If you regularly spend time choosing artwork for cybersecurity articles then you already know how impossible it can be to find a good infosec image sometimes. You often find yourself being forced to choose between an image that's a cliché or painfully generic, its rare to see genuinely good, original artwork in our industry and nobody really seems to want to break the curse or do any better.
At Secjuice we rebelled against that the idea that the artwork you chose to head your articles with must be relevant to the subject of the article. Over time we built up a reputation for heading our articles with vibrant, quirky and sometimes dark illustrations of absolutely nothing to do with infosec or the subject of our articles. If you scroll down our homepage you will find an ocean of colorful images and illustrations heading our articles, something our fans tell us that they love about us the most.
Those creative choices defined Secjuice as a publication, we published great articles headed by images of pure eye candy and our readers universally liked them.
The idea that your image choices do not in any way have to be related to the subject of your articles is tremendously liberating, for the last two years I have been choosing Secjuice's images and its never gotten any easier to choose a good image despite this freedom. Sometimes we spend so long looking at images our eyeballs ache, looking good needs a good eye and we like to think that we have one.
Recently I was asked why we never used photos to head our articles and I didn't have a real answer, but I did think about it for a while. I realized that despite having apparent creative freedom to choose images for the publication, we were by constrained the notion of what a suitable image to head up a cybersecurity article was. You can't have hacker cliché imagery or generic cybersecurity images above your awesome articles, if you deviate from the norm then you have to do it with style.
So that's what we tried to do, every Sunday for years.
But we never strayed too far beyond the idea of what was a suitable image for an article, despite our imagery easily being some of the most creative in the infosec blogosphere. Recently though, our use of colorful and bold imagery that had come to define us had somehow become generic in and of itself, it was time for a change.
We want to experiment with different kinds of images before we default back to type.
Because we are not a business, because we have no paying subscribers, corporate advertisers, or sponsors, we have been able to keep Secjuice in a happy place where we are nothing more than a fun part-time hobby and social group for everyone involved. Our non-profit approach has given us complete independence over our content and creative choices, a freedom commercial publications have to constantly fight for, if they ever had any editorial or creative freedom to begin with.
Our last issue featured the artwork of live nude artist Spencer Tunick and we were accused on twitter of the "unsolicited posting of nude photos into infosec timelines", I personally think that our front page and feed looked glorious that day and, for me, it made for a welcome change from our usual fare of quirky illustration.
Those nude photos were a strong signal that our creative choices were going to be broadening moving forward and I think we got our point across clearly. They were well received by the vast majority of our readers who seemed to be simultaneously mildly shocked and mildly amused by the photos, a vocal few kicked up a stink to me privately though but it was all sorted out in the end.
Moving forward, the rules we use to choose creative images for our articles changed. We no longer do we view the image space above an article as a place for eye candy, we now treat that space as an opportunity to engage the reader with an image they probably haven't seen before and might never have seen otherwise. We also see it as an opportunity to teach our readers something with the image that they might not have already known, because seeing interesting images is cool and all, but learning something about the image that you are seeing is where its at.
Moving forward you should never know what to expect from Secjuice imagery and I think that is as it should be. As a team we want to engage our readers with solid articles infosec subjects and cybersecurity topics, but we also want to redefine visual imagery in information security and free infosec peoples from the slavery that is stock images of people in hoodies on computers. We probably will never publish nude artwork again though, I had to give our writers a No More Nudity Guarantee™ to get them to pipe down about me putting naked men above their articles.
Infosec Image Protocols
Don't Ever Be Generic - This is the ultimate sin, if you use a picture of a hacker in a hoodie typing on a computer in a non-memetic way, or moving gifs of nodes in a global network without actually explaining network traffic, then you condemn yourself to being a low level infosec player. Instead, show big dick image energy with some genuinely creative and ideally interesting images and promote yourself up to MVP.
Don't Try To Be Relevant - Give it up already, nine times out of ten when you think you have found the best image to use in an article because of its relevance to the subject, you haven't and your attempt will come across as clingy. Instead choose completely unrelated images to use in an infosec context. Relevance is often found when you aren't trying in surprising ways that only the reader can see.
Don't Be Tacky, Be Interesting - If you deviate from the norm you need to do so with style, don't be tacky with your images and try to use engaging and visually pleasing images, they don't need to be sexy images but they do need to be eye catching enough to engage your audience in a way that will not have expected.
Teach Something If You Can - The infosec space is made up of curious minds, feed them if you can and teach them something with your images that they may not have already known. A hidden message, a subtle pretext, an indirect nudge towards deeper meaning followed by the promise of something to learn is irresistible.
Always Credit The Creator - If you use an image in your work that was created by someone else it is important to always credit the creator in a clear way. Nobody likes it when their work is taken by others and had their name taken off it, so don't do it to others. Even if you pay for the images you should still credit the creator.
Challenge Your Audience - We all get bored of too much of the same, it is important to challenge your audience from time to time with images that take them out of their comfort zone and give them some insight into another time or place. Just don't challenge them all the time, we all love looking at good eye candy.
Don't Let Them Take Their Eyes Off You - You're just too good to be true, they can't take their eyes off of you, you'd be like heaven to touch, and they wanna hold you so much. At long last, love has arrived, they thank god they're alive, pardon the way that they stare, there's just nothin' else to compare, they can't take their eyes off of you.