Recently, I was asked to be a panelist at BlogHer 2012, the premier conference for female bloggers. It was quite an honor to be asked, especially since the panel was hosted by the extremely talented Rachel Nabors and I got to play co-panelist with Shalini of Reading & Chickens. Look at how awesome we are:
Although all of our websites are quite different, what we have in common is that we tell our story using illustrations--and hence, the title of the panel was Telling Stories with Pictures: Incorporating Graphics, Cartoons, and Iconography to Better Engage Readers. I know, a mouthful. But it was as awesome as it sounds.
In case you weren't there, let me briefly tell you some of the things we discussed, and some of the valuable take-aways.
Rachel began the session by explaining that, people mostly LOOK at pages upon first visiting a website, not focusing on the big blocks of text--at least initially. So it's vital to have a visual aspect that will draw in readers to see what it is you have to say.
We then spoke briefly about how we three all illustrate this idea with our work - using illustrations to stand out from the crowd. In my case, I mentioned the fact that there are a ton of blogs about food and baking out there--but very few that feature adorable illustrations of cupcakes, unicorns, and robots. Therefore, I am able to set myself apart from the crowd by using my artwork.
Of course, this is not to say that you just need to learn how to draw unicorns to find everlasting success. You need to find what works for you. For instance, in the cases of my fellow panelists, Rachel is a cartoonist turned web developer, but she still uses her cartooning skills to make her blogging about internetty stuff more engaging and interesting. Shalini is a humorist, not a trained artist, and she uses her drawings to deliver punchlines on subjects both lighthearted (the differences between NYC and Seattle) and heavy (infertility, weight loss troubles) boosting her traffic through her hilarious images.
It proves that you can use art to carry a message and engage readers REGARDLESS of your artistic ability, what tools you have, et cetera. The idea is to have fun--others will undoubtedly respond to that.
Another important thing we discussed was some of the barriers one might have to contend with: though artistic talent ought not be a barrier to using illustrations or imagery, criticism, motivation, and maintaining inspiration might be. I have already written a post about some ideas for maintining inspiration and motivation.
Moreover, I found this panel extremely thought-provoking and inspiring, and a wonderful way to explore the simple idea that art makes writing more fun.
I hope that the attendees agreed; if any attendees from the BlogHer conference happen to be reading, you also might find this writeup (not about BlogHer specifically, but appropriate) on getting the most from your conference after the fact might be of help!
Thanks again to everyone who attended, and especially to The Animated Woman, who was so inspired during the panel that she illustrated it in progress! (pictured top)