YouTube Thumbnail Psychology to Get More Views


To grow your YouTube channel your thumbnail needs to stand out more, and be honest to your content. Popular YouTube channels like PewDiePie, Mr. Beast, Dude Perfect and etc. make use of a unique and creative thumbnail that dominates the interests of their audiences using these psychology tricks, we’re about to explain here.

We will take a look at some clever and proper ways that can be used to attract your audience.

First let’s find out what works.

How do the others do it?

As of now, the most popular YouTube channels on this planet are Mr. Beast, Cocomelon, T-Series and many more. But since two of the youtubers I’ve mentioned are an organization with their own editors, marketers and design teams. It wouldn’t make much sense to analyze their channels given the diversity of content and the lack of uniformity (not the same from one another) within their content.

So let’s take a look at Mr.Beast and have a quick look at his rise to fame and the growth he has shown not only in the quality of his videos, but also his thumbnails. This is a screenshot of Mr.Beasts first video, playing on a Minecraft Server

So Minecraft was gaining traction at that time and Mr.Beast was just trying to only get recognition at this time. Hence, the lack of effort towards the videos he was posting back them, when compared with his modern videos.

This YouTube Video Thumbnail has just a screenshot from the video and has no edits, which will not work to attract an audience at all and uses no psychology measures at all.

But, note that at this time, posting a screenshot from your gameplay was perfectly normal. And it goes to show that not everyone started off perfect, including Mr.Beast.

This is an important lesson in digital marketing, which you should take note of, and is very essential for startup marketing. The founder of The Lean Startup principles Eric Reis, named this Validated Learning.

Using means of exploration Jimmy Donaldson (A.k.a Mr. Beast) learnt of the key psychographic traits that his followers were displaying, and adapted his posting strategy over time.

YouTube Thumbnail Psychology 101: Create a First Impression from what you know

An early YT video of Jimmy (Mr. Beast) counting to 100k Above we can see a YouTube video of Jimmy, in a video where he counts from 1 to 100,000, truly a spectacular feat. But, an important point to note here is that his thumbnail has started to change.

In fact, its like he's speaking through the video thumbnail to his audience, which is exactly what makes his videos stand out at first. You see, after experimenting with your audience and learning about their interest, especially their characteristics. You can decide on what your channel should become from that point on, in order to cater to your audience.

How would you do this? By first taking points on some psychology based measures that your YouTube audience show and using it in your thumbnail.

Such as, taking into account their lifecycle throughout your channel. Try and communicate with your first viewers / subscribers to identify their interests, what they're like. And find out if you can lead them with your personality.

Your audience has a common taste, this taste is what you need to capitalize on. Exploring traditional means of video making such as being formal throughout and kinda robotic in a sense would never create interests in your future prospects to subscribe to your account.

YouTube Thumbnail Psychology in Design

YT Thumbnail of a realty channel to with text that reads 'How to get into real estate' Like we mentioned before, your YouTube thumbnail needs to lead by psychological means, such as peaking their interests before even clicking through.

Consider your thumbnail an opportunity to gain the very first impression from your audience, what would happen if someone to see it in their recommendations. Would they click through, what would be their thoughts?

Essentially, everyone sees hundreds of thumbnails in their YouTube homepage, recommendations section and etc. So you need to make sure that your thumbnails can really stand out and create a good impression at first.

How would you do this? Let's take a look at Narrowing our demographics.

Narrowing our demographics

For your YouTube Thumbnail to work in attracting viewers, your design should take into effect this key psychology factor, Narrowing your audience.

Your audience demographic should always be specific to what you've already discovered. Especially when it comes to specifics such as culture, age range and gender.

Now gender typically is not a strong contender given that both male and female can have similar interests. Even if the content you're providing is specifically towards males or females.

Sometimes curiosity creates an interest in the opposite gender to watch and hear out what the opposite gender has interests in. So, let's make sure to take into account that our content also needs to be flexible. Hence so should our YouTube Thumbnails.

Let's say that our main audience is towards male gamers, specifically those who play Call of Duty, Battlefield, Gears of War and etc. We need to first observe and identify the psychological characteristics of these players. Such as the slang they use, the vast range of attitudes and most important what they already like.

