When browsing through podcasts via services like Apple Podcasts, before anybody hears your podcast or even reads the title of your show or episode, they see a graphic representation of it. This graphic, known as "podcast cover art," will often determine whether or not people click to get more information on your podcast or listen to it.
When you think of your podcast cover art in this way, it's more important than any of the other information a potential listener sees when he first discovers your podcast on Apple Podcasts, including the name of your podcast. At the very least, your podcast cover art is as important as what's "under the hood" of your podcast including audio quality, the equipment you use to record, the length of your podcast, who you’re interviewing, or the topic of your podcast.
"Podcast Art" consists of two things:
One of the biggest issues podcasters face is "banner blindness" — visitors to a website or subscribers listening via a podcast player consciously or subconsciously ignore a graphic if it appears too often. Or more often in the case of podcasting, listeners confuse episodes of the same podcast because each has the same graphic.
The more podcast episodes you release, the more likely you'll have this issue. As an example, my marketing podcast for podcasters, Build A Big Podcast, started as a daily podcast. Not using episode art would mean subscribers would see the same image in their feeds 31 times per month.
That would get old. Especially since the "black and white" cover art image for Build A Big Podcast isn’t very exciting…
Black and white imagery can stand out when compared to full-color graphics, which is what 99% of other podcasts have and why I’m using it. But if you any image more than a few times, especially a single-color image, it’s easy for it to get lost.
To help episodes of Build A Big Podcast stand out from other podcasts and differentiate themselves from each other, I have more than 60 different episode graphics.
Images like these:
All have the same motif, so it’s obvious from looking at any of them which podcast they belong to. This is key — when somebody looks at your episode art, he needs to know which podcast the episode is from. Random graphics, even though they may help a podcast stand out in a feed, don’t do this.
Here’s a example of episode art from Collected Clan:
Again, all have the same motif. so it's obvious to which podcast the episodes belong when viewing them in a feed.
I do something similar with the episode art for RED Podcast, rotating between red, black, and white backgrounds.
If I do a special series of episodes, like I did for the release of The Free-Time Formula by Jeff Sanders, I can change the colors to let people know an episode breaks from my standard format while still keeping the overall design intact.
Below are additional variations of "special episode" graphics with colors that reflect the subject of the episode:
Obviously, a program like Photoshop can more than handle the job of creating great episode art for your podcast. I prefer Canva though due to its simplicity.
Canva is free (for the basic version) and quicker to use than Photoshop. As a bonus, Canva has dozens of great "CD Covers" templates that work well for podcast art and will get you started on a great design.
Want another option? RelayThat that will take the basic elements you want to include in your graphic, such as your podcast's logo, podcast name, and episode title, and automatically "remix" them to generate dozens of different design options. This is a great tool if you want to generate individual episode graphics not just for your podcast episode itself, but for social media outlets and other places where you promote your podcast.
Both cover and episode art for your podcast should be big and it should be bold. What looks great on the canvas that Apple Podcasts and other podcast distributors require for podcast artwork (3000 x 3000 pixels is common) isn’t nearly as easy to read when it's compressed down for use in the Apple Store or displayed on small screens such as mobile phones.
The "big rule" here is what you want simple graphics that will be easy to read on a small screen.
Want more specifics? Daniel J. Lewis from The Audacity To Podcast goes deeper into the subject of great podcast cover art in his article (and podcast episode) called How To Make Great Podcast Cover Art.