Why Your Instagram Sucks

Facebook suffered the largest outage in its history recently. But no one really cares about that. No, what people are talking about those horrible, empty hours when Facebook’s other site refused to load. Suddenly we had to enjoy our outfits, meals and adventures without broadcasting them to the world. We struggled. If it’s not on Instagram, did it even happen?

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For the Gram

How did a photo filter app suddenly dictate hours upon hours of our lives? As a social media marketer, i.e millennial with something to say, I get asked about Instagram a lot. If you asked me how important it was only 18 months ago, I would have quite possibly fallen to me knees in praise of the almighty Gram that can both giveth to small businesses and take away with one fell swoop of the algorithm. Now, I find myself getting a little frustrated.

Just Do Good Business

Instagram can be an asset to small businesses. It can help with reach, it can connect like-minded individuals, it can become a public billboard where your message is seen. But it canalso be a big waste of your limited resources. Especially when there is SO much focus on Instagram that we forget the basics of business.

Instagram > Everything Else?

We all get so starry eyed around being good on Instagram that we forget to be good in business. As the old adage goes, we are putting the cart before the horse. Small start-ups and entrepreneurs are most at risk when they focus so heavily on Instagram because, unlike giant corporations with an account for every global region, they are less established and have less resources to spend.

The danger is we become so focussed on the Gram that we forget the very thing we started the business account for: the business. Focussing less on delighting and serving our customer base, improving our offering and being nice people in our ‘real life’ business relationships in favour of content hunting, trendsetting and hashtag, geolocation scheduling can never end well.

We create campaigns that look good, and share our products and services in an aesthetically pleasing way. Great, but we can lose the core purpose of Instagram marketing (sales, conversion, food in our belly in most cases) as we do so. We risk becoming smoke and mirrors, focussing more on the hype around our businesses than our businesses themselves.

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Instagram is not Your Product

Here’s the thing. Instagram is a channel, it is not your product. Instagram can most definitely help you achieve your business goals but it is only part of the puzzle. It should not be your only marketing strategy. Think of it as a supplement to your business. It can help for sure, but it isn’t going to provide you will all you need to survive. The meat and bones of your company, whatever you do and whatever you sell, is the company itself.

Your business values, ethos, reason for being, product and services. Those things make your business and, although often much less sexy than Instagram and other marketing trends. These are the elements that will establish your company. Word of mouth from delighting customers travels fast, strong values and ethics translated into your actions and design says a lot more than any social caption. Systematic strategy, consistent valuable content and strong values to guide decision making are much more effective in making your business successful. Especially if your version of success involves a strong, loyal client base, being oversubscribed and being a leader in your industry.

Values add Value

Of course, there is value in partnering with influencers, running ads and looking swish on the feed. But the ROI is often grossly exaggerated. How will your 1M followers actually help your business? How will your high engagement result in conversion? What value does Instagram add to your business if the only time people see it is on the toilet, swiping before they’re wiping? (Hey, if you’re a toilet roll company, this could actually be perfect, it is all relative to your business).

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Instagram provides touch points between you and your customers. This is valuable. It provides chances to show what you do, this is valuable. However, if you are not doing much apart from Instagram on Instagram, this becomes hollow and fruitless. It is a tool, but we are treating it like it is the tool. Worse still, we treat it like it is our tool, putting more effort and focus into curating a feed than we do to developing our own tools: our products and services. We are so busy trying to look like good businesses, we risk missing the opportunities that prove that we are good businesses with our actions.

What Can You Do About It?

Instagram is not your business, so stop obsessing over it as if it is. Take a look at the whybehind your Instagram strategy and see if it really is worth the time you spend on it. Make sure your marketing strategy is diverse to avoid over relying on any one platform and ensure that you put as much, if not more effort into your real life relationships as you do your digital ones.

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2019 Design Trends

We all love New Year. It is all fresh starts and rarr rarr energy and all those fuck ups from last year officially no longer belong to you. Head in the punch at NYE? That was the old you. And those design trends from 2018? GONE! (well, not really, we still love quite a few of them…)

Upcoming Designs Trends

It is also time to start looking ahead to what is coming our way in the the world of design trends. You may have seen a few already but these are my favourites and I can’t wait to start using them!


