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Design better social media graphics with these best practices (examples included!)

Sep 22, 2022 | Branding, Visual Brand

We’re diving into our top five tips for designing better social media graphics so you can take them from good to great.


You’ve got your brand colors, font standards and a social media-friendly logo… shouldn’t that be enough to create those screenshot-worthy graphics? 

First, congratulations! You have a great foundation for your visual brand. 

But. 

But there are a few more little nuggets of information that you can implement to take your graphics from good to great. And that’s exactly what we’re covering today –  five design principles that you can put to practice right away to level up your visuals.

 

In This Article

>> Group like items with like items
>> Repeat brand standards for consistency
>> Contrast is your friend
>> Create strong lines and connection
>> Keep order of importance in mind, always
>> Additional brand resources

 

Group like items with like items

Say hello to design principle number one – proximity. This is all about grouping like items with like items. Items meaning images or text under a same topic or category, or graphics that are aligned.

The idea is that you pull together all the supporting information to communicate what you need to in an easy-to-understand format. This principle is especially helpful when there is a large amount of information to communicated – like what you’d find on a flyer or brochure.

 

 

Why this doesn’t work.

All the information is spaced haphazardly throughout the slide, making it hard to tell what belongs with what.

When elements are thrown onto a page without any intentionality, it makes it extra challenging for the reader to understand where to go first and what goes with what. They have to work harder to take in the information you’re trying to share.

 

Why this does work.

The three examples are grouped together and the result section is grouped together, helping your eyes take in the information in chunks.

Additionally, there’s intentional white space above and below each section, again, helping your brain understand what should be consumed together.

 

Repeat brand standards for consistency

This is all about repetition and (my favorite word) consistency.

The purpose of repetition and consistency in design is to bring together elements throughout the design to unify and strengthen the overall piece. And by ‘piece’, I mean anything from a social media graphic to an entire website to a business card to your entire visual brand as a whole.

 

 

Why this doesn’t work.

Let’s play a ‘Where’s Waldo’ with all the design elements that aren’t consistent, shall we?

Kidding aside, the idea here is that when we have so many different design elements going on in one piece that it can be hard to actually take in the information. Our eyes are so busy absorbing the competing elements that we aren’t able to process what we’re seeing or reading.

…But in case you did play, here’s what’s different:

  • Heading font
  • Heading font color
  • Heading font size
  • Button color
  • Button height and width
  • Button font style
  • Button font size
  • Image style
  • Body font style
  • Body font size

 

 

Why this does work.

When we define the constraints (I.e., the spacing, the image style, the typography, the button styling) we can then play around with various elements of the piece. As shown above, the heading fonts are within the same family but one is italics and colored, while the others are normal and black.

The goal is to set the standards (this would be your brand style guide) and then determine what elements will be repeated and what elements can be up for negotiation.

 

Contrast is your friend

The principle of contrast says that if two items are not exactly the same, then make them different. Very different. When done well, contrast draws you in and helps organize the overall piece, guiding the viewer throughout the design.

 

 

Why this doesn’t work.

First, can you even really ready the text? This is the biggest mistake that I see – selecting an image or background color without considering the text legibility. Remember, the goal of a graphic is to communicate something so always make sure the viewer can actually read what you’re saying.

See the two different lines? Well, they’re ‘kinda’ different, but not nearly enough to have an impact. This is a prime example of either make the elements really different or keep them the same.

And the type, well it’s all the same. There’s no contrast between size or style, which means the viewer doesn’t know what to read and in what order.

 

 

Why this does work.

Color. The background is significantly different from the text that’s being used which means it’s easy to read. There’s enough contrast for you to actually see the text. For the win.

Next, the lines. They’re distinctly different. Does it look great? Maybe not the right design choice but from a contrast perspective, you can most definitely tell they’re different. And that’s the goal of contrast – make them different or keep them the same. Don’t teeter on the edge.

Lastly, the type – we went with varying sizes and styles to really lean into contrast within the graphic. The heading is extra large, the body font is small and the call-to-action is a different style.

With contrast, you don’t have to get crazy and choose a lot of different things (remember, repetition!) but rather, be intentional about not keeping everything the same to add visual interest to the entire piece.

 

Create strong lines and connection

This one’s my favorite – mostly because it’s a quick way to see a big change in your designs.

Alignment tells the viewer that the items belong in the same place, that they weren’t just placed there arbitrarily, that there is a purpose and strategy behind the design.

The result? A more cohesive unit and graphic.

Now, for that quick win. Stay away from center alignment as much as you can because it results in soft edges.

 

 

Why this doesn’t work.

While there is nothing wrong with this design, it’s not striking. The centered text creates those ‘soft’ edges and it doesn’t seem to be designed with any intention.

And, if we draw lines between the elements (a great habit to get into), you can see that there aren’t any strong connections. There are five edges or lines, which results in a soft aesthetic overall.

 

 

Why this does work.

When we justify elements to the right or left, it creates a strong line, a ‘hard’ edge. This edge brings strength to the entire design. As another added bonus, the information is instantly more organized.

And, if we draw lines between the elements, we go from five to three – which helps us unify the information and make it easier to take in.

 

Keep order of importance in mind, always

Last, but not least, let’s talk about hierarchy.

Hierarchy is all about the order of importance within a design and helps the viewer understand what should be consumed first. It utilizes the other principles – alignment, contrast, proximity and repetition – to guide the viewer in a certain direction.

The goal is to not confuse the viewer by organizing the information in a strategic and intentional way.

 

 

Why this doesn’t work.

Yes, it’s readable. Yes, you can take in the information. But as a viewer, how do you know what you should look at and take in first? Remember, readers skim.

When the colors don’t have enough contrast, when the text is all the same size, when there’s not great alignment… as you can see, it’s challenging to know where to look first.

 

 

Why this does work.

The most important information (the statistic) is towards the top in different colors and much larger font.

The title of the slide, which isn’t as important, is smaller and down in the bottom left.

‘Attention’ and ‘Learn’ are bolded because we want readers to see that those words are tied to the statistic.

And, the least important information for this particular slide, the url, is at the bottom right, in the smallest size text.

To put this one into practice, ask yourself, “What is the order of importance for the content in this piece?” And then design from that place of communication hierarchy.

As with all things branding that we share around here, this isn’t about being perfect. But rather, showing you where the boundary lines are so you can dance around them with confidence. because, as the saying goes, you have to know the rules first in order to break them.

And of course, if you’d rather outsource your graphic design needs, let’s chat!

As always, happy branding 🙂

All my best,

 

Additional brand resources

Walk through the seven different types of logos and how to best use them in your business to curate your brand’s experience.

Find out of you are making one of these five common visual brand mistakes.

Here are five easy ways to refresh your brand without hiring a professional.

Learn the key to achieving consistent and cohesive visual branding across your website and social media platforms.

 

 

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