Consumerism, social networking, and SEO have changed dramatically in the past five years, so much so that startups and established businesses alike are feeling overwhelmed.
“When and where should I post?” and “What’s the best article we can push today?” and “How can I get a better Google PageRank?” are the questions on everyone’s minds, and they’re having an interesting impact on website content management and design.
Many business blogs throw everything out there but the kitchen sink – the “spray-and-pray” approach – hoping to connect with anyone they can. This reflects a lack of research and planning: a lack of attention toward curating content. Other blogs freeze up and melt away because of time constraints and no immediate results. In addition, decoding algorithms, staying ahead of marketing trends, and keeping up with evolving social media can relegate curating content itself to a secondary consideration.
Given the demands of running a business, all of this is understandable. But it’s also unsustainable for companies aiming to make a lasting impact. Implementing a blog that attracts visitors via search and social and can convert them into clients requires hard work, resources, and – yes – even a little patience.
It all begins with curating content. Here’s how we can help bring it back to the forefront of the conversation.
For 11 years, Bob Ross delighted PBS viewers with The Joy of Painting, a half-hour show featuring the artist re-creating various scenes, settings, and objects on his canvas.
What was brilliant about Ross was that every movement he made on the show was like watching the Buddha explain the mysteries of the universe. When you were through, you felt energized to accomplish grandiose feats with a paint brush. You felt serene, happy, and inspired. Ross was known to make very subtle jokes throughout his show that allowed the audience to float between awe and laughter during the episode.
In the current “constant flow of information” culture of the 21st century, we sometimes don’t know what we should hold back or show to the public. The DIY culture is alive and strong. People want to know your brand’s narrative at a cursory glance, and lots of folks like to look behind the curtain to see what makes your company tick in determining whether they should give you their business.
“BAM!” and “POW!” and “BANG!” are onomatopoeia that still come to mind when we talk about comics.
Take a minute to go back and read those words, and you’ll realize that more than even seeing the word in your mind, you hear the sound of it. This is a big part of the power of comics. It has been said that this power is not found in what happens amid the panels, but what the mind’s eye generates in between.
But what is a comic? To me, and to a lot of others out there in the world, a comic is when you take more than one static image and place them in a sequence. That’s pretty much it. The Lascaux cave paintings in France are some of the oldest forms of human communication we have been able to find, and technically I would consider them a giant cave comic. The biggest element of comics that speaks to human existence is the use of symbols and simplified imagery to convey a narrative. Businesses do this all of the time. Or they should be.
Talking to people is a vital part of almost any business, and your creative talent is no exception. But creative people are very different than your sales force. They see the world differently. They have to.
In order for them to see the world and transpose that perspective into a palpable new construct, they have to push their consciousness to an abstract place where many people choose not to go. You hired them to do this. They have a gift that can inspire movements, and you want that. You want your product or service to not only connect with people, but also transform lives.
There was a time when industry was defined by a select few companies making a select few products.
This was great for the companies, of course, who had little competition, but not as great for consumers, who only had access to … those select few products. Luckily for the companies, those consumers didn’t know any better. Today, though, consumers are savvier than ever before, and the tables have turned.
There’s an oversaturation of commercialism, and to separate themselves, companies must think about their stories as soon as they decide to start a business. Without a story, your product doesn’t stand a chance.
In “The Art of Visual Storytelling in Business,” I asserted that using strong art in content that people can share will translate into more powerful search and social traffic for your website and better branding for your product.
Hiring an illustrator is the first step. Illustrators can get excited about the pieces they’re creating. They can share the stages of development on their own social feeds and websites. All the while, they can tag your business and cite the creative freedom you’ve given them. This is a part of the story. This is a story that you want for your business, and you want it all of the time.
Coming up with ideas for your blog is like coming up with ideas for anything creative. The biggest thing you need to know while brainstorming techniques for your blog illustration is that your initial burst will more than likely not be your best.
The way our consciousness works is that the five senses absorb things all day, every day. Our subconscious is being bombarded with information, and when we sit down to do creative work, our concepts are works in progress; they take time to come together.
In addition, they’ll probably be built on the thoughts of someone else. It’s inevitable.
Also, know this: Most people spend so much time seeing art – even if they’re not aware it’s art – that to not have at least a shred of preference is like saying you don’t like any particular kind of food. Everyone has tastes when it comes to the consumption of creative work.
“All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple of years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not.” – Ira Glass, “Taste vs. Ability”
You log in to Gmail. You can see you have about 17 new messages in your “Promotions” tab. You quickly skim through.
How could you not click on this promotional email from UrbanDaddy? At the very least you’ll look at it, and you probably won’t unsubscribe.
In some cases, you want to take your time to read through the entire email, but you just spent 20 minutes checking your Primary email section and responding to Facebook notifications. You want to see if your favorite businesses have sent you something worth reading, but in reality, you only have a couple of minutes to do so.
One of them has just released their new newsletter. You click to open it, and you see blank image placements and text where email graphics should be. You skim the text and forget to click on the “View images in email.” The newsletter doesn’t seem to make sense for that reason. Oh, and you just got a text from your friend, and where has the time gone? You close your computer, and you were never able to see the full newsletter.
Sound familiar? Even as business owners, we know that an onslaught of information has drowned our emails in a sea of notifications, sign-up lists, chat requests, and text messages. It seems hopeless to even invest in email design, right?
I’m a comic book artist, and that means I think about blog typography in a very different way than most.
Comics rely on typography – or what they call “lettering” in this biz – to an extreme that most people would never have considered. What makes a fist punch onomatopoeia “POW!” the right way? Well, I can tell you it’s a combination of quite a few things.
Good illustration is a challenge and can be time-consuming. No matter how cheap you can get an iPhone, download an app, and cut out parts of the illustration process (pen, paper, etc.), creating quality art takes dedication, patience, and concentration. One only has to watch comic artist Sara Pichelli create an entirely digital illustration in rapid time to understand this.
Social Media Scientist Dan Zarella — the guy who people turn for when it come to social data — recently said, “I do believe the story of the present and near-future of social media is visual content. From the impact of images and video on Facebook and Twitter to the new crop of media-centric social platforms like Instagram and Pinterest, it’s clear that inbound marketers need to be turning out great visual content.”
We happen to agree. When you invest in blog illustration, there’s a sense of quality that’s conveyed to your current and potential customers. They get a “gut feel” about the care you put into your business. They can smell the richness and devotion of your brand when they see humanity in the line work of the illustrations you choose.
There are great websites out there that can give you the history of commercial illustration with facts and figures. What I’m going to do is break business art and design down according to the key points that pertain to how human beings understand imagery.
Here it goes:
People gather in communities, creating the need for communication.
History gains context as generations pass and the need for written communication develops.
Illustration becomes primal and necessary.
A long time passes, and some really smart people invent the written language.
Written language can only be understood by the wealthy, while the lower class keeps a hold of illustration.
Since the few are wealthy and the many are poor, the wealthy still use illustration to communicate with the masses (think cathedrals, statues, ceramics, etc.).
The Industrial Revolution happens, and within a hop, skip, and a jump, we have access to printed text, mass literacy, and centralized communication processes.