How to select the right photo, logo or cover design: A case study

Posted by Patrice Rhoades-Baum


The challenge:

  • Your designer gave you 12 logos – you need to pick ONE.
  • Your photographer gave you 50 photos – you need to choose ONE.
  • Your book designer gave you 3 different cover designs – you need to select ONE.

How do you choose the best one – the right one?

The solution: Start by clarifying the communication goals

When selecting a graphic of any kind, don’t simply judge it by “like” or “dislike.” If you do, everyone you ask could choose a different image – it’s human nature. Instead, start by clarifying the communication goals. Then select the image that best supports the goals.

Let’s look at a case study

My good friend Barbara McNichol needed a photo for marketing materials for her “How to Strengthen Everything You Write” Wordshops™. She and the photographer narrowed the shots to 8 finalists. Barbara asked friends to vote on their favorite – nearly everyone chose a different photo!

Barbara and I decided we needed an objective (not subjective) approach. We followed 3 simple steps:

Step 1. Clarify the communication goals

We agreed the selected photo must present Barbara as:

  • A savvy business expert
  • A confident guide and mentor
  • Approachable, warm, friendly, and personable

Barbara--with book

Step 2. Identify the images that don’t fully support the goals

For example, this photo of Barbara says quiet, introverted, and distant. (She is looking away, into the distance.) In addition, the cool, concrete wall doesn’t convey warmth. Finally, I believe the book implies librarian or college professor, not savvy business expert. While this is a very nice picture, it doesn’t fully support the communication goals.


Barbara--looking at viewer

Step 3. Select the image that best meets the goals

In this photo, Barbara’s pose is strong, her gaze is direct, and her facial expression is warm, friendly, and sparkling with personality. Plus, the background is colorful, inviting, and contemporary. This photo says dynamic, confident business expert.



It’s not about “like” or “dislike” – it’s about supporting the goals

Keep in mind, we liked both photos. After spelling out the communication goals, the best photo – the right photo – was easy to choose.


Thanks to Barbara McNichol for allowing me to share her experience, Photography by Purple Nickel Studio,


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