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Look Good While You Kickstarter: 7 Design Tips for Your Project Image

| April 14, 2014

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Let’s talk fundamentals today, gang.

ComixTribe has become a go-to destination for advice on Kickstarting comics, graphic novels, and other creative projects, and we’ve built a healthy archive of resources for creators here. I’d like to add this one to the mix, on a very simple concept: nailing your Kickstarter project image.

There aren’t that many pre-requisites for launching a Kickstarter project, but the very first thing you need to upload when creating a project is a Project Image.

KS_DesignTips7 The project image will be the most viewed image of your Kickstarter campaign.  Featured on your project page and at the start of your project video, the image shows in all Kickstarter searches, and in all Kickstarter widgets. That probably warrants a little forethought, don’t you think?

I’m going to gloss over a few things that should go without saying. Your project image should  obvious:

  • Be representative of your project. (Yes, Kate Upton is hot, but she has nothing to do with your Robots vs. Ninja-Zombies webcomic collection.)
  • Belong to you. (No copyright infringement.)

Kickstarter projects get reviewed by a review board, which usually catches these kind of violations before they make it to the site.  Instead, let’s focus on things that maybe aren’t quite so obvious.

1) Higher resolution project images look better than lower resolution images. 

Kickstarter project images need to be a Minimum of 640 x 480.  The key word there is MINIMUM. Kickstarter allows JPG, PNG, GIF, or BMP and has a 50MB file size limit, meaning they will accept some higher resolution images.

JPEGs are for photographs and realistic images. PNGs are for line art, text-heavy images, and images with few colors.

 

For most of us, PNG images are a better choice than JPGs for our project images.

If you’re looking for a good file size, try uploading an image that is 1920 x 1140, 300 DPI, PNG.

2) Design your project image for a 4:3 aspect ratio.

This one trips up a surprisingly large number of comic book creators, I suspect because most of the art we have for our projects is vertical, not horizontal, at standard comic book dimensions. Most of us put drawing or commissioning custom Kickstarter project image art at the bottom of our to-do lists (if it ever makes it there at all), and are far more likely to just re-purpose existing art.

Sloppy re-purposing of existing art is one of the biggest project image design faux pas out there.

Kickstarter requires images wider than they are tall.  Lots of project creators (myself included) simply crop their covers to get to a decent 4:3 image, add some copy or a logo, and upload.

Often, that creates a less than desirable project image.

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The two bad examples above show instances of lousy cropping, resulting in art and copy getting cut awkwardly. The good examples, however, were clearly designed with the 4:3 aspect ratio in mind.  Now, I have no doubt the Girl Genius cover above was cropped, but clearly design time and thinking went into applying the logo, copy, and background design elements to make it feel like a well designed piece.

Just like comic readers judge books on their covers, they’re going to judge your project on your project image. First impressions matter, kids. My wife and I are in the market for our first home and we just saw a decent home on the market. But the first thing I noticed was that the front door wouldn’t close properly. Sure, on the grand scheme of things, it’s a small thing…but it was the FIRST thing I noticed about the house, and it colored the rest of the walk-through negatively.

3) Logos usually make for crappy project images.

I get it, you love your book’s logo. You should.

But it’s very rare that a logo, by itself, is a good idea for your project image. The beauty of the comic book art form is the marriage of words and pictures. Why rely on one without the other?

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4) Kickstarter branding on your project image is unnecessary.

I get it. You’re excited to launch your Kickstarter project. You love Kickstarter! (Yay! So do I.)

But understand that being on Kickstarter is not a selling point of your project. So, why include it on your project image?

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I don’t mind a little Kickstarter K in the corner, but adding a lot of copy featuring Kickstarter branding on your project image is redundant. Most people are going to see that image on the Kickstarter website anyway, they don’t need you to remind them where they are.

Why dilute the impact of your image, by sharing the very limited space you have with Kickstarter?

5) Avoid small copy on your image.

Don’t know that I need to say much about this one, besides no one likes to feel like they’re going blind.

Squinting sucks. And when we see words that we can recognize as words, but can’t make out easily, we automatically squint to try to read them.

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Don’t make your prospective backers squint!

And don’t use the 640 x 480 image as your legibility test, but rather use the smaller 200 x 150 image size as a test, as that’s the size of your image that most people will see when browsing Kickstarter.

