Cover Art Corruption


(By Jessica Kupferman) A long time ago, as a Web designer, I had a client who was, in her words, “a visual psychopath.” What she meant was that she was bold, she liked what she liked, and she showed no remorse whatsoever about incorporating ALL the things she liked.

The problem was, she only liked stuff because of LOGICAL reasons, not visual ones.

She wanted the logo to be a rhinoceros because it’s a very strong animal. She liked brown, because it was earthy. Red, because it was bold. Yellow, because her car is yellow. And she wanted a star incorporated into it all because she’s the star of her own show.

Each reason for the element she liked made sense. But, together, hoo boy.

This is how I often feel when I look at podcast art. That we are a very large, talkative group of visual psychopaths. And it’s high time we are arrested for these crimes.

Crime #1: Forgery

I know I don’t have to say this to any of our readers at this point, but it illustrates this crime so clearly: no microphones on fire.

Nothing, in fact, on fire.

Making an attempt to make your cover art just like another podcast’s cover art is really, really a bad idea. Podcasting isn’t like retail. People WILL notice if they press “Play” on your show and it’s not, in fact, their favorite business podcaster Tim Ferriss, but an unknown, middle-aged white guy with a receding hairline staring at them from the top of his cover art (aka YOU).

Be yourself, put something original out there, and be known for being you. Not a NinTONdo version of a video game, but the NinTENdo of what YOU do.

However! This leads me to:

Crime #2: Impersonating A Celebrity

So many of us start a podcast for notoriety, on some level. When you are ambitious and talented, knowledgeable, and noteworthy, of COURSE you should put yourself on the podcast cover art, right?

Not necessarily. Unless one is recognizable and somewhat famous in their niche already, there is absolutely no need for a new podcaster to have their face on their cover art. The first time this was pointed out to me was by Chris Brogan and it has always stuck with me. Why take up the entire square with your own face? Use that tiny, valuable real estate to make sure the title is clearly readable and the subject is obvious.

Make the art irresistible, and that’ll be the best way to draw listeners.

Crime #3: Misappropriation Of Fonts

When designing cover art, podcasters usually have the specs in mind of 3000px wide by the same tall. Designing and approving that cover art, we often forget that regardless of where listeners look for shows to listen to, the art is SUPER small and not the same size on our screens.

Cover art commonly has the title of the show, the tagline, the byline, and sometimes even a little explanation to go with it. NONE of this is necessary. At small sizes, it’s best to make sure the title is legible, and the rest — tagline, byline, description — will be in the show’s listing.

Episode art often commits this felony as well, with the show title, episode title, host, AND guests’ names and titles. Keep your graphics as simple as possible at ALL times, and use the promotion space where you’re posting to entice the reader with the episode title, subject, and guest information.

Crime #4: Unlawful Assault On Logic

There are so many clever wordplay podcast names out there, and whenever I see one I’m jealous I didn’t think of it first.

In fact, just this week in my women’s podcasting group, She Podcasts, a member asked for some name suggestions for a podcast about the history of cannibalism and got gems such as Nice To Eat You, The Meal Next Door, To Eat His Own, and one of my favorites, simply Eat Me.

Those puns make perfect sense, and if she chooses one of those titles the art should make sense to the audience as well.

Problems come when podcasters try to be too cute. For example, the title: Running For Your Life; is it a show about jogging or true crime? Off The Deep End; is this a show about mental health or cruising? Or swimming?

Don’t be vague. This is one of those times where simple and obvious will work in your favor. Make sure your title, cute or not, shows potential listeners EXACTLY what they’re getting into when they press “Play.”

And please don’t add “preneur” to anything anymore. That’s been done, time to move on.

The truth is, each of the above crimes is being committed by the same visual psychopathy that my client was using.

Naturally, if one podcast is successful, copying or creating something similar is bound to work, right? Putting your face on the cover art of the podcast that YOU are hosting makes perfect sense because you want to let the listener get to know you better. Putting lots of information about the show is very logical as well because we want the listener to make as informed of a decision as possible. And being clever with a name, a pun, what better way to attract attention?

All of these mistakes are perfectly logical, but have severe visual consequences. When it comes to creating podcast graphics use your eyes as well as your brain to make the best decisions you can for drawing in listeners.

And hey, if you’re short on time or don’t trust yourself to stay on the right side of the law, there’s a new service by Rebel Base Media called the Podcast Design Studio, where for a very reasonable price, you can work with an award-winning designer to create everything from episode art to an entire website.

Jessica Kupferman is Head of Marketing for Rebel Base Media and can be reached at [email protected]


  1. Bang on Jessica, I’ve created numerous podcast cover art for people and I’ve encountered podcasters asking for each one of the crimes you’ve mentioned.

    Another one is using the word “Podcast” in your title. People know it’s a podcast, you don’t have to remind them. Even if you call your show “The Sitting Around Doing Nothing Podcast” your cover art should simply be “Sitting Around Doing Nothing”. Don’t take up what little visual real estate you have with redundant information.

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