Instagram Design #1: Tell your Story
My Instagram feed hasn't always looked the way it does today. I've made a lot of changes since I first started posting to Instagram, about a year ago. Scrolling back, I'm actually really happy that I just tweaked and adjusted my layout over time, instead of always starting again from scratch. This has left me with an actual visual diary of my first year in business and a way of seeing how my brand has evolved.
NordicCopperDesign (or NordicCopperPrints as it was in the beginning) was "born" late one night. I was lying in bed, scrolling through Pinterest to fall asleep. A pin caught my eye "How to make Money Selling Digital Prints" (or something like that). I was intrigued - working a part time job, I could always do with some extra money.
I woke up the next morning, determined to start my own business selling digital prints. I honestly have no clue what had gotten into me. I signed up on Etsy that same day and started creating my first prints. It was a nursery series inspired by the Eames elephant. [Ray and Charles Eames are my favorite designers, by the way.]
Soon after, following the example of a fellow fledgling print designer, I created an Instagram account for my small business. That is, I signed into an old account from my fashion blogging days, deleted the images, renamed the account and got started. [Yes, I once had a fashion blog named "A Hint of Redness" and after that an interior design blog called "Country Cocoon". But that was years ago and I since managed to erase pretty much all evidence - you can go looking, but you won't find much.]
But back to my early days on Instagram...
This is what my feed looks like when you scroll right back to the beginning. I must have deleted some of the images because I remember struggling to find a way to incorporate behind the scenes shots without making the feed look messy. [Back then, I had no clue I could use stories to avoid that problem...] I went with a black and white filter in the end.
While I used a lot of mock ups to display my prints, you can see that I already had fun styling and shooting my own images, back then.
There's a pattern emerging in my feed, rather soon - I honestly don’t remember whether this was my own sense of aesthetics or something I read about or saw somewhere. Anyway, I started alternating brighter and darker images and continued to do so for some time.
At first, most of the images in my feed were showing my products. But then I slowly started including photos that were showing more of the lifestyle behind my brand.
By this point in my feed, weeks had passed and I had hardly made any sales. And seeing peers that had started at the same time being a lot more successful was so disheartening.
I started thinking that print design might not be my thing, but - funny enough - I was not even considering ending my small business journey. I was hooked.
I think this is the point were I really started developing my own "visual voice". I started experimenting with flat lays. And I not only tried to create a new one every day, but I also alternated between blue, green and black /white.
I truly enjoyed styling and taking these images - so much more then creating digital prints. I started trying to make some money out of this new found passion by selling mock ups. After all, all those digital print designers [who were doing so much better than me] needed mock ups to display their work, didn’t they…
Still being very inexperienced at styling and shooting this type of image and also at converting the flat JPEGs into smart object based PSD files, I soon started reconsidering that business idea, as well. I was also really frustrated because card and frame ratios here in Switzerland are so different from those in Great Britain and America - where most of my potential customers were living…
Styled stock photography and mock ups go hand in hand and I finally decided to give styled stock photography a try and to start out by just selling these flat JPEGs. I was so excited to share my new photos that I ended my carefully curated and color coded feed. (As you can see in the image above.)
I could only life with this „chaos“ for a few days, though, and then started introducing a new pattern. I must have started working on my branding, at that time, because this is when „Dusty Blue“, my main brand color, shows up in my feed for the first time.
Summer ended, I was hunting for white pumpkins and the first puzzle feeds started popping up in my Instagram home feed. I was intrigued and did some experimenting myself but I didn’t want to copy what I was seeing on other accounts. It took me a while to figure out a way to create my personal puzzle feed. And no, it did not look great - but thats also because of the styled stock bundle I shot at that time. [Taught me to keep my fingers from stylings with my brown serving try - not on brand for me!]
Over the next weeks, I refined my design by adding connecting elements like overlying texts and shapes.
I started my puzzle feed in September, last year, and kept the layout going until February, this year. I liked how everything was connected and got a lot of lovely feedback on my design. However, I was feeling more and more as though something was missing. But I couldn't put my finger on it.
Then, PreviewApp featured me on their blog as an example for a puzzle feed. I was over the moon. Among the other featured accounts, there was @white_space.studio And, looking at their feed, I suddenly knew what mine was missing. Something that I’d been talking about, teaching and even writing a blog post about: White Space.
I went back to the drawing board. In the end, I decided to keep my previous structure but to add a lot of white space. It was nerve wrecking in the beginning, because it took a while to see whether it would work. But I think it did!
Have you ever thought of your Instagram feed as a digital and self-updating business card? They say that one pictures says more than a thousand words - and your Instagram feed is all pictures. With every new post you update not only your business card but also add a new piece to your brand story.
I spend a lot of time planing and designing my Instagram feed. For most type of businesses, the time I invest would be way too much. For me it’s not. I need an intricate design to tell my brand story. My business is about beautiful photography and careful styling - and I think that’s exactly the story my feed is telling.
What story does your Instagram feed tell?