6) Avoid the center of the project image when placing your copy.

Take a look at this project image:

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Nice, right? It was clearly designed for the 4:3 aspect ratio, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this image was created specifically for the Kickstarter project.  So, what’s the problem?

Here’s what happens when you click on the image, or if you click on a link to get to the project page:

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On the project page, a black PLAY button lands itself right smack in the middle of the title of the image.  If you’re putting copy right smack in the center of your image, know that it will be covered by the play button.

7) Try to make your image stand out.

Now, this is definitely one of those “easier said than done” pieces of advice that everyone hates. (Sorry.)

But at any given moment, 150 comic projects are seeking funding on the Kickstarter platform. (Interestingly enough, that’s about the same as the number of new comics competing on the comic shelf each week.)

Where possible, you should make every effort to make your project image stand out from the crowd.

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Is this article worth your time? If so, please share it:

Before you design your #Kickstarter project image, read this @ComixTribe article!” (Click to Tweet.)

Practicing What I Preach

Early this morning, I launched my third Kickstarter campaign, as artist and co-creator Cesar Feliciano and are seeking funding for THE RED TEN Volume 1 hardcover.

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For my project image, I did what most project creators do…I re-purposed existing art. In this case, I took a CP Wilson sketch of the Oxymoron, my book’s central villain, and manipulated it to look like it was drawn “in blood” which reinforces some of the events of the book.

I’m also using this image as the cover for the book, but cropped it and move some elements around so that it would work at a 4:3 aspect ratio.

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Originally, I also had a red ComixTribe logo on the project image, but decided to remove it because it didn’t pass the small image legibility test, and would have just looked like an unattractive blob in the corner. Furthermore, I think there are very few people at this point that would recognize the ComixTribe brand, but not THE RED TEN (it’s our highest selling title.)

I did want to add the ominous ten tally marks, because they reinforce the concept of the book, a superhero murder mystery, in which ten superheros are knocked off over the course of the series.

Red on white is always a strong color. (It’s part of the reason I designed the Oxymoron character based on that color scheme.) More importantly, you’ll see on the Kickstarter page, I attempted to carry through with a color scheme focused on red and white, with black text throughout the page.

As with every KS campaign, I’ll be trying a few new things this time around. If the project looks like something that might interest you, Cesar and I would love your support.

Okay, this makes sense…but how important is this really?

Ask anyone who’s done a Kickstarter project, and he or she will tell you…it’s a TON of work. Is the project image really that important, you might be wondering. Compared to a lot of other things (current fan following, the project/product itself, social media presence, media outreach, communication and execution), your project image IS less important. A brilliant project image alone likely won’t win or a lose a campaign for you.

No, crafting the perfect project image arguably falls in the “last ten percent” of things to think about.  But I’d like to leave you with Seth Godin‘s thoughts on the importance of the last ten percent:

The last ten percent is the signal we look for, the way we communicate care and expertise and professionalism. If all you’re doing is the standard amount, all you’re going to get is the standard compensation. The hard part is the last ten percent, sure, or even the last one percent, but it’s the hard part because everyone is busy doing the easy part already.

The secret is to seek out the work that most people believe isn’t worth the effort. That’s what you get paid for.

Have Comments or Ideas about Do’s and Don’ts for Kickstarter Project Images? 

DISCUSS THIS ARTICLE AT THE NEW COMIXTRIBE FORUMS, HOSTED BY DIGITAL WEBBING

Keep Reading!

If you found this article useful, you may want to read one of these three articles next:

Kickstalling: 9 Things to Do During the “Dead Zone” of a Kickstarter Campaign

The Kickstarter Laboratory: 7 Experiments in Crowdfunding a Floppy

How NOT to Get Stretched by Kickstarter Stretch Goals

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About the Author ()

Tyler James is a comics creator, game designer, educator, and publisher residing in Newburyport, MA. He is the writer and co-creator of THE RED TEN, a superhero murder mystery, EPIC, a superteen action comedy, and TEARS of the DRAGON, a swords and sorcery fantasy. Tyler is the publisher and co-creator of ComixTribe, which is both a new imprint of quality creator owned titles, and an online community where creators help creators make better comics. Follow him on Twitter @tylerjamescomics, or send him an email at tyler.james@comixtribe.com.
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