Podcasts may be one of the most underutilized marketing tools. The Content Marketing Institute reports that only 21% of B2C marketers used podcasts in their 2015 strategy. Only 5% asked their audience to subscribe! With 46 million Americans tuning in to a podcast at least once a month, that’s a lot of people to leave out of your content strategy.

Start your podcast off right with an arresting cover. Read on for design advice and inspiration, including some favorite 99designs creations.

Follow the specs

If you want to distribute your podcast across popular channels, you’ll need to meet standard cover art requirements. For iTunes, your cover needs to be minimum 1400 x 1400, maximum 3000 x 3000 pixels. The minimum requirement has been raised several times already, so aim high to prepare for potential future updates.

You’ll also need to formulate your colors using RGB. You don’t want to finalize the precise shades you love and then need to start over in a new format. Here are a few gorgeous, colorful examples.

podcast-cover-examples

Left: A geometric teabag feels modern (via Developer Tea). Right: digging the overlapping elements and transparent moths (via Atlantic Public Media)

Drop the mic

If you browse podcast covers, you’ll likely notice several recurring symbols. Microphones and headsets are by far the most popular image choices. Your listeners care about your content, though, not the medium.

Stand out from the crowd by designing a podcast cover that reflects your message not the medium. Your design can be elaborate or simple. Mastering Fat Loss Naturally features a measuring tape unspooling over a cheery blue background, calling to mind a traditional tool to measure weight loss progress, but using color to give it a sometimes-stressful topic a positive spin. Rock & Roll Zen reimagines Buddha as a rock fan with a bold, detailed cover that references the iconic font of Rolling Stone magazine.

podcast-cover-message-not-microphone

Left: Mastering Fat Loss Naturally podcast cover design by KMS High End Design. Right: Rock & Roll Zen podcast cover design by Juicide.

You don’t need a symbolic object, either. Your design can be a tongue-in-cheek riff, offering potential customers a visual taste of your style and sense of humor, like Entrepreneurs & Coffee‘s not-so-subtle nod to the Starbucks logo. Or consider dropping images altogether in favor of creatively set text, like Call Your Girlfriend.

podcast-cover-witty

Left: Colorful initials set a fresh, fun tone (via Call Your Girlfriend). Right: We’ll have a caramel frap (via Entrepreneurs and Coffee)

Choose words carefully

Gustave Flaubert, the genius 19th-century novelist, reportedly devoted weeks to puzzling over le mot juste, or the perfect word. Take a page out of his book and consider the best title for your podcast. New listeners will likely see a thumbnail of your design first while shopping on iTunes or a similar site. You may only have three or four words to convince them to try your show. Don’t waste any.

podcast-cover-choose-words

Left: Note the creative twist on the microphone. Story Riot podcast cover design by nevergohungry. Center: The First Three Chapters podcast cover design by epiKdesigns. Right: Simple design, with a title that makes you curious (via 99 Percent Invisible).

If you’re starting a podcast for your business, you’re probably looking for a new way to feel connected to your clients. Whether you’re offering expert solutions or chatty, peer-to-peer advice, you want listeners to remember you. Why not put a face to your name?

People like to know who they’re dealing with. Putting your face on your podcast cover can help build trust and rapport with your audience. Start with a professional-quality photo, even if your brand personality is casual. Choose an outfit, hairstyle, and even expression that matches the tone of your podcast. Ricky Gervais’s comedy podcast lets him mug for the camera, while Rosetta Thurman, who offers career and life motivation, gives a friendly smile.

podcast-cover-design-faces

Left: Big personality guaranteed in The Ricky Gervais Podcast (via iTunes). Right: Great photo, with carefully chosen colors. Design by Blue Poulette.

Podcast cover design is as varied as topic matter. How will you show your story?