Work Project: Themed Feature Image


It’s a Sunday. It’s a side project. It’s not complete. Let’s have some fun. 

In short, the task is for three (3) months of feature images for an SEO article campaign from a single PSD file. I have some foundational understanding of the stakeholder needs. I’ve written a prior article recently for this client, and on this subject matter.


CLIENT: Forge Biologics
DELIVERABLES: A re-usable layered PSD file to support of three month content series.
ASSETS: Public Domain Icons. Licensed Adobe Stock

My marching orders

Note that I didn’t state art direction. I’m being used as an expert on this task. I’ll be my own art director.

My instructions are to create a single graphic to be used for up to nine articles over three months. The first month of articles are these three topics:

  1. History
  2. Symptoms
  3. Treatment

My solution PROCESS

I need something both versatile and efficient. A panel montage is the answer. Here are some examples.


Here is the process.

The subject matter is Krabbe Disease. A very, very serious subject. Keep that in mind as you follow along.

My partner Joe indicated he liked an image of doctors’ hands holding a ribbon. To find it, I used Adobe stock, I was requested to search images on ‘Krabbe Disease’ for that initial inspiration.  Then ended the call leaving me to my own devices. 

Krabbe is a fatal genetic disease that takes the lives of infants within months to a couple of years after birth. It’s heartbreaking and there is no known cure. I needed imagery of infants receiving care. These images would be versatile over the course of months. They would harmonize with the three topics, history, symptoms, and treatment

It was hard to find images without smiling babies and smiling doctors. It just didn’t work for if affected parents encounter these articles.  The intended tone is comfort and some hope. With the home a cure emerges one day, the images for those future articles can match up. For now, I needed neutral expressions. 

how i tied the three features together in a theme

My mentor in graphic design and layout laid this on me early on in my training. I never forgot it. 

Good artist copy. Great artist steal.

Pablo Picasso

From what I understand, Steve Jobs ran around quoting it too.  Stay with me. 

I decided I’d run an image search for ‘caring doctor’.  I could go with tight shots obscuring faces. I needed to imply care, I didn’t need any wide perspective shots.

It was at this time while examining my search results that one image used a common technique of panel images. I describe it as a panel montage which you should have noticed in the above example gallery. I’d use the original copy of it to illustrate my point but I don’t need any copyright trouble. 

The replicated image I would create will be great because it will save time later. I could use just one image and break it into panels but that can wait until later if necessary. Three months, nine articles… It’s an option for later. For now, I’m leveraging an existing technique and design. Picasso would approve. 

I conceived that I will need three-panel images, one for each topic. I’d use one unique panel per week. Each would illustrate their respective topic. In other words, a feature article image with a feature cell panel among the montage of images, (see below).

I originally intended to make all the outlier images greyscale and the subject image in color. I ended up reversing this. Sort of.

Here’s how I arrived at that change.

Many images from searches shared color pallets and temperature. These aligned with my theme but created a small obstacle. The audience wouldn’t really be able to discern the implication of History, Symptoms, or Treatment from the visuals alone.

Another idea spawned. Harmonize the panels with icons. In truth, this was something I considered prior. Now it made more sense.

Between the images and icons, each individual panel would have no problem signaling what they were. 

I adjusted my approach again. To emphasize the feature panel I’d reverse the background image from color to dimmed and muted ‘off’ state. 

Ultimately, I leveraged (Sorry Picasso, stole…) the layout of the background images, but I turned up the design factor a notch. I added icons with a wide-spaced Helvetica font to minimize the ad copy on the features.  I do leave off ad copy more-and-more often due to many Contact Management Systems (CMS) applications superimposing headline text over images by default in their theme managers. Basically, I design to the least common denominator as a precaution.

Here are the mock-up results. Note the Adobe watermark. No sense in committing to licensing each until the work is approved.

The icons are all customized. The Krabbe graphic in the left lower third is something I whipped up on the fly. 

Image dimensions are 1920 x 1080 with almost fifty percent compression. 

I created the layout as one image then separated the triangle panels into layers. Each image is placed above its corresponding shape layer as clipping mask.

I keep my layers organized in the Photoshop workspace.

did you learn anything?

This was a fun exercise overviewing this work. I’ve published this blog post the same day of completing this task while the experience is fresh in my mind. 

Hopefully, this gives you an idea of how I operate and how quickly I can turn a task around. 

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