Seeking attention is the main trait of developing a good thumbnail, because, the thumbnail as we've mentioned before. Is your first impression over your audience. So your audience must definitely know what your video is about before clicking through.

How to create a good first impression?

Let's look at some examples of how to create a good first impression first.

A Video of Dude Perfect about doing Trick shots at the DP-HQ2

The thumbnail above has a clear picture, and creates a good impression of what that video is going to be about. If you take a look closer you can see the Dude Perfect logo at the back in a studio environment.

So by first impression, even without looking at the title you can assume this is a location indoors and owned by Dude Perfect.

What we mean by a good first impression doesn't just mean to follow a graphic design trend. Such as expressive faces, overly dramatic Photoshop edits and etc. Your YouTube thumbnails can be just an HDR photo like dude perfects as well.

But what matters is that your Thumbnails are expressing your interests over to your audience.

Maslows's hierarchy of needs (Source: Simply Psychology) Popular YouTubers use this Psychology factor called Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs in their thumbnails. A YouTuber typically targets the Love and Belonging, if your audience doesn't consider a sense of connection to your thumbnails. Then they're less likely to click to view your video.

Showing your face in the Thumbnail

PewDiePie YouTube Video reacting to a complaint on another video. YouTube can be very clustered and loaded with graphics and typography. So one psychology trait that YouTube creators commonly do to attract an audience is to show their faces and expressions in their Thumbnail.

The reason for this is a psychological effect called Face Pareidolia, the effect of recognizing object, patterns or meaning where it might even not exist. Such as guessing what a cloud might look like, seeing a resemblance to a face. And even giving attention to something that may have a face on it.

The brain receives a stimuli, that makes you feel connected to an object that represents a face. This can be the reason why people show interests towards YouTube videos that have a persons face in their thumbnail.

Choosing the right font

Design principles is a key ingredient in creating a great thumbnail, let's say you want to teach about your understandings in engineering through your video. Using a font like Comic Sans will never attract your audience.

Now, i don't mean to hate on Comic Sans, and of course there are some people who wouldn't mind the font within the thumbnail to be whatever, as long as its meaningful. But, by human psychology measures. A font can mean a lot of things, and the right style can create a great impression on your audience.

Font and the personality traits they portray (Source: Visme)

Above, we can see that each font on the left along with the personality traits they've been attached with. This is a prime example of how fonts can be relevant to your audiences, and how you can extend your personality towards your audience. Before they even click through and view your video.

You can learn more about font psychology from this great Visme article.

Example of Execution

Joe Rogan Experience Thumbnail Featuring Elon Musk

Let's a take a look at a YouTube thumbnail and try to grasp on what they might be trying to portray.

Here's the most infamous podcast between Joe Rogan and Elon musk, as you can see its a pretty simple photo with proper lighting and texted displayed on it. Now, let's just imagine if this was any different. Such as, lets just say there was only a picture of Elon Musk or Joe Rogan.

Would it make sense to show only one member of a podcast. If Elon had been displayed, then this would be like any other podcast that Elon musk has featured in. If it was only Joe Rogan, it would be a typical Joe Rogan podcast for the thumbnail viewer. But, instead the cameraman had decided to take them both in the picture and add a neat and sophisticated font style.

To show that this is a Joe Rogan podcast with Elon Musk in it, and the font just displays the essentials. Which is exactly what this video needs to capture the attention of its prospective viewers.


From what you've learnt in the article, you can take three things to heart. First, is that nobody starts with the perfect thumbnail design strategy. As we've mentioned earlier even Mr.Beast had started his YouTube career with an amateur and most importantly traditional YouTube thumbnail design. And over the course of time he had worked on identifying what his audience needs and delivering to their expectations. This is precisely what makes a great YouTuber and is also number two in what you need to take to heart, Validated Learning.

Number three is that your thumbnails help to create a first impression on your audience, the more they interact with your videos. The better you can understand over their interests. Take your time to think on behalf of your viewers. Would you click to see your own videos if they were recommended to you.

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