Are you making the most of the visual tools Etsy provides you to tell your shop’s story? In this episode, our very own Jade (hey guys that’s me!) has some great tips for your cover photo, shop icon, about page and more. You may recognize me as the author of our Etsy Jam blog post each week – but I also help out with a ton of other things at Marmalead including graphic design – which I have a passion for. Stick around to get to know me a little better and learn how you can do a quick self assessment on your shop’s visual storytelling.
A little of my backstory
I got into graphic design about seven years ago when I was living in Colorado. I’m self taught and fell into design by accident. Originally I went to school to be an X-ray technician, quickly realizing that wasn’t for me. I’m truly an artist through and through. But I finished the program with honors and promptly fell into design once I graduated. Made my parents really excited that I wasn’t using what I went to school for;) The universe seemed to aline everything for me in this case and I started writing and then designing for a women’s magazine based out of Colorado. From there I took off with design! A good friend who had been designing for years taught me the basics and it was up and away from there.
Taking the plunge
I did step away from graphic design as a job couple years later, but could never completely escape that artist drive in me. As of eight months ago I finally worked up the courage to leave my corporate job to do graphic design/writing/painting full time as a freelancer. As a lot of you reading this might understand, it was dang scary! I was walking away from a steady paycheck to do what I loved. But this came with the monetary uncertainty those of us experience when you suddenly have to come up with all your own business. Thankfully the universe was on my side once again as I found my current position at Marmalead about two weeks after going out on my own. I absolutely LOVE being a part of the Marmalead team and hearing from our readers/listeners!
The guys and I chat in the Jam about what a journey it is to discover what you want to do with your life. The whole reason I went into the medical field to begin with was because I basically had zero idea what I wanted to do. I had a friend who wanted to be an ultrasound tech and I thought it sounded interesting. That’s what got me into x-ray school to begin with. Now that I’m in my thirties I’m truly beginning to realize how fast time goes and that life is too short to not do what you love. Though I hope to do graphic design for a long time to come I’ll always be the kind of person looking for new adventures and side jobs/hobbies to pursue!
A bunch of millennials
Gordon, Richie and I are all solidly millennials. When the guys asked me about freelancing and taking the plunge, I had to bring up our generation because this is definitely a factor in the decisions I’ve made. I’ve read in more than one article recently about how much the definition of what success is has changed compared to what success was to the generations before us. No longer does our generation look at having more “stuff” as being successful. Where as our parents wanted the big house and expensive cars (there’s nothing wrong with this) the millennial generation values experiences and having control over our time. I am very much this way. The driving force behind leaving the corporate world and working for myself was being able to have my time given back to me. I value this freedom so much and will take the uncertainty of a paycheck over being chained to a desk. So far, this has worked out in my favor!
Designing for Etsy
One thing I haven’t had a chance to do yet is to help design an Etsy shop. Of course I’d be open to this if anyone ever wants to hire me for the job. There are still many different things I look for as a designer when I’m in an Etsy shop. If you own an Etsy shop I feel that having good design is very important for not only your visuals but for your sales as well. Good branding and design is your way of presenting who you are to the world. It’s the book cover for your businesses’ story. Though we hear often not to judge a book by it’s cover that is exactly what we do in many aspects of life.
Exploring the shops
Since I’ve been working for Marmalead doing the jams and blogs, I always check out each of our guest’s Etsy shops. I do this to simply learn more about the person I’m writing about. As a designer there are naturally a few things that jump out at me right off. I’ve been an Etsy buyer for years long before I was into graphic design.
What has always been interesting to me is how what a shop looks like over all dictates how long I’d stick around in it. If I enter a shop and the design is terrible and if it feels disjointed, I would/will quickly leave and keep on searching. Even if the shop might have exactly what I’m looking for, if the pictures were poor quality and it all feels thrown together I would rather keep searching for a shop that is beautifully designed and has a natural flow. This communicates to me that the seller really cares. It builds my trust in them.
Though you might not think good design and flow is super important for selling your products, think again. Over and over numbers show that good design sells. This is why some of the largest companies in the world spare no expense to have a brand that communicates their story visually.
Writing your story
Good design has the ability to write your story. I personally feel it’s extremely important to communicate this in an organized and beautiful way. You’re showing and telling the world who you are and what you’re passionate about. So what are some of the things I look at practically speaking that communicate that story to me? Well, read on!
Flow, baby, flow
The first thing I look at is the shop as a whole. How’s the cover photo? How’s the shop icon? How are the pictures on the listings? Is everything working together well or does it feel random and thrown together?
Cover photo and shop icon
Even if you’re not a designer, the first couple things to think about are your cover photo and shop icon. Are they clear? Is your cover photo communicating what you want it to? Think of this as a blank canvas on which you can begin your story. It’s important that whatever you choose to put in either of these two places are sized correctly. Do they size up and down well? Make sure if you’re sizing your image up that it’s large enough it will not look pixilated. If you’re sizing it down for the shop icon can you still tell what it is in that small little box? All of these things are important to think about when choosing what you’ll use. If you’d like a practical example of what I think is a great cover photo and shop icon you can check that out here.
