7 types of imagery we beg you not to use

Bill the dragon on a laptop


Accountants are often saying to me, “I’m no graphic designer” or “I wouldn’t have any idea what looks good”.

It is true that the very skills which make you a good accountant can sometimes work against you when it comes to good graphic design. I’m encouraged that accountants are recognising this, and are either making an effort to learn and be open to new graphic design ideas, or at least listening to good advice.

But to help you along, here are some very simple guidelines as to imagery that you definitely do NOT want to use – on your website, in your marketing, anywhere really.

1. Clip art

I’m rather surprised this made it to my own list, because you would think that clip art is not even a thing anymore. The only way I can think to describe it is the stock graphics of the 1980’s. And that’s why it’s not something you want on your modern, fresh, clean, lots-of-white-space website.

Horrible clipart

2.Childish Cartoons

Even if your style is friendly, personable, one-on-one, you still want to give a professional image and style. Using cartoony images that hark back to the 80’s and 90’s may defeat this purpose somewhat. This also crosses over with item 1, when you get clip art cartoons, which are even worse.

Awful Clipart

3. Round people with no faces

These little “non person” images are outdated. The only place I see them used is on sites that haven’t been updated in a long time. Please stop.

Man with no face

4. Overly happy stock people

One of the ways to find these is to pick a stock image site and search for ‘happy business lady’ or similar. These people tend to look a little like robots, as well – no laugh lines, no wrinkles, no slightly rumpled Tshirts. That’s why no one connects with them – they’re not real.

Veterinarian With a Beagle

5. Really bad stock imagery

This is a little harder to define, but it includes anything that is outdated, ugly, confusing, or overly complicated. Design and imagery needs to be simple. Clear. Clean.

6. Anything blurry or poor quality

With retina iMacs and screens crafted for gaming, high-res and crisp, sharp imagery is a must. Don’t compromise.

7. Imagery you like, but that does not fit your brand

Finally, if you have a great brand that you’re proud of, make sure that all the imagery you choose is a fit. If you’ve found an image you love, but it’s the wrong style for your brand, think twice about it.

So, what imagery is best to use?

Naturally, you’re now asking what kind of imagery you DO want to use.

I almost didn’t create a list for this, because the last thing I want to do is encourage accountants to simply copy what other accountants are doing. But here are a few guidelines of imagery that does work:

1. Professional photography taken for you

Get a professional photographer to shoot high quality images of your firm, people, offices, locations, clients, team days, coffee cups, whatever. I’ve lost track of the number of accountants who are impressed by other firms who have done this – and yet many of you still won’t spend the money on it. You need to invest in this – it’s well worth it.

2. Good quality stock photography or imagery

This covers a wide range, because you may be still asking, “How do I know if it’s good?”

First, check items 1-7 above. If it doesn’t fit within any of those categories, then check with a professional graphic designer – or email it to me. I’ll tell you what I think.

Most importantly, good stock imagery matches your brand and style. (And if you don’t like your current brand, choose imagery that matches the style you want to be.)

3. Caricatures

This can be good fun – and best of all, it’s custom done for you and your firm. I’ve seen a few firms use this concept and whilst caricatures aren’t my favourite form of illustration personally (the idea of accenting features we don’t want accented confuses me greatly), if it’s a fit with your style, go for it.

Woods squared screenshot1

4. Custom illustrations or graphics

When you hire a graphic designer to create imagery that is a perfect fit with your concept, style, and brand, it’s always a win. Use a good designer, here are some tips, and wherever possible keep using the same designer or company, for consistency.

Social Marketer Screenshot

5. Video or GIF images

I know this goes beyond photography, but we’re in the wizarding world now. Everyone expects images that move – not those still Muggle images that just sit there and do nothing. So wherever possible, integrate GIFs and videos and moving imagery in your marketing.

Watch our webinar recording on “Why bad design loses you business” with guest speaker Russ Perry of Design Pickle.

I hope this has been helpful,

Have a good Friday!