Guest post by Justin Williams from SuperTangent Podcast.
Take it from someone who is both a graphic designer and a podcast host: designing for a podcast sucks. It sucks.
The exigencies of podcast design are unique, conspicuous, and challenging. Often times I have an absolute blast just scrolling through the iTunes library of "new and noteworthy" podcasts, checking out what new types of cover art designs are drawing in potential conversions. It's the same feeling I get as a child browsing through the local Blockbuster Video store, grabbing any new VHS cover that struck some nerve in an unnerving new way. The emptiness of the Ghostbusters cover art. The nightmarish action of Scanners. The dusty sunset enveloping Disney's Aladdin. If we'd never seen those movies before, would the covert art grab you enough to want to rent at the store? If so, congratulations: you're officially a conversion. Podcast designs should have the same effect.
Now of course, the context of the podcast is what is ultimately going to reload your typing trigger figures when searching for a new show. And podcasts are primarily about two things: entertainment, and education. So what designs are going to draw a convert into a podcast? (Now we're getting to why designing for podcasts suck...and why it's so necessary to master.)
Listen, sonny--you don't freaking get into Wonka's chocolate factory without the golden ticket. Well, knowing your design dimensions right off the bat will be your golden ticket for podcast design. And Apple Podcasts, formerly known as iTunes Podcasts, is your chocolate factory; in 2015, Apple dominated approximately 80% of mobile listeners in the realm of podcasting, essentially monopolizing that niche in the general market. Believe me when I say, you need your podcast on Apple Podcasts, if nowhere else. Here's the gold foil: they will only accept podcast submissions with cover art a minimum size of 1400 x 1400 pixels, and a maximum of 3000 x 3000. They will outright reject your submission if your design does not fall into these guidelines. Beginning to see how important this is? We gotta get this right if you want to be heard.
When you're playing around with a 2300 x 2300 artboard in Canva or Adobe Illustrator, it may appear like you have a LOT of space to use up, and that the smart thing to do would be to to utilize that space. As a designer, I would be silly not to recommend the opposite: please leverage your negative space. This is what is most pleasing to the eye, and will give the browsing eye a massive opportunity: to see the quality of your TITLE. That's all the people really need to see, because when somebody is browsing through podcasts in the iTunes library, they'll only appear as these tiny (albeit high resolution) pieces of cover art. The show's context/category aside, the only thing that will matter from this point on is how crisp and clean your logo looks. Place your title logo in the middle, top, or bottom of the cover art and make sure the title is functional and READABLE. Get your potential converts interested in how rich your cover art looks--after all, first impressions are everything--and trust me, low-resolution photography, raster images, and overall rushed art will not be worth the click for most browsers.
Utilize color. Whatever belief you have about certain colors and emotional attachments or associations you make with them will partially ring true in your cover art, whether you want it to or not. Foundational color theory will shake what you think of colors alone, though a knowledge of it is clearly unnecessary here so long as it has distinct and unique meaning to you, the submitter. Depending on if your cover art will be photography or illustration based, knowing your own show's color scheme will largely effect the people drawn to your podcast upon their search. What sorts of colors portray your (the hosts') emotions in the show's context? Think of it this way: if you were only given ONE color to communicate with your potential audience what your show was about, what would it be? And if you already have a website for your show, for goodness' sake keep your colors consistent!!
Dimension. Title. Color. These three bad boys will lead you into podcast prosperity. It'll help keep Apple happy too.