Next you want to think about colors. Ideally it’s a good rule of thumb to choose between three to five colors to work with. As a designer I’m not about being matchy matchy with anything. Don’t get me wrong when I say choose a limited amount of colors, you can play off the different shades you’ve chosen. It is important though not to choose random colors that clash together. If you’re using a logo, what colors are in your image? If you’re using a painting for your cover photo what can you pull from there? And how can you incorporate this into your listing photos as well?
Another fun thing I love to do when choosing colors is to run into Lowe’s or Home Depot and browse through the paint samples. This is a great way to see what variations of a particular color go together. I particularly love the marketing that Valspar Paint uses in their guides! They’re fantastic and their design is incredible. You can also browse through your local bookstore and actually pay attention to book covers and magazine articles. How are they designed? What colors were used? We live in a super colorful world so if you open your eyes to what’s around you, you’ll have no issue finding the perfect colors that fit what you’re looking for.
All those listings
They really do matter! We talk about this a lot at Marmalead and if you’ve been a customer for a while I’m sure you’ve heard it before. Having high quality images with consistent backgrounds on which to present your products is always a fantastic idea. Monica from CrystalRelics has a wonderful example of a shop with fantastic design that also translated into her listing photos. You can check out her shop here. As Monica demonstrates you don’t have to always use the exact same background for every photo, but using different variations of the same background is a great idea.
So let’s say you’re not a designer. Maybe you can’t afford to hire a professional designer and you don’t know of any friends or family being designers. What do you do? If we’re talking about your cover photo one idea is to use the background in your listing photos as your cover photo. You can try a different angle or different lighting, but this is a simple trick to getting a great shot for your cover image. You can also take a close up or a different angle of your products, depending on what you’re selling. Get creative with it! And if you don’t have a background and are randomly taking pictures wherever, now would be a great time to strategize that and get your shop looking more consistent. You can also use Canva to help with more simple designs and getting you started with all of this.
Keep it simple with your cover photo no matter what you do. If you’re not designing your cover photo and you’re taking a picture, I suggest keeping the font very simple to none at all. You don’t need the name of your shop layered over your cover photo. This can be distracting and unnecessary.
Mix it up
Remember, you don’t have to always have the same cover photo for forever. You can definitely mix it up. This is your canvas so changing your cover photo and backgrounds depending on holidays or occasionsis also a great idea. It also shows that you’re active and present in your shop and that new and exciting things are happening.
Writing your story
Maybe you’re struggling to know what design you should use. When I’m working with clients, I always send over a questionnaire sheet that helps me get to know the person and their product a little better. It’s from here that I want design to naturally flow, from being authentic. I suggest that you sit down and make a list of why you do what you do. What adjectives come to mind when you think of yourself and your products? From there, it’s always amazing to me how design will naturally start coming out. Maybe you do a hand drawing of something yourself for your logo or maybe you hire someone to help in the process. Either way, knowing who you are, what your passionate about and why you’re doing what you’re doing on Etsy is a huge plus and will only help in this process.
No sketchy profile pictures
Speaking about being authentic, let’s talk about that profile picture for a second. Maybe your shop is rockin’ the design thing and everything is flowing together beautifully…and your profile picture says exactly the opposite;) Again, this is the perfect time to show the man or woman behind the mask/shop! Don’t forget that if your cover photo and icon tend to be more pastel showing up in a bright neon green shirt in your profile picture might not be the best way to go. Be mindful of everything you present and how it all works together. Use an image that is real to who you are and isn’t stuffy or uptight, but is authentically you.
The thing is, the more you allow yourself to shine through on your shop the more people will be drawn to you. Personally, if I connect with a seller on Etsy through their shop and story, I’m going to be prone to go back to them as opposed to walking into a local boutique because I trust them. For me, Etsy sellers have always had the best customer service as well. And those who don’t are quickly weeded out through reviews. This is where your about section can really come into play. Keeping it consistent with the rest of your shop while telling more of your back story will only serve to solidify trust with your buyers.
We’re all human
I know for myself, when I’ve written something or painted something or designed something, I’m basically opening myself up and being vulnerable. This can be super hard! So much of what we do now is behind a screen, whether that’s graphic design or running an Etsy shop. We so easily forget as buyers and sellers that there are real human beings behind these screens. It’s something I’ve experienced as a writer first hand, especially where our blog is concerned. Personally, this is why I try to communicate with our readers, to remind them that there is someone over here reading the comments both positive and negative.
As an Etsy seller, I understand that you’re opening yourself up in a way. While I know this can be hard I applaud all the wonderful sellers I’ve seen who really try to do this. Those who address the negative reviews but who consistently try and be as authentic as you can be from behind a screen are presenting a wonderful experience to those interacting with them.
I know we always mention this in the jams, but we honestly love hearing from our readers and listeners. The last thing I want is for you to walk away with unanswered questions or to feel overwhelmed with what direction you should go in with design. If you happen to have a design question I would love to hear from you either on this blog post or on our Facebook group as I’m also a part of that. If there are enough questions that you’d like answered, please submit them and you might just see another jam down the road to answer all of them!
As always, thanks for reading everyone. It truly is the best job in the world to be able to write and design for you. If you’d like to get to know more about what I do as an artist, feel free to check out my instagram page here and follow along on my little journey as an artist. Make sure and listen to our jam for this week as we always have lots of words there not caught in the blog posts. Happy selling everyone!