Pantone’s colour of the year for 2019 is Living Coral, which feels fresh and bright after 2018’s otherworldly “Ultra Violet’.

This bright pop of colour will likely lead the way for vibrant, tropical inspired colour palettes to steal the show as 2019 gets underway. Other colour design trends to keep an eye out for include dreamscape colour themes and the use of gradients. Think the psychedelic 60s, but more refined.

The Previous Pantone Colours of the year are far from outdated, just expect to see a lot of Coral colour palettes on your radars soon

Cat over at Gatto has an amazing guide to 2019s colour trends, have a look here.

Draw the Line

I am a big fan of minimal elements in design, swooning over white space and simple lines that say more than their over complicated counterparts. So I was pretty thrilled to read that a some of the key design trends for 2019 involved minimalist graphics and letter merging.

Another design trend to keep an eye out for is floating elements. This ties in nicely with the move towards open composition I will mention towards the end of this article. There is a real sense of ‘breaking free’ in this years trends and this sings to the rebel (and Freddie Mercury) in all of us.

Metallica returns

I bloody love using metallic textures in design. They simultaneously add character and professionalism and make it easy to suggest values such as “abundance” or “intergalactic”.

So hip hip hooray for the return of metallic tendencies for 2019 design trends! Whilst metallic silver has been on the radar for a while, it is predicted that more multicoloured and irredecent metallics will start appearing on packaging across the market. Sunglasses ready, it is going to be shiny.

Nice and Shiny

Be Free – Open Composition

2019 is the year of rule breaking and mind expansion, or at least that is what is happening when it comes to composition in design. Open composition encourages viewers to, quite literally, think outside the box and makes them wonder “what else is there?” making more design that is both captivating and engaging.

These guys show how it is done.

You can tap into this trend by simply showing only a part of the whole within the borders of the design, encouraging viewers to use their imagination to fill in the gaps. This means it can be used for both digital and print designs too. Winning.

What are your key design trends for 2019? Do you have any that you hate? Let us know in the comments below!


How to Fuck Up your Design’s Layout (and How to Fix it)

Layout is how the elements of a piece interact with each other to communicate with the viewer.


A key role of a designers job is to take big messages and organise them in an easy digestible way so that the viewer understands exactly what the client wants to convey.

Therefore, Layout plays a really big part in every designer’s life.

layout design example

With that in mind, here are some things to definitely NOT do if you want your design layout to work for you, not against.

How to Fuck Your Layout Up

  • Go overboard with photos
  • Use poor quality, badly composed photos (find out more about GOOD photography here)
  • Take aforementioned badly composed photos and place them in random positions all over the place
  • Giving too much information, like that time you told the bouncer about your urinary tract infection to get to the bar, sorry bathroom, quicker.
  • Being too text heavy. Most of the time your design will need to act fast to get the message across. Providing ALL the small print in one hit is only going to get the message ignored.

And How to Unfuck it

  • Use photography to set the tone of the piece. Think about the message you want your piece to convey. What should the photo be? Do you want it to be the first thing to catch the viewers eye?
  • Entice with just the right amount of info: what is the one thing you want viewers to take away from this piece? This should be the focal point of text and then use headings and sub headings to expand on the title/headline just enough to stay interested and take action.
  • Make the most of White Space. Having a large amount of white space is quite clean and conveys a sense of calm professionalism. Because elements crowded together can induce panic attacks. this tends to be less effective. So make sure you include negative space around the margins of a piece for maximum efficiency.
  • Reread these basic tips on balance and composition in design. Then use them.
  • Find your Focal Point and maintain it. Like having a single focus on the messaging of your piece, having a single focal points saves mixed messaging and confusion.

designing ads billboard example

4 Things to Think About When Designing Ads

Designing ads, whether it is for social media, email campaigns or banner ads online, is something you will be asked to do a lot. There are a few core components of these design requests that you need to keep in mind to keep your ad designs as effective, and beautiful, as possible. Balancing the marketing mission with glorious design is part of the fun, so let’s get cracking.


