Google Cloud tech channel
A YouTube channel with over one million subscribers provides daily educational content for developers worldwide, covering the latest technology through new series and episodes.

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Personal anecdote
My first big project for Google
This project holds significance as it marks the first major task assigned to me upon joining the Google for Developers team at Google. With Google Cloud undergoing a significant rebrand, it was time to revamp all assets, including thumbnail templates, illustration library, and motion graphics. Experiencing a mix of nervousness and excitement, I aimed to make a stellar first impression within the team.

Goals
The primary goals of the project are as follows
1. Ensure thumbnail templates align with Google Cloud's new visual style. 
2. Enhance visual appeal to boost click-through rates. 
3. Create simple, easily editable templates for quick thumbnail creation, even by non-designers.
4. Streamline the design process by establishing an extensive library of thumbnails available for use by new shows, 
thus saving time. 
Research and analysis
What motivates user clicks? 
Having grasped the new visual guidelines for Google Cloud and their application in thumbnail design, it's time to delve into the dos and don'ts of crafting an effective thumbnail. Here are the avenues I explored for insights:
1. Analyzing existing videos on the Google Cloud tech channel:
To comprehend the overall atmosphere, requirements, message conveyance, video types, areas for enhancement, etc. I examined videos already published. Additionally, I collaborated with our data specialist, Connor, to gain insights into the current top-performing thumbnails and the reasons behind their success.
Findings from my analysis:
1. Simple thumbnails with ample white space and minimal text tend to perform well.
2. Some series feature both a speaker and a guest, highlighting the importance of creating space for two individuals.
3. A standardized thumbnail template is necessary for consistent use, serving as a default and for one-off episodes. 
4. Thumbnails with speaker face extracted from the background makes it look rich and offers many layout options. 

2. Exploring other YouTube channels and reviewing articles:
I conducted research on various other educational youtube channels such as Adobe Creative Cloud, Shopify, Google, Android, etc., aiming to understand how they convey their video content through thumbnails. This process yielded valuable insights into layout design, the incorporation of illustrative elements, and effective color combinations. 

Key findings from my research include:
1. Viewer attention is captured by contrast in title, color, and layout.
2. Including the series name in the thumbnail enhances audience connection.
3. Thumbnails should adhere to accessibility standards, considering their small size on mobile devices. This necessitates the inclusion of minimal elements that are sufficiently large.
5. Incorporating specific product logos/icons in thumbnails, given that many shows focus on a particular product or technology, enhances credibility and originality in the content.
Solution
Default thumbnail design 
The goal of this phase is to nail down the basic structure of thumbnail that could be used as a base for all the other designs. The cloud style guidelines allows us to use four major google colors, gradients and four background shapes for framing the speaker.
Basic structure of thumbnail 
Thumbnail options with different shapes and layout
Thumbnails with patterns

In order to further expand the possibilities I created different patterns for background.
Thumbnail Redesign for Top Series
Several highly popular series have garnered a significant audience following. As viewers associate the thumbnails with these series, it was crucial to maintain familiarity while incorporating the new branding. The objective was to preserve the essence, color scheme, and design elements consistently. With the foundational template in place, redesigning the thumbnails proved relatively straightforward.
Non-speaker thumbnails
In certain instances, thumbnails lack a speaker's face, especially for demo or talk videos. Typically, thumbnails without a speaker's face underperform, but we need to find a solution to boost the click-through rate (CTR) for these thumbnails. During this period, I was also engaged in developing a character library for the new cloud style. I experimented with using character illustrations instead of speaker faces and created several customizable options that could be adapted based on the video's topic. Incorporating character illustrations led to a significant increase in the CTR.
Phase 2 - Streamlining the thumbnail creation process, creating templates and documentation
I designed Photoshop templates for all thumbnails, featuring easily editable layers. With the speaker image and title provided, both designers and non-designers can create a thumbnail in under 30 minutes. Together with our data analyst Conor, I created a document for best practices to create thumbnails that would serve as a single source of truth for designers, editors, producers, post production and developer advocates. 

Furthermore, we collaborated with producers and project managers to establish a thumbnail management queue. This queue initiates a thumbnail creation task immediately after the video shoot concludes, ensuring timely and efficient thumbnail production.

Screenshot of Photoshop template

Outcome
- The producers loved the new thumbnails and wanted to implement them for both existing and forthcoming shows.

- Following the introduction of the rebranded thumbnails, the click-through rates (CTR) of numerous videos experienced an increase of 2-5%.

- Recognizing the efficiency and time-saving benefits of these thumbnail templates, other product areas are now trying to create a similar one. 

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