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6 visual principles to bear in mind when creating content for Instagram

2nd November 2017

Being a 30-year-old creative design agency means during our time we’ve seen a fair bit of change. And obviously, technology is where we’ve seen the greatest amount of it.
Whether it is the tools we use to create our work. The machines we use to access the tools. The platforms where our work is published and shared. Or the devices on which our work is viewed. Clearly, a lot has happened to our ways of working over the years. It’s actually amazing to think just how uncomplicated everything was when we first started out.
But while tech has completely revolutionised the creative world. Some things have remained relatively untouched and unchanged – predominantly, the main principles to follow when creating the work.
For some reason, social media had this air of mystery surrounding it. Almost as if it was only those in the know who could design for it – who made out that there were hidden rules and ways of doing things. Basically, a new set of design principles.
Now while of course there are considerations and intricacies for each specific social platform, what we’ve found is that whatever social platform you’re creating content for there are key visual principles that will always apply and should be followed where necessary in order to create the most compelling digital content.
In this post then, we wanted to identify the key visual principles to bear in mind when creating content for Instagram. Instagram has arguably become today’s most influential social platform. Yet, in doing so, also the most competitive. And so the content you create needs to be doing everything right to give you every chance of success.
The following therefore, are what we believe to be the six main principles to consider when creating visual content for Instagram. And so, you’ll soon know what to look for in the content you’re about to publish on yours or your companies Instagram account.
To the principles…

Visual principles for Instagram content:


1.Focal Point

In essence, this is all about your eye needing a resting place when viewing an image – something that is interesting and really holds your attention. Without one, you run the risk of your viewers glancing at the image and quickly moving on – because nothing has caught and held their eye.
It goes without saying, that the more interesting the focal point, the better.

2. Rule of thirds

Anyone into photography will be well versed and familiar with the rule of thirds. As it takes into account how we all view images – we break them down into thirds.
Therefore, when an image is broken down into thirds, it gives you 9 parts of an image – giving rise to a central grid where the eye is drawn and so where the important parts of the image should sit. Images, where the main content sits in the central grid, will be better balanced and easy on the eye – and so more engaging.
Just like with all rules though, they are there to be broken. And so not all images are suitable. But it’s always something that is best to consider if possible.
Rule of thirds

3. Symmetry

In short, the human brain is wired for a preference for symmetry. Therefore, it is fine-tuned to detect it and so we attracted to it. It should go without saying then, that symmetrical content is engaging.
By knowing this it means you should always look at assets to see if it can be centred or cropped to make it more symmetrical. You’ll be surprised how effective a small tweak like this can be.
Rule of Symmetry

4. Framing

Much in the same vein as the previous points, this is again about using elements in an image to provide focus for the viewer – creating a natural path for the viewers eye to follow.
As shown in the below example, silhouettes is a traditional way of achieving this. So too the use of shapes and contrasts – which again the example demonstrates.
Imagery Framing

5. Unexpected shooting angles

Simply, this is all about aiming to show a very familiar world, from a completely unfamiliar vantage point.
Unexpected shooting angles make for arresting images that hold the attention of viewers. As they try to make sense of an unfamiliar familiar – if that makes sense?!
Unexpected Angles

6. Detail

As always, the devil is in the detail. And this can be true for imagery too.
A visual viewed in its entirety may not be that engaging. But when focus is given to a specific part of it, it can be completely transformed. Therefore always see if there is more than meets the eye to a visual. Can it be cropped in a certain way to turn it into something special? And of course, if you are focusing on a specific part of an image, in detail, than ensure the image is high in resolution.
Devil in the detail


As we said earlier, these are design principles that have stood the test of time. And in today’s digital age, they are arguably more relevant than ever.
Granted, the principles we have identified are general in their nature, and so can be applied across a broad spectrum of design. So, in a follow up post, we will build on these and look at more of the specifics that make for a good (and bad) Instagram post.
In the meantime, if you do need support with creating content for any of your organisations social profiles, then please do get in touch. We can certainly help you in producing content that will perform well for your brand.
Until next time…


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