Nowadays, when there are so many social media platforms and we all skim through never ending newsfeeds full of visuals, it is very important to create social media images that grab viewers attention. Let’s look at some of the graphic design principles that help create social media images that pop-out.
Create Visual Hierarchy
The idea behind the visual hierarchy is that all stylistic elements like colors, type, shapes, spacing, and placement are used in a way that influences the sequence in which the human eye perceives the information. Apparent visual hierarchy helps guide your readers eye to the direction you want and therefore you can better convey your marketing message on social media. In order to create visual hierarchy, it is necessary to use several design principles.
Contrast is the most powerful design principle that is used for creating visual hierarchy and drawing readers attention. This is why the most important element of your social media image should be the most emphasized. The second most important element should be less emphasized, and so on.
What is the first thing that jumps out at you in this social media image? We’re betting the words “Exercise Regularly”. The orange background and big letters help these elements to pop.
You can achieve contrast in many ways:
- manipulate the space (empty vs. filled)
- by usage and placement of elements (isolated or grouped and bottom or top)
- through color choices (dark vs. light and cool vs. warm)
- by size (small vs. big)
- by creating elements that are visually different from the other elements used in your design.
Reduce clutter, organize information, and give your audience a clear structure to improve readability. When you are creating your social media image, be aware of where your eye goes first, second and third when you step back and look at it.
Count the number of visual elements on the page and the number of times your eye stops. If your eye stops more than three to five times, consider grouping separate items in units to organize the information and reduce clutter.
Decide what needs to be the boldest and catch your reader’s eye first and what should appeal next.
The main point of the alignment principle is that nothing in your design should look as if it was placed there randomly, because alignment helps to unify all your elements (types, pictures, and graphical elements) together into a strong and cohesive structure. Alignment makes information easier to read and allows you to scan social media images faster. Aligning your elements in a logical way also ensures that your audience reads your message in the right sequence, which increases the conversion rate. In general, there are four ways you can align elements in your design: left, right, centered and justified alignment. You already use them every time you type something on your computer.
Look at the social media image example below. In this case, the right alignment has been used. Your eye will stop 2-3 times to read the information. All elements are well organized. It’s because the related elements and information are grouped closely together so that they become one visual unit.
In simple words, the principle of repetition means that you repeat the same or similar design elements throughout the design of your visual. The purpose of this principle is to tie together separate elements of your design and give a sense of unity and consistency. While contrast is used to show differences, the principle of repetition is used to make sure that the design is viewed as a whole. The repetitive elements of the design may be colors, fonts, shapes, textures, spatial relationships, line thicknesses, sizes, graphic concepts, and others. Consistency and repetition are especially important in branding because they help build your brand recognition. Use the same design elements in all your social media images to create brand consistency.
White space, also called negative space, is always a necessary element in any good design. Don’t misinterpret the meaning. White space is just a term. Actually, it can be any color – red, yellow, black or whatever color or background texture you use in your social media image. In the example below, the white space is actually red. Its main purpose is to reduce noise and clutter so that focal elements of the design can be easily recognized and perceived.
Don’t be afraid of empty space in your design and don’t fill up your layout with text and graphic elements. Ask yourself if you really need all these titles, texts, and images. By deleting the unnecessary elements, you can create a more focused and professional design. If you are not sure about the necessity of an element, most probably, you don’t need it and it can be deleted.
Use Bold and Bright Color Schemes
When you are creating your social media images, bear in mind that almost 93 percent of customers make purchase decisions based on color and visual appearance. This is why choosing the right colors are so essential. Consider your target audience (its gender, age, interests, beliefs) and find out what colors and their combinations work best for them.
With colors, you can influence the mood and message that your social media image communicates. Before you start creating your design, think about what feelings you want to evoke. Colors help create the contrast that is necessary to draw attention to your ad. Most visuals look best with two or three main colors. Therefore, don’t use too many colors to avoid clutter.
Different color combinations work well for different purposes. However not every color combination is good for advertising. Check out these color combinations to avoid in your advertising.
High quality and relevant photos help establish your brand’s reputation and boost engagement. However, not always you need to pay for photos. Check out this handy article that lists over 60 free stock photography websites.