As in all aspects of design for marketing, you need to keep the objective of the piece at the centre of your mind when you are designing. It is too tempting as designers to make things look cool (after all, that is what we do) but doesn’t convert it is unlikely to keep your clients coming back for more.

designing ads mission

Keep the messaging used clear and concise, ideally with a single focused message shining out. This helps prevent confusion and makes it more likely viewers will take the desired action.


Depending on your design’s intended destination, the size of your ads will vary. Designing ads that work in their final environment (most likely a social media feed or on a website as a banner ad) is crucial to making sure they are a) seen, b) effective and c) high enough quality to look swish, but not impact the loading time. You can find an excellent set of dimension guidelines here, or get the specifics from your client before you begin.

designing ads billboard example
Photo by Paige Muller on Unsplash

Content & Elements

Understanding the psychology of colour, font and imagery has all be covered in this blog, but keep a reference guide handy when you are beginning to plan out your designs.

designing ads example planning
Have a plan in mind when designing ads

What is the intended feel of the ad? What emotions do your clients what to inspire and more importantly, what actions do they want viewers to take upon seeing the ad? Think about the composition of the photography and image elements used and how they interact with the text and colour schemes. Is there any negative space that could work with text for example?


Keep it simple, stupid

Every Designer Ever

When using colours in ads remember not to over do it. Like fonts, stick to a restricted number for maximum efficiency and keep in mind the connotations certain colours have. It is also fun to have a play with the contrast of the elements on your design, will your message be more effective with high contrast or are you going for something more subtle?

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The BEST Places to Find Kickass Stock Images

Before we delve into the list of places you can find kick ass stock images to use in your design work, one thing needs to be clear:

If you can use your own photos, you should.

Obviously, I am being a massive hypocrite on this post as I am not using a single image I took myself 😇

The price of creating good quality photography is dropping everyday with technology becoming both more affordable and advanced. Understanding the basics of photography and composition also gives you a running chance at producing good quality images which are suitable for your design work.

Licence to Kill

Another benefit of using your own work is avoiding licensing issues. Stock images online will be available for use depending on certain license terms and conditions. You can get a better understanding of the various licensing type here. It is SO important to adhere to these terms and be aware of the legalities involved with using images, especially if you are doing so in the name of a client. Stay on the right side of everyone and your designs will be both beautiful and legal.

Best Places to Find Stock Images

Here are a few of my favourite places to find stock images to use when designing for fun and for clients. Enjoy!

A Note on Royalties

Royalty free images are not necessarily free as you may need to purchase the right to use them. The big benefit with Royalty Free images however is that you don’t need to pay every time it is used.

Don’t Be a Dick

The Universe

For free images you really need to keep an eye on what license the image was released with. Some images require attribution and image credit to the original producer, some don’t. Other images may not require attribution, but you are forbidden to modify or edit. We are all for breaking rules here, but not at the expense of either your client, your reputation or the hard work that someone put into creating the image you are using. We want you to be a rebel, not a dick.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Colour Theory and Photography

With the whole internet at our finger tips, the number of images you can search for borderlines on the infinite. But when you throw licensing and image quality into the mix, an image can cause your design more harm than good.

Using colour theory when considering your photography choices for a piece makes it more likely that your piece will look composed and professional, rather than something you put together for homework when you were eight. Here are some quick tips to consider colour theory when using photography in your work.

Go for the Contrast

Black and white works well with bold white text, but adding a pop of colour with some geometric elements can also help unite all the elements on the page. It is an oldie, but a goodie.

Colour Schemes

The same colour theory principles discussed here work when considering your use of photography. If the colour scheme you are working with is more monochromatic ( where the colour scheme stems from a single base hue and extends throughout its shades) or other colour harmonies, you can look for high quality images that match that scheme.

colour theory and photography example

Overlay, over lay!

