The Psychology Behind Great Thumbnail Design

Is an irresistible YouTube thumbnail more strategy than art? Unlock the secret psychology that gets viewers to click.

The vast majority of my professional video experience comes from a world where the substance of the content was the most important aspect of it.

Sounds rational, right?

Creating a poster-style image to ‘bait’ or ‘interrupt’ a potential viewer simply wasn’t necessary for 99% of the videos I’ve edited in my career.

However, if you’re creating videos for YouTube… it’s a vital part of the game.

Without a compelling thumbnail image, your video can get lost in the scroll. Viewers glance right past it to the next bright and shiny image competing for their attention.

A strong thumbnail acts like a movie poster. It grabs attention and sparks curiosity to click and watch your video.

It’s also quite similar to another form of marketing that’s been around for a long time…

Traditional Advertising

Things like television & radio commercials, billboards, flyers, telemarketing, and newspaper ads—these all fall under the umbrella of interruption marketing, where the job is to try and capture a viewer’s attention when it’s not something they’re actively focused on… with the goal of convincing them to take a specific action.

And that’s exactly what your thumbnail is designed to do.

For those creating YouTube videos today… that featured image is a crucial gateway to your actual content.

But like it or not: 

We live in a world of short attention spans and immediate gratification.

And even though it has elements of both, great thumbnail design strategy is actually more of a psychological exercise than a graphic design one.

So, understanding and prioritizing the psychology behind a click in your thumbnail design has become an essential skill for video creators.

Ready to learn the secrets behind creating irresistible YouTube thumbnails (and see a ton of awesome examples)?

Check out the full deep-dive here 👇

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