I’m no graphic design expert. But like most comms people nowadays, I’ve had to learn a bit along the way. I can now develop decent-looking WordPress websites (do you like this one?!) and eye-catching poster and report designs when required.
But the thing I get design requests for the most is for social media content. I recently ran a workshop with a client on some of my top social media design tips and the tools you need to make your ideas come to life. Here’s six of those tips below:
You’ll read repeatedly across design blogs one stat: 90% of snap judgements are made based on colour alone. They convey emotion and the way in which they interact with each other can tell a story.
I went for the pink with my brand because I felt it said something about being creative. Matched with the light shade of black, it adds a seriousness to it. Displayed on white it feels fresh and contemporary.
Your brand colours should have a story too. Don’t be afraid to add in the odd accent colour, but try to be consistent with it. Having too many or being too inconsistent will become confusing.
2. Text and typography
The most frequently repeated mistake I see made with social media graphics is that of too much text. Honestly, you don’t need it. Remember that on any platform, you get space to accompany your image with text through status bars or captions. Use that instead.
Your typography is also important. According to Ubuntu’s designers, the font I use for my brand “has a contemporary style and contains characteristics unique to the Ubuntu brand that conveys a precise, reliable and free attitude.” I hope that says something about me too!
If you want to use more than one typeface in a graphic, make sure that it serves a design purpose and certainly don’t use more than three.
3. Space & Scale
Here’s a much repeated but forever ignored design tip: Less is more. You don’t have to cram everything in, let stuff breathe and allow for ‘negative’ space. Do you really need your logo that big? Would the image pop better if it was smaller, but with space around it?
Remember the purpose of your graphics and who it is for. It should never be trying to get too much information across, only trigger an action. For instance, getting somebody to click on a link for more information.
Use scale to emphasise importance. It’s rare that all words are equal. Why not pull one out to draw attention and let the rest of the sentence sit around it.
4. Great Photography
This one almost goes without saying, but great photography can make or break any design. In fact, if you look at a lot of the top contemporary brands online, they rarely ‘design’ social media content at all these days – they often just focus on stunning photographic shots.
Build up a library of great images. Can’t afford a photographer? Invest in a camera. Can’t afford a camera? Get good at using high-end smartphones. Can’t do that either? Subscribe to stock photo specialists like iStock, you won’t regret it.
The focus of a shot can be key for social media. Look at your favourite photo. It may look great in its entirety on the printed pages of your Annual Report, but will its greatness hold on a mobile phone screen? The likelihood is that it won’t, so crop it to the most important part of the shot.
Icons are a great way to complement an image or well-crafted text in a social media graphic. But I wouldn’t advise sharing giant infographics as social content directly. They tend not to catch the eye and can look confusing on the feed.
Instead, create mini-infographics pulling out singular pieces of information and link to the full thing on your blog.
You don’t need to design your own icons, there are great tools like thenounproject.com and flaticon.com out there to help you. However, I would decide on a consistent style that fits with your brand expression.
6. Size & Platform
This is a straightforward one but make sure the graphic you produce will fit neatly on the platform you want to share it on.
A lot of brands tend to favour one platform, whether that be Twitter or Instagram or Facebook, and then produce content with that platform in mind. They then repost that content across all other platforms and it just doesn’t work in the same way
Take the time to ensure what you’re producing will display correctly on each platform and remember the differences between what will surround an image. For instance, an event cover photo will have the details of the event below it.