My thoughts about perfect Avatars
I’m an avid amateur photographer and look at the world wide web with the eye of a photographer or – as I sometimes say – through one of my lenses. From that point of view I sometimes like to comment on other people’s Avatar. Sometimes my comments may be a bit direct. Please bear in mind that such may be based on my Dutch directness. No offense meant, only some good humored pun to make a point.
Time to organize my thoughts a bit more.
Little thumbnails that come with websites. See for instance the little icon or favicon in the search part of your browser where you see the url. Next to the url you see a very small thumbnail that gives an indication whose website you’re on. I use my personal portrait and try to be consistent in using the same portrait on all sites where I can place my avatar. Be it on Twitter, FaceBook, WordPress.com, fora, Flickr or what you can think of. So here I go:
1) Use a portrait, no logo and no drawing.
For me that is a no-brainer. You should use a good portrait of yourself. Not a logo and not even a drawing, even if the drawing is a good look alike.
In my view the portrait must be so good that people who don’t know you in real life, must be able to recognize you in a party of a couple of hundreds of people they don’t know, just because they have seen your avatar and it bears an excellent likeness.
Remember that avatars come in all sizes and to test whether the portrait can stand downsizing without losing effect.
For my own avatar I use the portrait you see in the right column. I tested it on downsizing.
2) The photo should show as much of your face as possible.
Either full face, but in most cases a 2/3rd angled face gives a better impression. Everybody has a good side and a better side and mostly you know which is your better side. Almost nobody has a perfectly symmetrical side.
It is better to use a fully recognizable part of your face than part of your collar. The smaller the avatar gets the better it remains recognizable.
3) No Distractions Please!
Distractions can come from several directions:
- Too much makeup.
- Spectacles, hats or shadows that don’t allow your eyes to be seen properly.
- Special effects like clownesque additions work only for professional clowns.
- Don’t use a portrait of you with your beloved, your pet or your grandchild! I’m interested in you and not in your pet, beloved or grandchild and the smaller the avatar gets the less recognition you get with other elements in the portrait.
- A background that doesn’t stand out enough or distracts from your face. For my own portrait I used a dark background (just the fence in our garden) to emphasize my gray hair – use a possible disadvantage to an advantage;-)
- If you want to wear a hat or cap, remember that in a room with hundreds of people you possibly won’t wear a hat, that it can give false or wrong shadows on your face and, most importantly, your hair can’t be seen. If you say, “but I’m bald” do as I do with my gray hair: make it an outstanding asset with a fine outstanding background.
- Don’t let your hangover or sleeplessness take over your portrait.
4) Smile! Smile! Smile!
As baby you’ve learned as first means of communication that a smile ensures you the best contact with grown ups. For you as a grown up the same rule applies.
5) Color or Black and White?
Personally I would say Color, because color matches real life better that black and white.
6) Don’t change your avatar!
Internet contacts (Eyeballs) are infrequent and fast. The less you change your avatar the less chance you confuse your audience.
7) Look for yourself! Look at yourself and Look Again!
I’ve put an older Twilk Twitter Background above this post. Can you find yourself easily in that photo? Who has an outstanding avatar among the ones you know? If you click the image you’ll get the original format that can make this exercise a bit easier…
To organize my thoughts I’ve made use of this nice blog post: 11 Rules for Best Personal Branding Results with Avatars | Personal Branding Blog – Dan Schawbel.
And, as always, good exceptions just prove some points I’ve made.