We were absolutely obsessed when we saw Scotty Russell's amazing artwork for each of his episodes, so we asked him a little bit about his process, what he's learned making unique art for his show, and if other podcasters can leverage making striking artwork for their show.
What's your process for creating episode art?
First off, since I have a day job, do freelance work, and have a newborn Little Pizza Roll at home (aka my 5-month-old son), I have to impose time constraints to make episode art happen. I try to limit myself to six hours max per artwork. Once in a while, I’ll cheat if I’m working on something really dope and get lost in the zone, or if it's an experiment like trying food typography which could take longer than I’d normally like (for example, my Mama’s Sauce episode art).
Secondly, it depends if it’s a solo episode or an interview. With solo episodes, I feel I have a bit more creative freedom to knock out concepts that have been in my head for a while. Interviews are a bit more tricky, as I try to channel the guest’s personality and style, as well as include elements that pertain to our conversation. There’s more room to experiment with interview episode art which can be a blessing and a curse.
My drawing process always starts with tiny thumbnail sketches to flush out ideas quickly whether it be analog with pencil on paper or digitally on my iPad Pro. Once I lock down a concept, I refine, scale, refine, and polish. If it’s analog, I shoot a photo with my iPhone 8+ and touch up in Photoshop. If it’s digital, I export a PSD or PNG from the Procreate App on iPad Pro and finalize in Photoshop or vector it in Illustrator. I then send final artwork to my Executive Assistant Paige Garland to create necessary images sizes to upload to platforms like iTunes for tagging, Simplecast, Recast, my website show notes, newsletter, Instagram, Instagram Stories, Dribbble, etc.
(A bonus is that, since I’m heavily involved in the creative community, I’m able to get the majority of my guests to create episode artwork alongside mine. This significantly boosts reach with their audience.)
Tell us about some of your favorite pieces to make & what you learned from them.
This was a fun one as it allowed me to combine my love for coffee and drawing on coffee cups while still implementing Ben’s brand. You don’t often see coffee cup video drawings so, alongside the finished static artwork, I figured why not make a time lapse of the process? I shared it on my social channels and he shared with his massive following on Instagram and his Facebook community causing the episode and artwork to get some incredible reach.
Main Takeaway: I learned that strategically combining my passions with someone else’s brand that also hits on a trendy topic (like coffee) can yield some killer results.
Originally, this was the second commissioned mural I had ever created back in December 2016. However, at the end of December 2017, I was in a bind for time with artwork for the first solo episode of the New Year due to the holidays. The episode topic centered around taking on and being prepared for whatever opportunities and adversity that comes your way in 2018. I ended up tailoring my writing and overall message to fit with the artwork scheme instead of the message dictating the art and repurposed it as episode art saving a ton of time.
Main Takeaway: I learned that it’s not cheating to repurpose something and it’s actually working smarter not harder. I look for those opportunities often now to optimize my time. Plus, resharing this actually landed me my next mural job that month with a local pizza joint!
For this interview, I wanted to experiment again by attempting to draw on someone’s face. (Digitally of course—this isn’t a freshman dorm room college party anymore.) Lauren is a juggernaut in the creative world. She has such an incredible story and shared a ton of value in the interview. I wanted to find a way to tell her story and showcase our conversation in a creative way by... drawing on her face. The artwork performed really well because everyone adores Lauren, but it also actually got featured on some pretty big lettering accounts on Instagram which led to more traffic and more listeners.
Main Takeaway: I learned if I have a wild idea for episode artwork to just go with my gut and see what happens. The pros outweigh the cons.
If there is a creative undertone to your podcast and you’re targeting creatives like designers, artists, photographers, etc., then this is a strong route to go as you can simultaneously build an audience on visual social platforms like Instagram, Behance, and Pinterest, even if they don’t listen to the podcast... yet. If it’s not targeting creatives, it could be valuable to have custom artwork each week but you’d most likely need to hire a designer. If you’re a multiple-episode-a-week show then it could get pricey or timely where a quick and easy template would honestly work best. It all depends on your end goal, who your target audience / perfect listener is, and what platform you’re marketing to them. This works for me and I choose this route because it’s really the only time I get to create what I want to see in this world. It can definitely get me in a bind with time, but the end result scratches the creative itch and allows me to get that extra reach on social media if people don’t listen to the podcast.
After consistently doing this weekly for over two years now, it’s become a part of my brand that people have grown to expect and look forward to.