After you have chosen the image for your social media post, make sure you use it to the best advantage. You don’t always have to use the whole photo. Often, you will get a much more impressive result by using only a fragment of the picture. Crop your photo and enlarge it to make it more eye-catching. If your photo contains more face than the body (either human or animal), the eyes and facial expression will communicate emotion and feelings.
In order to highlight physical and bodily qualities such as strength, fitness, energy, and vitality, use full-body shots or only some body parts. They will immediately communicate the main message of your visual.
Grab Attention with Faces and Silhouettes
We are social beings that are genetically programmed to be drawn to living beings. Therefore, images of eyes and faces (humans or animals) are much more likely to grab our attention. Moreover, facial expressions communicate emotions and feelings very well, which help set the mood of your social media post and trigger associations and fantasies of your audience.
Since we unconsciously tend to make eye contact with other humans, we try to do that even when we see faces and eyes on a picture. Therefore, eyes and faces (human or animal) are some of the strongest focal points. Use them to your benefit.
Look at the example below. Most likely, your eyes are unconsciously trying to meet the eyes of the person on the social media image.
Direct the Gaze
According to studies such as Eye Gaze Cannot be Ignored, human beings have a natural tendency to follow the gaze of others. Moreover, we have been trained since birth to follow arrows directing us to where we should be looking or going. In marketing visuals, it is a commonly used technique to lead the viewer’s eye to specific information or an element. You can lead your audience’s eye with the help of arrows, triangles and illustration or photography. If you use a face image, make sure the person is looking at your title. Double the effect by using a gaze and a pointing finger.
Z-layout refers to the route the Western people eye travels when they read — from the top left to the top right, and then diagonally to the left bottom corner to the right bottom corner, forming an imaginary letter “Z”. For other cultures, this principle works in reverse mode.
When reading (scanning) texts, people eye will naturally follow the path of the Z. Consider this rule when you are creating your social media images and place the elements that you want the reader to see first along the top of the Z.
Don’t use elements and pictures that would lead your reader eyes to the opposite direction to what he is comfortable with. The more effort is required to perceive the information, the higher is the possibility that they will skip it and move to another piece of information that is easier to assimilate. It happens subconsciously even without reading a single word.
If your picture is reversed, flip it horizontally so that it has the preferred upper-left to lower-right diagonal scan. Otherwise, it will lead the reader’s eye away from your message.
Look at the social media image below. It’s clearly visible that the rule of thirds and Z-layout principles have been used for its design. There are obvious locations for the text in the upper and lower parts of the post and the chosen elements support the pattern with their diagonal lines. Therefore, you can clearly draw Z letter with your eyes.
However, it doesn’t mean that you always need to use the Z-layout principle. You can create a powerful, centered design that has no diagonal movement at all. In this case, the diagonal scan is not necessary.
Arise Emotions with Typography
The fonts you have chosen for your social media image can either improve its design or make it fail. Correctly selected fonts will arise relevant emotions like joy, lust, fear, anger or romantic feelings. It is important for attracting your audience’s attention. But inappropriate fonts and their formatting will confuse your readers and convey unprofessionalism.
The bad news is that the selection of standard fonts that are available on your computer is limited. The good news is that you can add new fonts to your computer easily and free of charge. If you feel that you need a greater variety of fonts, check out this list of free resources you can choose from.
Incorporate Your Branding
All your social media images should represent your branding with certain colors, fonts, backgrounds, icons, image style, and tonality. Every brand, from the smallest website or startup to corporate giants such as Skype or Coca-Cola, needs a set of branding guidelines and rules to maintain their identity. Unless you’re a large company, you probably don’t need to create a hundred-page document as your brand book; however, you should decide on the main guidelines to incorporate them in all your visuals. Consistency and repetition of brand elements such as logo, colors, and fonts, is essential to create your brand recognition. Learn more about the main principles and rules of logo design in my book “Effective Logo Design: Guidelines for Small Business Owners, Bloggers, and Marketers“.
Now it’s your turn!
Now that you have learned these graphic design tips, you are ready to create better, more engaging and eye-catching visuals for your social media content! Do you have other social media graphic design tips you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments!