Ad designers use specific techniques for persuasion and brand communication. Learn how you can use those techniques in your own designs
Are you using social media for sharing selfies, pet pictures, meal photos, and vacation happenings? What about for promotion of your work, your brand? Social media can be and should be a place where you tell your story, sharing your best work and accomplishments, and from time to time, go ahead… post selfies and pet pictures too.
Krista Templeton of Imaginary Forces sees social media as a very important brand touchpoint. You’re probably familiar with the work of Imaginary Forces, including but not limited to the Stranger Things opening title. Social media is where they share their stories and client stories, says Templeton, because it’s an accessible place for audiences and fans to interact with a brand. Her and her colleagues are storytellers at heart, and social media is a great platform for telling stories.
Not only does Imaginary Forces use Instagram, but they also share their work on Twitter and Facebook, as well as video platforms YouTube and Vimeo. As marketing director at Imaginary Forces, Templeton oversees the social media planning, scheduling, and output, and in her own words, guides the general conversation around Imaginary Forces and their work, including public relations and social media, conferences, awards, and behind the scenes materials.
A wealth of social media channels exist for sharing your work, whether it’s a completed project, sketches of something in progress, or a short video about your techniques. Templeton believes that if you do any video or motion graphics work, then you need to be on YouTube and Vimeo. Don’t do video work? Templeton says that YouTube and Vimeo are great for sharing your process. And don’t forget about Instagram’s video platforms, Instagram Stories and IGTV, two places where video—albeit vertical video—is making waves. Imaginary Forces has found a use for Instagram Stories, a place Templeton says is for showing their personal side.
Design studios and agencies use social media to share their work and tell their stories, and big brands use it too. Buffy, featured at HOW this spring, has a fun, friendly, and witty brand identity, created by Pentagram’s Natasha Jen. And its upbeat Instagram doesn’t take itself too seriously. You’ll find Lenny Kravitz wearing an elaborate and comfy Fluffy from Buffy. And then there’s Buffy & Buffy, Sarah Michelle Gellar who was the original Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, wearing a Buffy eye mask.
Your Work, Your Brand
Brands like Buffy and studios such as Imaginary Forces share their work and their stories through a series Instagram posts, a predominantly image-based social media platform full of photos and videos. Templeton, of Imaginary Forces, sees the benefits of curating your feed, telling others who you are and showing them what you do, all of which lends a certain authenticity to you and your brand. But what about being less regimented, less consistent with the content you post?
Jason Kernevich, principal and creative director of The Heads of State, wants their Instagram feed to appear sporadic, but not too sporadic. But he’s not quick to lay down any social media posting rules. “We definitely don’t subscribe to any kind of best practices for social media marketing or anything. I don’t even know what said best practices are! We just try and maintain a nice pace. Not too often, not too infrequent, and we don’t want it to only be a hyper-manicured, curated stream.”
Proud to have been tasked with updating these John Steinbeck classics. Swipe for the whole series. His books mean a lot to people and the original Of Mice and Men is iconic. We had a great time collaborating to achieve the final look. Eventually we’ll post a process case study. Super thanks to @paul.buckley and to @woodyharrington and @ornamental_kale for the teamwork. Head on over to @penguinclassics @penguinartgroup for a chance to win free copies!
Kernevich says that Twitter is one of their “must have” social platforms, and it’s great for pulling in an audience, specifically, finding partners who can work with The Heads of State, be it a writer or UX specialist. Readers who see those tweets can immediately connect. “Responses are encouraged via DM or email. Folks usually just email based on a general mailbox we list on our website.”
On social media, you can certainly have an anything goes approach, putting up anything and everything, so long as you’re being you. Show process work, sketches and ideas, the germ of an idea. Kernevich says, “Maybe it’s a funny sketch someone doodles in the middle of a serious meeting, or a humorous juxtaposition of visual media observed out in the wild. The off-the-cuff stuff is appealing in moderation to preserve some aspect of the medium as observational and happenstance. The rest of the stuff has to look sharp.” It’s that rest of the stuff that should be your bread and butter, showing off what you do and what you’re good at—or better yet, great at.
Charlotte, North Carolina designer and illustrator Matt Stevens puts anything and everything on his Instagram feed. You’ll find award-winning work, and also vacation pictures and family snapshots. Dog photos and shoe photos appear routinely. Anything goes, and it’s all Matt, all the time. For Stevens, there’s no need for separate personal and business accounts. “I started a single account back when I started on Instagram pretty organically and without much of a plan. Once I got traction and a decent following, it felt like starting over to create a second account. More importantly, I’m a one person design shop. If you are working with me as a designer, the relationship is typically pretty personal. You’re buying into me as much my work. I’m not out competing with large brand firms. I’m working with small to mid-sized brands and agencies that want to have the attention they get from working with an individual, so I’m not averse to showing who I am and my life on my ’professional’ account. I do think if I ever decided to grow and add employees I would be more intentional about separating work and personal.”
Stevens believes that a Carolina Panthers design, showcased on Instagram, helped him land work with ESPN.
When it comes to social media platforms, Stevens sees Instagram as the most valuable, and he appreciates its “pure visual nature.” Like Instagram, Dribbble is all about visuals, but some designers, including Stevens, have left it behind. He says he likes Dribble, but preferred it when it was “less formal and more about showing in process work and/or things that we were looking for feedback on.” In the past, Stevens would get work-related inquiries from Dribbble, although they were what he calls “lowball offers.” He admits to knowing of others, who’ve connected via Dribbble, and landed projects, but because he hasn’t had that experience he’s not as invested there. Speaking of clients, yes, he has gotten a client because they saw his work on Instagram. “Most recently I was working on some Carolina Panthers illustrations that led to some project work with ESPN.”
Social media can be used much like a portfolio, something Nathan Goldman of DKNG Studios believes. But what about if there’s nothing to share? Post to social media when it makes sense and when the work matters, in other words, and in Goldman’s words, wait until something worthy is ready. “It’s more important to retain our audience than to gain more followers, so we curate and make sure it’s something that we know our built in audience would definitely enjoy, without feeling bombarded by mediocre or overly frequent posts.” Like Imaginary Forces, DKNG Studios also relies on both Vimeo and YouTube to show technique and process.
Make, Make, Make
Social media can be an extension of your portfolio, but it can be more than a portfolio. It can be a place where you post what you’re feeling, what you’re seeing, and what you’re interested in, which is how April Greiman uses Instagram. Her feed is a treasure trove of architecture, found textures, digital artifacts, portraits, non-representational color compositions, and much, much more. “I am motivated by discovery. I see something, and let it lead me. I like to share a way of seeing. Seeing is a way of thinking.”
As an artist, designer, or illustrator, social media is great for sharing a little about you—or a lot about you. But you should also consider using social media as a place to share your work, experiment, tell your story. Putting in the effort and posting, the only thing you stand to lose is time. If you find yourself getting lost in the social media cyberspace, spending too many hours per day online, then take a step back and put limits on yourself with a set number of hours allowed per week. Go ahead and use social media, just don’t let it use you.
Thank you to the studios and individuals who granted permission to embed images, graphics, videos from their respective social media accounts.