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Welcome to the fifth issue of The Featured Image newsletter, a place where writing meets art. As a reminder, the goal here is to add visual creativity to our work and gain inspiration from those already doing it.

I'm excited to share an interview below with Brittany Jezouit, and also excited to share all the wonderful upcoming interviews with creators over the next several weeks. If you have anyone in mind, send them my way!


Creator Interview: Brittany Jezouit from Better Marketing

Picture of birds flying
Created in Canva by Brittany Jezouit
I first met Brittany Jezouit through her podcast recommendation newsletter, The Podcast Broadcast, which is sadly no longer active (but evolved into The Bello Collective). She is a big reason why I got into writing about podcasts. I've always appreciated her design sensibilities in everything she does, which is why I'm excited to feature Brittany's thoughts below. In her current role as editor of Better Marketing—one of Medium's most popular publications—she infuses interesting visuals and good design across the whole site.

Please enjoy the interview below:

Tell us about the creative work you do.

I’m the editor for Better Marketing, a publication about marketing, business, and creativity. Before that, I worked in higher education and nonprofits, and as an editor at a tech/design start-up, so all of my work has involved some element of creativity.

How long have you been visually creative?

Oh gosh, that’s a hard question! I was always into art when I was younger, and photography in high school and college—I was the photo editor for my school’s newsmagazine. I remember feeling like I’d lost touch with the creative side of my brain after I graduated, so I started doing side projects like a 100-day graphic design challenge, just to learn more. Most of the visually creative work I’ve done has been DIY and out of necessity—a feature image for an article, an email header, a logo design, that sort of thing. 

What tools do you like to use for creation and publishing? 

I love the Adobe Creative Suite, but it’s expensive! So I lean on free or less-expensive tools, like Unsplash and Canva. As for publishing, the publication I run is on Medium. My portfolio website is on Squarespace, but that’s mostly because it was an easy choice. (Now that Medium is allowing custom domains for user profiles, I might even move mine there!)

I know you are quite handy with Canva and other similar tools. Any tips for creators?

I love Canva and I’m pretty new to it, so I have definitely not mastered it yet! I know they offer tons of templates for marketing documents and social media content etc., but I usually start from scratch and use Canva to make feature images for articles. I like grabbing a photo from Unsplash and jazzing it up in Canva with a quick effect, like ColorMix or Duotone—it’s an easy way to make a stock photo more unique in less than a minute. They also have an awesome library of hand-drawn illustrations in their “elements” library that are beautiful and look professional. 

Is there one image you’ve created that you are particularly proud of?

I loved making the cover image for the Bello Collective’s 100 Outstanding Audio Stories of 2016
Banner image
Brittany's design for this article
I just copied all the podcast logos and images into Photoshop, then rearranged them and ended up with a fun freeform rainbow-shape. It’s been neat to see that style replicated and adapted for subsequent articles in that series. 

Are there any creators who work at the intersection of writing and art that inspire and motivate you?

I follow lots of publications and newsletters to get inspiration. I love the custom illustrations in publications like Elemental—they have awesome feature images from artists like Kieran Blakey and Maria Chimishkyan
Illustration from Elemental
And I read every newsletter I get from The Ringer, even though my interest in sports is minimal, because I love their design style.

When you are reading content online or reviewing pitches for Better Marketing, what kind of visuals stand out to you? 

Creating a publication that feels inclusive of all readers is really important to us, so having diverse representation in our feature images is a big priority—choosing photos that represent different ethnicities, genders, ages, abilities, etc. I appreciate unique visuals, stock photos that don’t have computers or phones in them, and anything DIY. 

What advice would you give anyone who wants to start (or continue) adding visual creativity to their work?

Have fun with it! My design style is a little chaotic, and I’m always trying out new things—some are better than others, and I look back at some feature images and cringe, but it’s a lesson to learn from. I think it’s important to not take it too seriously.
Read the interview online

Creative Juice

I've been thinking a lot about the idea of constraints lately, and how helpful they can be in creative pursuits. Like if I'm trying to get better at drawing and sharing other visual thinkers, where do I begin? It can be so overwhelming. That's why this video called the drawing advice that changed my life was exactly what I needed. It's not click bait and is actually very thoughtful about battling analysis paralysis with creative work. 

The video above motivated me to try doing one drawing a day on Twitter as a starting point. My artificial constraints for the month are to focus on the style of putting visuals to ideas and quotes. To do this I'm only using notes (thoughts and quotes) from Evernote as inspiration. No Googling for ideas. Maybe all the thoughts I've hoarded in my Evernote over the years will finally be useful! I've also decided to only use the technical pen brush in Procreate (otherwise it's tempting to do TOO much experimentation).

#visualtwitter has been a lot of fun to check out for motivation, and @daily_visual is an account I'm digging. 

The Rise of Custom Illustrations in Publishing. A great article from a few years ago. And guess who wrote it? That's right, Brittany Jezouit from above! Told you she has good taste. 

The Velocity of Skill Development. From Farnam Street. "Focused repetitions give you feedback. Feedback makes you better. Each repetition builds upon the ones you’ve already done. This is how greatness happens. A series of tiny gains, imperceptible in moment, aggregate into massive differences in the end." 

Ok, that's it for this week. Go do something cool this week just for yourself. 

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