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Startup tips: Creating impactful imagery for marketing and communications

Humans are visual creatures, or at least this human is – the folder of images of cute cats on my desktop attests to this. And it is this hunger for the visual (both of cats and of other things) paired with the need to capture people’s attention, that leads to a lot of folks in marketing and communications spending a lot of their time and their budget on creating the perfect image.

I have worked in businesses where you have an agency whipping up great graphics, or an art department slaving over image retouching. Conversely I have also worked in much smaller operations where I have been the sole person envisaging the campaign, doing the retouching and making the posters. In both situations I have found ways to get the best impactful imagery where resources both of the human and monetary kind are a little thin on the ground. So essentially, the exact tips startups would need.

I spoke on this recently at a communications meetup at the GridAKL Hub, you can find my slides with all ten of my tips over here  or embedded below. I also mention a few resources in these slides, which you can find in the footer of this article. For those not in the clicking mood to read some slides, i have also summarised some key points below.

Four tips for crafting impactful imagery

Actually have a look around at other imagery
Like all things in life, if you don’t know –  have a look at those that do. Set up a Pinterest board or stick a folder on your desktop. If you have to get the ol’ printer going and start an old fashioned scrapbook. Whatever you do, start pulling together images you like! These don’t even have to be clearly marcoms or branding images, they can be art, design or photography. View these images through the lens of someone that wants to A) Understand why they appeal B) wants to take these learnings into your own work. In design school we called this honing our visual language, in real life it is usually called getting the wheels turning. 

Establish the needs to hone the outcome
Like baking a cake without a recipe, putting time and effort into creating imagery without planning the final use will never yield good results. For example, if your key focus is to talk about the human element of your product and the team that makes it, you will want lots of images of people. Think close crops, happy smiley faces, and tangible human images. If your focus is on your product, you will possibly be looking for more images that convey the purpose of this product, the problems it solves or actual imagery of the product in use.

Conversely if you want to focus on images that will be used alongside a call to action ‘click here’ ‘buy this’ ‘book now’, then you will want images that act to reconfirm the call to action.  

Make it easier on yourself (and your team)
Here at the GridAKL Hub we are a core team of 4 people running the day to day activities, with a small team that means that on any given day I may be coding site changes, taking photos or laying up a document, emptying a dishwasher or trying to problem solve the printer (p.s i’m really bad at that – always ask someone else before you ask me).

Doing simple things like creating templates for the creation of social media images, posters and documents frees up my time to work on bigger projects and empowers the rest of the team to be part of the creative process. In your business, this may simply involve letting the rest of your team know the optimum posting size for images for twitter, or giving a basic overview of how you capture images so they can help build your image library.

Motivating your team to be part of the process may involve a little casual bribery (I bribed the GridAKL team with a ‘mystery treat’ if they tweeted every day) or even a little simple clarity, like starting your Monday WIP with an easy request like – ‘We need 7 new images of our work process and ideation in the dropbox by Friday’.

Use the tools you have to the best of your ability
Not everyone will have a background in design, and you shouldn’t be penalised for that. I create the bulk of my work in the standard design suite of products, but these can be pricey to purchase and tricky to learn. There are plenty of online tools or apps that will fit the bill at a fraction of the price. For example, PicMonkey is a great online resource for cropping images and doing basic edits, you can also place text over images or lay up collages quickly and easily, whilst Canva is great for infographics. You can find a list of great tools in the resources list below. 

List of cheap/free tools for photo taking and image creation (Google Sheet) | Pinterest board of compositional tools | Pinterest board of photography tips and tricks |  My favourite colour picking tool | Design Seeds colour palette inspiration | Social media sizes cheat sheet by Sprout Social |

Anya is the Brand & Communications Co-ordinator at GridAKL and is passionate about sharing skills and lessons. If you have a skill you want to share with our GridAKL audience or wish to write about for GridAKL then get in contact with her through our contact page.