designing a web banner for advertising

At this point in time – a week out from launching the story – I’ve decided that I probably need to think about advertising to try to get some eyeballs to my site.

And guess what? I’ve designed lots of web banners in my day job as a graphic designer. So let’s take a look at the process and see what I did. Here’s my thinking:

1. I want to use something that’s a simple and distinct graphic image because it will communicate quickly since it’s an ad that will be on the side of a webpage that already has a lot of content on it.

2. I also want something that’s a bit of a mystery. I want to entice people to click it to find out what it’s all about and get them to my site and reading the story. 

3. The overall art direction should be consistent with the art from the actual story. This way people can get a sense of what to expect in the graphic novel. 

4. I’ve got some ideas for “effects” that I’m going to be using in the book, so I want to use those too. 

Even though I want to use art from the book, I decided to create a custom piece for a couple of reasons:

A) I like to design things to fit the specs of the job. The art from the book doesn’t really fit the specs of a web banner which are either tall and thin or wide and thin. None of the images from the book really work in these two formats. I’ve seen that a lot of other online graphic novels do use art from the story, but I find that sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t. And to be honest, if I can design a custom piece for this that looks good, the artwork doesn’t take that long to produce. So why not? 

B) I’ve also been more concerned with telling a story instead of creating “cool looking” images so far in the book. I don’t think that I’ve created any real “iconic” images that solve problem #1 above – something that’s simple and graphic. So I needed to create something new. 

C) The story has more of an ensemble cast and I really don’t know who the most popular character will be. I started out thinking it would be Hannah (and let’s face it, attractive women sell), but after writing all the backstory articles that may not be right.

So creating something custom solved the first two problems: I could design it to fit the correct specs and create a cool looking image. And I decided to try to come up with something that wasn’t focused around a specific character and this also helped it be a bit more mysterious.

The question now is what to use? After a bit of brainstorming, I decided to use an image that I have in my head of one of the Incidents that I plan to include down the road. With that in mind, I sketched out a couple of ways that this could work as a vertical “skyscraper” banner and a horizontal version.

The other piece to consider with an ad is the copywriting. (As a side note, copywriting is something that I’ve actually spent a lot of time working on over the past several years in my day job. To be a really good art director or creative director, you need to be able to not only come up with a good image, but good copy to go with that image.)

As I mentioned above, this is probably going on a website with a lot of other content, so the copy needs to be kept to a minimum. I decided that I needed to include the masthead/logotype (obviously… let’s start to build some “brand recognition” if we can and the logo isn’t going to change) and a short line of copy.

I sat down with my sketchbook and came up with about 25 different lines that I thought would hook the viewer. The lines were a bit all over the place, so I needed to pick an overall direction for what I’m trying to say with this first ad. The line “the beginning” really seemed to express exactly what I wanted it to and it works in a couple of ways in that it could mean “the beginning of the story” or when it’s combined with the artwork, it could be read as “the beginning of an event.” I also liked how it almost reads as “on the verge of the beginning” which I think works nicely.

Anyway, with an art direction and copy direction figured out, I sat down and created two banners that I’m planning on using shortly to generate some interest. The final banners are below. I’ve shown them around to some of the designers that I work with and also asked for some feedback on Making Graphic Novels and the response has been positive. I’m not sure which one works the best, but I’m sure I’ll be using both soon.


About jason

Illustrator and graphic designer. When not working full time as a Senior Graphic Designer, I am usually working on the graphic novel On the Verge: the Arrow of Time. Artist on Andrew Jackson in Space and The Sisters.

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