Instagram visual design: How to develop strong branding on Instagram

Want to grow your following and awareness on Instagram? Here’s how to develop a strong brand on the platform.

The Instagram audience has crossed the mark of 1 billion users. Registered accounts include thousands of pages of brands, manufacturers, stores, and service providers.

And if you want to reach as much of this audience as possible and get Instagram likes and followers, you need to build a strong personal or business Instagram brand with unique (or highly recognizable) style elements.

The five elements of Instagram branding

Instagram personal or corporate branding is about creating a set of visual tools that will ensure your account achieves recognition and visibility. Your Instagram corporate identity is based on the following five elements.

1) Avatar

This is the main photo on your account. If you are building a corporate account, this will be your logo. If you are branding a personal account, it will probably be your photo – ideally a large portrait in light colors on a neutral background. Whatever image you choose needs to be good quality with no illegible inscriptions. 

Adobe’s account avatar (1,1 million Instagram followers) is a brand logo on a red background.

2) Description

This is a short text block (up to 150 characters), which describes you/the purpose of your business or account. You can include things like your name, slogan, location if appropriate and brief information about goods or services and contact information. You can create a unique selling proposition, and specify convenient communication methods or types of delivery.

You can edit this text to reflect current promotions if you wish. If you are trying to find the perfect text for your description, the recommendation is to edit your description approximately once every 14 days, tracking the audience’s reaction – this will help you get the perfect version.

Other tips are to write each sentence on a new line, use emojis, and choose the ‘center’ alignment for text. In business accounts, you can change the design of the “Contact” button. You can configure the possibility of a quick call or specify an office on the map.

3) Highlights

Highlights is the name for pinned stories with similarly styled icons. In business accounts, these can serve as a place for additional information. Here are some recommendations for the stories of a branded business account:

  • FAQs
  • Information about promotions
  • Post-acquaintance (so that new visitors understand which page they just visited)
  • Terms of contests
  • Promo codes
  • Reviews
  • Thematic categories

It’s important to ensure that you brand your highlights covers in a uniform style for consistency.

General Electric now has an interesting series of highlights (433,000 Instagram followers): the stories of key specialists about their work are designed in the same style. By the way, this company was one of the first to use Instagram stories literally from the moment the function appeared.

4) Content

Your Instagram account will need high-quality photos with a similar style or design, to give you account harmony and consistent branding. The style of your content needs to reflect the style of your avatar and highlights. There is a one important rule to remember: use high-quality copyright images that do not violate the rules of the service. 

It’s also important to ensure that your public feed is safe for everyone to see. The last thing you want is for someone to stumble on a photo from your account and be triggered by it. For this reason, it’s a good idea to hide any photos that have the potential to violate someone’s moral and aesthetic principles, or trigger a trauma (for example, photographs of a cosmetic procedure) in a gallery under a cover that made it clear what was inside. You can post up to 10 photos to the gallery. Content descriptions should be in the same style.

The GoPro manufacturer (17.8 million subscribers) has content aimed at the emotions experienced by the brand’s target audience (extreme sports, athletes, travelers). “Photo of the Day” is a common topic – these pictures are gaining hundreds of thousands of likes.

5) Hashtags

Hashtags are tools that help people to quickly find posts they want to see. They can contain a company’s name or be related words that fit the line of business. The post limit is 30 hashtags. It’s a good idea to use a tags with a range of popularity.

Popular hashtags will help you get found in more searches. But you are more likely to get lost in a sea of similar posts. More vague hashtags (which tend to be more popular) also attract searches with various motivations – and not all of them could be looking for an account like yours.

Less popular but more specific hashtags will mean your post will show up in fewer searches. But the people searching for that hashtag are more likely to be your idea audience. They are also more likely to see your post as there is less competition.

Here are some more hashtag tips:

  • Use more hashtags (place the most important ones at the beginning).
  • If you have a regional business, use a geographic hashtag.
  • In every post, use a tag with your brand name to increase awareness.
  • Track trends and use in relevant posts.
  • Use free services to find matching words and phrases.

Two ways to create a brand logo for your publication

The avatar (usually a logo) is an element of a branded profile and it grabs the audience’s attention. If your brand is well known, just the sight of your logo tells them who you are. And if they like your brand, they’ll check out your content and may even follow you or engage with your account.

If you don’t currently have a logo, it’s a good idea to get one. You can try to create one yourself using online design tools, but if you have the budget it is always better to get a designer to create one for you.

Yes it will cost you money up front, but over time your brand will have more recognition, will look more professional and it should more than repay your initial investment. A great logo will also last for years, giving excellent value for money.

Choosing the right photo sizes for your account

Instagram is predominantly a visual social media platform. And that means that it’s important you use great quality photos and images on it. The perfect Instagram image won’t distort or lose its clarity. But how can you ensure you have the right dimensions? Avatar and content requirements for feed posts are different.

Optimal profile picture size

Instagram profile photo requirements are 110×110 pixels. You also need to consider the round shape of the avatar. If you upload a photo with a different resolution, it may appear blurry or too stretched.

Published photos options

In Instagram, all parameters are standardized. There are three orientations of uploaded images are available on the social network:

  1. Standard square. It is displayed on the screen in 600×600 pixels format. The recommended format is 1080×1080 pixels: this is the maximum Instagram photo size for posting in the feed.
  2. Landscape photo (horizontal format). The minimum is 600×337 pixels, the acceptable option is 1080×607. On most devices, such a photo will be displayed without distortion. The limiting parameter is 1920×1080.
  3. Portrait photo (vertical format). The minimum is 400×600, and the maximum is 1080×1035.

For Stories, the standard is 1080×1920 pixels. If you don’t get the right parameters, Instagram will automatically change them. This can adversely affect the aspect ratio and content of your photo.

Branding will help you stand out on Instagram

Its huge audience is obviously an advantage of Instagram. But the benefit is also a drawback, as it is easy for the Instagram account of a company or a person to get lost among a billion similar Instagram pages. That’s why branding is so important for attracting new visitors to your profile, and gaining recognition in repeat visitors or customers or fans.

To grow a stand out and consistent brand on Instagram you need to ensure that all elements are unique: your avatar, description, highlights and posts.

And when using tools for creating visual content, don’t forget about the features of promoting a branded business account:

  • Stick to the same style, using the same filters (no more than three).
  • Add a logo image to each photo for publication.

When building a successful Instagram brand and account, whether it’s for personal or corporate branding, it’s firstly important to build a unique and strong brand. Then you need to create quality content and properly promote it.

In the examples for this article, we used accounts that seem to be getting branding right. If you are looking for some inspiration you can follow the links and take a closer look at profiles and posts to get some ideas for your own Instagram account.