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The designer's guide to using images more effectively

Images are an integral part of the design process, and when it comes to selecting them and using them in a project, it's important to make the right choices: one of them speaks 1,000 words, after all. 

So whether you're art directing an on-location photoshoot for a glamorous ad campaign, or searching a stock image library for the perfect visual asset for an email newsletter, you should still apply a discerning eye and not settle.

While there's no one-size-fits-all approach, there are a few key dos and don'ts for using images (opens in new tab) in your design projects – and some hard and fast rules for using them for different purposes, from catching attention to making the hard sell.

Read on for our essential guide to using images more effectively in your design work. We will continue to add to this collection with more tips and advice each month...

01. How to use images in graphic design

6 ways to go viral on Twitter (opens in new tab)
For most brands, the real success of a Twitter campaign will depend on cold, hard clicks, and ultimately conversions. But it's likes and retweets that help broaden the reach of a campaign, and magnify its effectiveness. Read on to discover six lessons to be learned from the world's most-retweeted images.

5 ways to create better brand imagery (opens in new tab)
Five brands that have mastered the art of creating powerful brand imagery, and what you can learn from them. Featuring First Direct, Aizone, London Symphony Orchestra, Apprenticeships and D&AD.

Use images more effectively in editorial design (opens in new tab)
Improve your editorial design work with these expert tips, which include: letting the content lead the design, using photography more creatively, telling stories with illustration, not being afraid to go big, and cropping images in a dynamic way.

5 reasons to use photography in your designs (opens in new tab)
Why you should choose photography for your next design project: you're looking for realism, you're showing something specific, you want wow factor, you need a visual metaphor, or you have the budget to do it properly.

5 reasons to use illustration in your designs (opens in new tab)
Why you should choose illustration for your next design project: you want to express something abstract, the subject is too ambitious to photograph, you want to tell a story, you have some data to visualise, or a particular style is required.

8 Insta feeds to follow for logo design inspiration (opens in new tab)
If you're looking for great examples of logos to kick-start your creative process, you're in luck. We've rounded up eight inspiring Insta feeds that'll help keep that logo design inspiration flowing, and don't just focus on well-known logos. 

02. How to use images in digital design

Use imagery more effectively in app design (opens in new tab)
Select the perfect visual assets for more engaging, user-friendly apps. Advice includes optimising for HD screens, making savvy use of animation, paring back to basics, keeping all UI elements consistent and designing with touch in mind.

How to create a killer social media campaign (opens in new tab)
Five pro tips to use images more effectively in branded social posts, including: tailoring images to different platforms, having a clear goal in mind, considering why people will share it, picking images that tell a story, and designing for short attention spans.

Use images more effectively in digital ad campaigns (opens in new tab)
Pick the perfect assets to create engaging online ads. Advice includes knowing your ad formats, picking a single message, choosing one killer image, cropping images more dynamically, and emphasising the call to action.

Use images more effectively in web design (opens in new tab)
Pick the perfect visual assets for any frontend design task: source the perfect hero image, consider different crop sizes and ratios, curate assets for an online shop, choose images for UI elements and icons, and find editorial images for pages.

5 ways to go viral on Instagram (opens in new tab)
Discover how some of the world's biggest brands are garnering likes on Instagram, and how you can adopt their strategies to engage and build your audience. Including the likes of Selena Gomez, Nike and LEGO.

03. How to source the best images

4 tasks that stock imagery makes easier (opens in new tab)
Make your stock assets work harder, and your life easier, on common tasks such as sourcing supplementary photography for a brochure, adding depth and texture to your artwork, and developing UI elements for a digital design.

5 stock image uses you may not have thought of (opens in new tab)
Pro designers do use stock libraries – and in clever ways, too. These include social media campaigns; moodboards and presentations; mockups, wireframes and prototypes; email newsletters; and just for general inspiration.

Find unusual images for your design projects (opens in new tab)
Stuck for a visual idea? Here are some places that can help, including stock image libraries, The British Library, SpaceX, Jay Mantri, Realistic Shots, Life of Pix and PicJumbo.

9 lessons from the world's top viral images (opens in new tab)
Creating a viral campaign may not be simple, but the world's most shared images can provide some valuable lessons. Including the pull of cat memes and colour conundrums.

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Nick is a content strategist and copywriter. He has worked with world-class agencies including Superunion, Wolff Olins and Vault49 on brand storytelling, tone of voice and verbal strategy for global brands such as Virgin, Pepsi and TikTok. Nick launched the Brand Impact Awards (opens in new tab) in 2013 while editor of Computer Arts, and remains chair of judges. He's written for Creative Bloq on design and branding matters since the site's launch.