What’s Your Avatar?

Nowadays, with photos on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, even individual blog comments, you’re often judged based on your avatar. That postcard-sized picture says a lot about you. Depending on the image you choose, you might come off as professional or playful, creative or cookie-cutter, silly or somber.

Due to privacy concerns, some people opt for a symbol (a typewriter for a writer, a gavel for a lawyer) instead of a photograph. Others choose a cartoon alter ego or some sort of artistic representation (for instance, a close-up of the just the eyes or a silhouette). Still others use an actual photo, whether it’s a professional headshot, a candid photo snapped by a friend, or a self-portrait courtesy of an iPhone.

I use a photo taken by a photographer friend. We staged a photo shoot at a local writer’s space to create a literary vibe, also incorporating props like my laptop and books plucked from the shelves to reflect my love of words.

How did you choose your online image? What sort of impression did you want to create?

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Susan Johnston is a freelance writer/blogger who has contributed to publications including The Boston Globe, Mint.com’s blog, WomenEntrepreneur.com, and Yahoo! HotJobs. Her own blog, UrbanMuseWriter.com, covers tips on productivity, brainstorming, and more for fellow writers.


  1. Laneth Sffarlenn on the 12th August

    It’s funny Susan, I wrote about this a few months ago on my blog too – http://sffarlenn.net/2010/avatars-logo-vs-photo/

    I personally use a cosistent avatar across every platform I’m on, except Facebook (my personal profile is just that – personal. I’ll add folks from online if I’ve talked to them through comments or whatever.)

    It’s an Adobe-esque avatar using my initials in the style of the Creative Suite 4 (as you’ll see when I post this comment)

    I think the general consensus is that Photo = more personal, Logo or Image = more professional / more distant from user/reader, Combination is good depending upon niche / use / requirement.

    I will eventually roll across to a combined avatar, but for now I’ve been told in a few places that I’m recognised by the “little purple Ls icon” 🙂

  2. @timTech on the 12th August

    I use a custom avatar I made myself. I change my avatar once a year.

  3. Carl Coddington on the 12th August

    I would prefer avatars didn’t exist at all. It is sad that people will spend more time judging a 50×50 image over the content.

  4. Elena on the 12th August

    I’m a photographer, so this topic is close to my heart. I agonized so much over how to pick just the right image to use for online avatars— I wanted something that would stand out, that reflects my creativity and aesthetic sensibilities, that is simple/graphic enough to look good as a tiny square, but can still be interesting when larger.
    Even though I knew I wanted an image of myself, the questions of what environments, what poses, and most importantly, who would shoot it for me, dogged me for days on end.

    Eventually, I chose a photobooth shot (a real one, not webcam!), and I think it does all these things. It alludes to the themes of my artistic practice. It reflects my love of handmade/analog materials. It jokingly references the anonymity and ubiquity of the online environment. And, best of all, its analog look cuts through the online clutter. Finding a photobooth, on the other hand.. was not so easy 🙂

  5. Mike Abasov on the 12th August

    Just a photo of my face that I change from time to time. After all, I’m still a human being, and not a robot, cartoon character, or a piece of software.

  6. I use a logo across all sites. It helps me/my business be more recognizable.

  7. Sauromatum on the 13th August

    I usually use my company logo. Like I almost always use my web alias (which is also my company name) rather than my real name. I actually really don’t know why, it’s just a habit…

  8. Jacob Saaby on the 13th August

    I’ve chosen something that should be easily recognizable. There are a lot of people out there, so one of the things I’ve weighed heavily, is the ability to be spotted when people browse their lists quickly.

    Secondarily, I went for uniqueness, and something that supports what I want to say: Simplicity.

    I think I’ve managed to hit my targets pretty well. You can see what I chose, on http://flavors.me/jsaaby 🙂

  9. Ashley Hill on the 13th August

    I’m using my company logo.

  10. Bret Juliano on the 13th August

    I just use my business logo, considering that most blogs are design sites that I comment on so it is consistent with everything business related online. The only picture that is different is my facebook profile because that’s personal.

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