggers run away screaming from.
Can't you just see yourself running off towards the horizon, arms wildly waving overhead. Yup, that's pretty much sums up graphic creation and visual identity work for a lot of people.
As this year draws to a close, I've heard rumblings that a number of my favorite blogging friends are looking to freshen up their blog's visual elements and having a list of what you need to work on is always handy when doing a redesign. Either enjoy the satisfaction of checking off the items as you make them yourself or use them as a jumping off point for discussions with your designer.
Ready? Awesome. Here we go.
7 visual identity items every blogger needs
1. HEADER OR LOGO
Your blog's header is usually your blog's biggest visual statement. That's not to say your header or blog name needs to be large, in fact design trends are towards smaller logos right now, but it does need to capture your personality in big way.
Pro Tip: Create your header in 2 different sizes and resolutions (or ask your designer). First, you'll need the one going on your blog or website in 72 dpi (dots per inch) and then you'll need one that is print resolution at 300dpi that's also a lot larger. Dimensions will vary depending on your logo or header size. This larger, high resolution logo is needed for things like business cards or printing on T-shirts.
Not sure the size you'd need for printing? Check out moo.com or another business card service and try to upload your design to it. They'll tell you if the image is large/high res enough for business cards.
Action Break: If you're not design inclined, paying for a header design or getting help from an artistic friend will go a long way to improving the look of your site. You don't have to pay to have every image listed below designed, but you can then use your fancy header to make the rest of the images yourself plus you'll be able to ask what fonts and colors were used to make everything coordinate!
2. UNIVERSAL AVATAR
Building your brand online means you're working on getting out there in social media, meeting people, writing great content on and off your blog and just generally hustling your buns all over the interwebs.
Using a single headshot for all your social media avatars, guest post bios and commenting (enable your free gravatar.com account for that) helps people recognize you faster and starts to build a relationship between you and your audience.
Your avatar is also a great place to use your fabulous, professionally done headshot.
Action Break: Decide on one image for all your social media accounts, bios and commenting. Login to every social media account and gravatar.com and get your images updated up now. Store your high res bio image in Dropbox or Google Drive so you can just send the link for guest post opportunities.
3. SOCIAL MEDIA BANNERS AND COVER IMAGES
Social media sites are chalked full of amazing branding opportunities but so often they are an after thought and your audience can tell.
Want to look like you've got your act together? Spend 30 minutes on your social media images, it'll make a huge difference!
Places to rock out a banner image: Facebook, Twitter, Google + and YouTube.
Pro Tip: Get a list of all the dimensions you'll need for each network(Facebook covers are 815px by 351px, etc.) . Start with the largest image you'll need and work your way down. You can often just scale a graphic smaller and tweak it a bit rather than making completely new graphics for each network. Stuck for inspiration? You don't have to reinvent the wheel here. If you blog is simple and clean, then so should you social media images. Take a cue from your blog when designing your other images, you want a feeling of familiarity.
With your required image dimensions in hand, crack open your image creation software of choice and create your social media images. (Here's a post on free software options for image creation
4. BLOG GRAPHIC TEMPLATE
Images drive social media sharing on some of the biggest social networks in the world. Ignoring the importance of images for your posts is leaving views (and new readers) on the table when you don't have to.
Feel like each blog graphic has be to a masterpiece the likes of which the internet has never seen? Ya, that's way too much pressure! Give yourself a break and create a graphic template that you use on a regular basis so it's more plug and play. The consistency isn't boring for readers, it feels comforting, familiar and builds your brand!
Action Break: If you're having trouble creating a graphic template, check out other blogs that regularly use images, browse Pinterest for inspiration and then get creating. When you can bang out a blog image for your next post in under 5 minutes you'll be on cloud 9!
5. OPTIN FORM WITH IMAGES
When designing a site or having someone else design it for you, not everyone, or every designer, talks about opt-in forms and email list building.
Creating an email list for your blog's subscriptions or a newsletter is one of the single best things you can do for your site and your blog's engagement. It needs to be on your to-do list.
Great design is going to come into play 2x while putting together your email list.
First, you'll want a nicely styled form that looks pro – a designer can help here or you can use a handy plugin for an “easy-button” solution. I use OptinMonster on this site but there are good free options, here and here.
And finally, as part of that form, you'll want something eye catching to draw attention to your opt-in incentive. (Here's a post on creating opt-in incentives if the idea is new to you.)
Take a look at your opt-in forms. Do they look janky
? Can't tell if they are? Look at opt-in forms done right
and see how yours measure up. Decide on your best course of action – hire it out
or do a DIY fix
6. NEWSLETTER TEMPLATE/HEADER
Along the lines of numero 5 above, when you have an email list, you'll be sending out emails.
Those emails can take a lot of different forms, from traditional newsletter type formats to very casual plain text emails and everything in between. Your format depends on your brand and what suits you.
If you're going to be branding your emails with any visual elements, don't leave them as an after thought, get them done at the same time as your header or logo since that's the most common element to include.
Action Break: Make your blog's header do double duty by checking the dimensions of your email header in your email marketing provider of choice. (Mailchimp, Aweber or MadMimi, etc.) Knowing dimensions ahead of time means you can request it from your designer or add it to your own list when making your header.
7. PRODUCT GRAPHICS/BLOG BADGE
The last image you'll need for a completely amazing, dazzling visual brand is advertising images. Depending on your site, you may need a blog badge for link ups, sidebar advertising or other promotions and if you're selling products and services, you may need product images for programs, ebooks, services or courses.
Creating these final images with the rest of your visual elements means that they aren't an after thought and look like a cohesive part of your site and your brand.
Pro Tip: Stick to standard web ad sizes to ensure the most bang for your buck. IAB is a great resource for ads sizes, check out this page and then scroll down to Universal Ad Package for the most current ad sizes.
Action Break: Take inventory of the product images or badges that you need designed. This might be one if you're not selling anything and it can just be a reworking of your header or this task might take longer if you have multiple product/service offerings and everything is a style mismatch from years of designing the images on the fly!