Designing Podcast Cover Art: A Step-by-Step Guide for Beginning Podcasters

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“Don’t judge a book by its cover” may be a highly regarded expression, but it has no business being applied to the world of podcast cover art. 

Think about it. Every potential listener has the ability to scroll past dozens of podcasts on an app like iTunes or Spotify in a matter of seconds. If someone isn’t searching for your specific show because of a word-of-mouth recommendation, what is going to make someone decide to start listening to your podcast in the first place? 

Many times, that new listener “hook” will be your podcast’s cover art. Yes — if your podcast is consistent, engaging, and entertaining, then your existing listeners will keep coming back for more. But in the listener acquisition phase, your visual & written components will frequently be your show’s greatest assets. In other words, your podcast will need to catch a listener’s eye before it catches their ear. 

What is podcast cover art?

Podcast cover art is the square icon that appears with your show name when you’ve uploaded your show to a podcasting platform like Spotify, iTunes, or Google Play. 

podcast cover art
Photo: The Audacity Podcast

Look at the image above. Do certain podcasts’ cover art catch your eye more than others? Which design features are present on the cover art that jumps out at you the most? Those may be attributes you’d like to emulate on your own podcast cover art. It is also important to start thinking about the type of design would be a good representation of your show’s topic and tone — but more on that below. This brings us to our first talking point on podcast cover art: branding.

Visual Branding

With any type of branding, consistency is key. When you’re starting your podcast, make sure to apply uniform branding every step of the way.

Design an easily-recognizable logo to use on all of your brand’s assets, like your website, email signature, and social media. Choose a font, color scheme, aesthetic, and brand voice that is the best representation of your show. 

Make sure that your podcast cover art corresponds with the tone and topic of your show. Is your show light, spontaneous, and conversational? Educational and academic? Investigative and mysterious? What type of podcast cover art would best represent that tone?

Next, think about the intended audience for your podcast. How can you create podcast cover art that speaks to your target customer? Start by identifying the type of imagery that will resonate with your target audience the most.

A popular branding exercise you may find helpful is to create a profile of your podcast’s target customer (which, in this case, is your listener). Make a list of your target customer’s attributes and values. Is your podcast for children, or adults? Is your target listener someone who loves opulence and luxury, or are they an eco-conscious minimalist? Does he/she gravitate toward nostalgic, vintage imagery, or a modern, bright-colored design?  Your cover art should communicate the overall feel of your show in order to draw in the right listeners. (You can learn more about branding yourself here.)

Unless you are already well-known within your industry or amongst potential listeners, it is widely recommended that you refrain from using an image of yourself and/or your fellow co-hosts on your cover art. If you’re using your podcast as a strategy to build your personal brand, you may want to include an image of yourself on your podcast cover art. However, keep in mind that you don’t need to feature your own image on your podcast cover art in order to build your personal brand visibility. As your show grows in popularity, your fans can find images and more information about you on your other brand assets, like your website and social media. 

Size & Specifications

When it comes to your podcast cover art, not just any old image will do. Following the image specifications of the podcasting platform (Spotify, iTunes, etc.) is essential — otherwise your podcast will not be accepted.

Requirements

Podcast platforms may only show a tiny thumbnail image of your podcast’s cover art, but that doesn’t mean you can skimp on image quality. The minimum requirements for iTunes cover art is 1,400 x 1,400 pixels, or a 1:1 aspect ratio. However, most podcasting experts recommend a cover art ppi at or close to 3,000 x 3,000 pixels. More ppi (pixels per inch) equals a higher resolution, or image quality.

Your podcast cover art also needs to be in a JPEG or PNG format (.jpeg is recommended), 72 dpi (dots per inch), and in the RGB color space. 

podcast cover art
Photo: IndieWire

Common Mistakes

It is just as important to know what not to do when you’re designing your podcast cover art. Steer clear of pixelated images (often a product of low image quality, as mentioned above), and any imagery depicting illegal, hateful, or controversial things, like violence or illegal drugs.

Your podcast cover art should NOT include the name or logo of the platform to which you are submitting  your podcast. (For example, if you’re submitting your podcast to iTunes, your podcast cover art should not contain the words “iTunes” or “Apple Inc.”, the iTunes store logo or Apple logo, any graphics depicting an iPhone, iPad, or any type of Apple product, or the term “Exclusive” without prior authorization from Apple.) You also are prohibited from using any third-party trademarks or logos without authorization or usage rights. 

Keep in mind is that the podcast cover art you submit will be displayed in a multitude of sizes. For example, on iTunes, your cover art will be displayed as follows:

  • iTunes Store Podcast Page (on desktop): 220 x 200 pixels
  • iTunes Store New & Noteworthy (on desktop): 125 x 125 pixels
  • Apple Podcasts (on mobile): 55 x 55 pixels

Before you submit your cover art to any podcasting platform (iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, etc.), test your podcast’s cover art for compatibility by resizing it to all of the possible pixel specifications that are used by the platform. 

Podcast Title

When you’re choosing the name of your show, make sure to visualize how it will appear on your cover art. The title of your show should be the main feature of your podcast cover art, and choosing a shorter name for your podcast will allow you to put your show title in a larger font, front and center. You want to make sure that your show name is large and clear enough on your podcast cover art to be readable in a thumbnail image. Keep it simple, and make it pop.  

 The title of your show should be catchy, unique, and informative. Avoid choosing a podcast name that is the same as or similar to that of any existing podcasts. It’s a good idea to double check a trademark database to make sure your show name has not already been claimed by another podcast or media business. Finally, make sure to avoid any show names that are long and complicated. Long, complicated show names are difficult to remember, and they also don’t translate well to podcast cover art.

In order to make sure that your podcast title stands out, avoid using overly stylized writing on your cover art that is difficult to read. On the other side of the coin, stay away from boring, generic fonts or sloppy, unpolished designs that could make your cover art look amateur and low-budget. Remember, you want your podcast cover art to help attract new listeners, and that means choosing imagery that represents your show in a positive light. If your cover art is unimpressive, potential listeners are likely to infer that your podcast will be as well.

Graphic Design for Your Podcast Cover Art 

DIY Cover Art

If you’re not a professional graphic designer and you don’t know anyone who can help you out, there are some fabulous DIY graphic design programs that you can use to design your own podcast cover art. If you have a bit of patience, determination, and basic design intuition, beginner-friendly programs like Canva and Snappa offer tools that will allow you to create professional-looking images at zero-to-minimal cost.

If you’re looking for free stock photos to use with your podcast cover art, sites like Unsplash or Pexels offer professional, high-resolution images that are free to download and free to use.

podcast cover art
Photo: Hubspot Blog

Professional Cover Art

If you don’t want to create your own podcast cover art, you can hire a graphic designer to do it for you. If you don’t already know a graphic designer you’d like to work with, there are great platforms that can help you find a freelance graphic designer that can bring your vision to life. Head to a freelancer platform like Upwork or Fiverr to find graphic designers at your price point. You can also look through each candidate’s profile before you hire them to find reviews from their past clients and a portfolio of their work.

The Final Design

Before you finalize your cover art, it is a very good idea to collect feedback from your trusted friends, family, and/or coworkers. This is a great way to identify potential design issues with your podcast cover art before your podcast is up and running, which will help you avoid any unnecessary complications and brand confusion down the road.

Choosing a design for your podcast cover art should be a thoughtful, interactive, and creative process. Stick to the requirements and recommendations outlined above and you’ll be able to create fabulous podcast cover art that speaks to the right listeners and stands out from the competition.

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