Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Creating Visual Quotes for Your Small Nonprofit

Last week was a post on some new tools for presentations and it included the idea of using sketchnotes rather than text notes to present ideas. The idea intrigued me, so I bought the book about creating SketchNotes by one of the best known proponents, Mike Rohde. Called the SketchNote Handbook, it argues for presenting information via text augmented with visuals. I'm reading through it and will review it at a later date.

In the meantime, let's talk again about visuals for social communications:

Visual Quotes

I mentioned Tweegram in last week's post because it's quick. You select an image, and add in your text and it has easy sharing capabilities. But you can also use Publisher, Photoshop, or any type of application that lets you put text and a picture together. If you're going to do this, though, keep the following in mind:
  • Picture
  • Number of words
  • Typeface
  • Positioning


It should go without saying that you need to use something that you have the rights to or that allows fair use rights or that you've licensed. Don't just find something on the internet and appropriate it. You can find gorgeous and funny images on Flickr that are Creative Commons licensed and if you find a really great picture or illustration, you can approach the artist for licensing. Also, there are now some sites that specialize in finding Creative Commons images, like, which allows you to download or get code for a picture with the correct credit attached (see the wisdom poster, above). You'll find some other great ideas for usable pictures in this post by Richard Byrne, 9 Places to Find Creative Commons & Public Domain Images.

Most of the pictures you find online won't be high resolution, but if you use one that is, you'll probably have a little trouble uploading it to sites like FB because it's too big to load or load quickly.

Number of Words

Don't use a long quote unless it's really important to use that particular quote. The best part about a visual quote is that it's easily absorbed and it's easily absorbed because it's usually short. Plus, a lot of words will end up obscuring the visual, reducing the impact of the whole thing.


Just because you can use any typeface doesn't mean you should. I once saw a lost cat poster that used a very unique typeface (I know most people say 'font' nowadays, but it goes against my training). It distracted from the seriousness of the message and made it both hard to read and understand - not in the best interests of either the poster or the lost cat. This isn't to say you should never use a typeface more interesting than either Times Roman or Helvetica. The right one can enhance your message and make the package more appealing and therefore more worth sharing. But if you are caught between interesting and clearly readable, always choose readable.

In addition, consider the leading (space between lines) and kerning (space between letters). You can make text feel cramped or more spacious by how those spaces are adjusted. There are tweaks even more subtle that can be affected through ascenders, descenders, and ligatures, but that's probably more than you need know about unless you want to get more into typography.


Make sure that the position of the type doesn't obscure the core of the visual you're using and dilute your message. This is where your choice of typeface, alignment, spacing are going to be tested. In the U.S., it's standard to start text in the upper left and read to the right. This may not be in the best interests of your quote and visual, though. You'll have to play a bit with the placement and maybe try a few different looks to see which one gets the most impact.

You may also want to address the color of the typeface here. Maybe the message stands out more using colored type or maybe the visual should be converted to black and white or sepia or greyscale or monotone for best effect. None of the following would make my final cut, which would take time and lots of consideration. But if the visual you're going for will be an important one for your small nonprofit to send out into the social world, the investment may be worth it.

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