Largely unheard of six months ago, Zoom is now an integral part of our daily life. Between checking in with colleagues, family, and friends and watching the nightly news, we’re getting intimate glimpses into people’s lives — and homes — like never before.
And we’ve quickly learned that when it comes to video conferencing, all spaces aren’t created equal. On his hilarious Twitter feed Room Rater (@ratemyskyperoom), former travel photographer Claude Taylor grades Zoom backdrops — offering critiques for everyone from celebrities and news personalities to members of Congress — with equal parts hard truth and snark.₁
It’s clear that even those with a career in communications don’t always know what makes a good backdrop for Zoom meetings. And it’s understandable. Because while there’s a ton of wisdom available about the tech side of video conferencing, useful info about interior design for Zoom calls is harder to find.
With that in mind, I’ve compiled my best interior design tips to stage your room for Zoom calls. So, if you’re hoping for a Twitter rating that’s more “Nicely lit. Strong plant game” and less “Dark with a distinct element of desperation”, keep reading.
Lighting Tips for High-Quality Video Conferencing
While my friend and producer/media coach, Stacie Hunt, covers lighting in depth here, I do want to touch on it because it’s so important. Poor lighting can ruin even the most perfectly designed video conference background. And, as the experts at Tech Crunch point out, “It can mean the difference between looking like someone who knows what they talk about, and someone who might not inspire too much confidence.”2
Most importantly, avoid bright light located overhead or behind you when video conferencing. Lighting in the wrong direction can blow out the image and cast unflattering shadows on your face. Instead, shoot for the following setups:
- Good: Face a window for natural lighting
- Better: Artificial lighting flanking your camera — from lamps, a ring light, or light bar
- Best: Three-point lighting — a light on either side of your camera, plus a lamp somewhere off-camera behind you. This adds depth and pop to your background
Room Design For Zoom Meetings
While many of the basic design principles apply, there are specific design rules for video call backgrounds. For instance, it’s important to have enough space — ideally 3-6 feet — between you and your background. You also want to keep the space tidy, so choose a spot that doesn’t attract clutter.
But that doesn’t mean the area needs to be sparse. Your space should tell a story about you. After all, it’s your home, and we need to embrace our humanity now more than ever! Select decor that’s inviting and shows who you are:
- Memorabilia and books you love
- Art that speaks to you
- Your favorite colors
- Fresh flowers, live plants, or a lit candle
Just make sure the story they tell is cohesive, and that the colors complement each other and your skin tone. For example, I have light skin, blue eyes, dark blonde hair, and often wear dark or colorful clothing. So, I chose a rich blue wall color, white bookcases, and a burgundy antique rug to make myself pop from my background.
You also want to make sure your space feels cohesive. Too many competing elements can be distracting for viewers. To style the perfect Zoom backdrop:
- Vary the height and visual weight of objects in the background. The lamp and mirror in my background make a striking statement. The photo frames and books provide texture but don’t compete.
- Mix old and new. Vintage items always add warmth and interest.
- Aim for texture over pattern. Natural materials and textiles add wonderful visual texture. Too much graphic pattern can be overwhelming on camera.
- Design your space through the camera. Some things that work in real life don’t translate to a two-dimensional digital world. Look at your space onscreen and adjust accordingly.
A Checklist For Zoom Video Backdrop Design
Watching Obama address the nation the other day, I couldn’t help but notice his office checks all the boxes of a well-designed video conferencing setup:
- Great lighting!
- Perfect camera setup — slightly above his eye line
- Bookshelves add texture and a cozy vibe without being cluttered
- A mix of items on display — new and vintage, personal and professional
- Backdrop colors complement his complexion and wardrobe
- Lighted sconce and fresh flowers add warmth and life to the space
Zoom conferencing might have skyrocketed as a solution to a problem, but I’m confident it’s here to stay. Let’s at least make it well-styled.
Have questions about how to design your Zoom space? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org