An overlay is a great way to make the colour theory of your chosen photo work with your design. You can create an overlay by adding a translucent colour in a fill layer above your image. This means you can also experiments with different colours easily. You can also adjust the opacity of the image so that the photography elements stand out or fade away, helping you create the right effect for the message your piece is carrying.

colour theory and photography example

Get the Message

Remember, whatever effect you choose to use with colour theory and photography, remember the message you are trying to convey. Sometimes, designers can get a bit carried away with how awesome certain effects look, but if they are not fulfilling the function of the piece, it isn’t doing its job. Play around but if you are working on a client project, stay true to the objective!

write a clear message example

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How to use Typography AND Photography in Design

We all love good photography and we all love pretty type, but you can definitely have too much of a good thing. Here are some basic guidelines for designers to use when working with both typography and photography so that each piece remains effective without overcrowding the design and sending mixed messages.

Find Your Content

Most of the time, the written content of a piece is provided by the client. It is then your job as a designer to match the words to a typeface which carries the message effectively.

typography and photography example

Other times you may have more freedom around the wording. I am pretty lucky in that I started my freelance career as a copywriter so my grasp of the English language is pretty robust. If you are unsure of our wording, experiment with how it looks using typography and photography on the piece. Do you need all those words? Is the balance of the text working for you? What about if you adjust size and weight?

If you are providing the written content for a piece always, always, ALWAYS get the approval of your client before publishing. And get that approval in writing. Ironic? maybe. Necessary? Hell yes.

Think About Your Audience

When pairing typography and photography you need to think about the audience. In fact, in all element of design work you need to think about your audience! Who is the piece aimed at and what is the message you want your work to carry. What action do you want the viewer to take once they have seen your piece?

A heavy metal gig poster will carry a very different message to a magazine advert about adult only holidays for example.

typography and photography example
Unless we are talking about 7000 Tonnes of Metal Cruise obviously. Which goes to show there is a crossover for everything

Less is More

As covered in the Typography blogs, it is always a good idea for designers to stick to one to three fonts when working with text in a design. This helps tie the piece together and also prevents it from becoming overcrowded. This is especially relevant for pieces using typography and photography, as too many elements will compete for the viewers attention and the intended message will be lost.

photography and typography example text

Fight it Out

Remember, the more elements there are to a piece (graphics, typography and photography) the more difficult it is to see them all. Make sure you don’t overcrowd your piece and if you are using a lot, aim for a balanced composition so that each piece completes, not competes, with each other.

Composition and Layout in Photography

A photograph with terrible composition can ruin even the most beautiful of images, so imagine the damage it could cause to your design work.

Eye Up Your Composition

First up, a definition:

Composition describes placement of relative objects and elements in a work of art. 

Photography Life

Great. But what does that actually mean? Composition in photography is essentially the space, layout and focus of a piece in relation to the image’s border. A classic example of bad composition in photography is cutting out someones head, or focusing on the background and having a blurry subject. It just looks bad.

Balanced Vs Unbalanced

An image with good composition tends to feel balanced, which bring a sense of calm and beauty to the eye. Of course, using unbalanced photos in design is possible for certain desired effects, but usually text or other elements are used to counter-balance the image and unite the whole piece. Check out the difference below:

Single Focussed Images

These are created when a subject is placed in the centre of the shot and often have a shallow depth of field so that all the viewer’s attention is focussed in one place. The composition of a Single Focussed Image is ideal for food photography, portraits and headshots, as well as making bold product statements.

Weight a Minute…

Any aspect of an image, in both design and photography, has a visual weight. The composition of an image decides if a subject has a lot of visual weight, or just a little. The more visual weight an element has, the more attention it demands from the viewers eye.

If an item with heavy visual weight is pushed to one side of the design, it has the potential to make the composition feel unbalanced. You can offset this bay cropping the image cleverly or adding other elements to the piece.

Three IS the Magic Number

A handy tip for getting the composition of your images correct is using the rule of thirds.

By dividing your composition with a grid of nine squares (with four intersecting points), you provide a guideline that will balance our subject within the image and, more often than not, create a well composed image that will benefit your design work.

Of course, this isn’t a magic tool or shortcut to great design as you will still have to carefully consider the subject matter of the images used to ensure that they enhance your design and do not ruin the message you are trying to deliver.