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To Cartoon or Not To Cartoon (Or Do Mom Bloggers Really Have Huge Heads?)

Have you heard of Chih Hang Chung? Probably not. But he likely looooves mom bloggers, because they’ve contributed significantly to the 58,000 downloads of his illustrations from iStock Photo.

If you don’t recognize that woman to the left, you don’t read mom blogs. I’ve seen her with kids and without, with glasses and without, blond, brunette, and even in a vaguely African-American version.

There’s nothing particularly WRONG with that illustration (and I’ll keep my inner feminist quiet about the whole “women as cartoons” thing, promise). The problem, really, is the incredible ubiquity of these illustrations in the mom blogging space.

While it’s awesome to be inspired by another blogger’s design, there does come a point where imitation ceases to be flattery and becomes uniform. Do you really want to look like every other mom blogger out there?

Think about it from the brand perspective. The very first impression they have of you is often your blog banner, which is where Chih Hang’s gal usually lives (also, as Twitter avatars, arg). So what will they think if they spot this lady in your header? They’ll think cookie cutter. Unoriginal. Limited scope.

If you have a snazzy, unique banner that is an excellent indicator of your brand, they’ll see something different. Professional. Unique. Thoughtful. Savvy.

I’m not saying you can never use a cartoon. Liz of Mom 101 is a great example of a clever use of an original cartoon, seen here on the right. Paired with her tag lines of “I don’t know what I’m doing either” and “Yes, they are real and they are spectacular. Also, leaking a little.”  you get a very good sense of who Liz is, and that the image is meant to be ironic. In addition, the vintage nod to old school housewives is particularly funny.

This avatar on the left is from the writer of Mommy’s Fabulous. She’s chosen to remain anonymous, so for her a cartoon is ideal. Because she writes about a variety of things including how to feel fabulous “even when you have spit up on your shoulder,” her avatar is perfectly iconic and works wonderfully for her site. Her image was created for her by Cynthia of the Nap Warden, so it’s also a unique image.

The key point is this: if it’s “stock” art, chances are that hundreds of other people are already using that image. If you want to be unique, either don’t use a cartoon, or get one made for you. You are an original, and maybe it’s time to show it.

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