Turn Your Instagram Into a Playground for Experimentation

Instagram is incredible. All in one app, you can feel jealous of other people’s lives, hungry for other people’s food, and intimidated by other people’s makeup routines. When it comes to brand strategy agencies and design studios, Instagram tends to be used for either sharing polished client work or photos of employee’s dogs (equally important).

But more and more, we’re seeing studios break out from the norm and utilize the platform as a playground for design experimentation. Turning the web into their own personal focus group, agencies are sharing weird sketches, creative side projects, and honing new skills.

The Art of Symbols

Recently, we completed the #100DayProject on our Instagram – an experiment in reimagining 100 symbols through illustration and motion design. Part creative marathon, part research assignment, it was a fantastic way to test-drive some new ideas. Outside the typical constraints of a client project, we could ideate and follow our curiosity wherever it led us.

As Senior Designer Jonathan Haggard says, “I think there’s something about quick validation via Instagram. I’ll throw ideas up on Instagram that I’m not sure if I should keep pushing. If it gets a positive response, I’ll keep going. And if it doesn’t, I know that it might not be worth pursuing. I don’t have to work at something for months to finally unveil it in some grand gesture.”

Testing, Testing

DIA studio specializes in kinetic typography, and they utilize their Instagram as a veritable gymnasium for moving type. Alongside client work, they showcase tests, attempts, and chaotic exercises. Maybe there’s an assumption one should only post perfect works from your portfolio to appear “professional,” but bringing the client in on your thinking shows your brilliance in another way. From a strategic and artistic point of view, people love gaining insight into the process.

As Design Director Robert Saywitz says, “Social media has completely changed how we think about design. Instagram is a positive tool for design firms to share their own work – and work that inspires them – with the world. The impact of that instant access, compared to say, ten or twenty years ago when you’d have to hunt through websites or printed design annuals to connect with work, is massive. It’s also a beacon for finding agencies you’d like to work for.”

Unexpected Collaborations

Pentagram, the world’s largest independent design consultancy, created a yearlong data drawing collaboration between partner Giorgia Lupi and information designer Stefanie Posavec. Each week, for a year, the designers sent each other a transatlantic postcard with analog, hand-drawn data describing what had happened during the week. Over the course of the self-initiated project, the pair became good friends, using data as their primary source of communication.

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“Dear Data” was a yearlong data drawing collaboration by @giorgialupi (prior to joining Pentagram as a partner) and the London-based information designer @stefpos. Each week, for a year, the designers sent each other a transatlantic postcard with analog, hand-drawn data describing what had happened during the week. Over the course of the self-initiated project, the pair became good friends, using data as their primary source of communication. . Every Monday the designers chose a particular subject or theme on which to collect data about themselves for the whole week: how often they complained; the times they felt envious; the positive thoughts they had; the sounds they heard. They then created a drawing representing this data on a postcard-sized sheet of paper, and dropped it into the mail. . The designers documented the project in the book “Dear Data” (2016), which reproduced the original 52 pairs of postcards, followed by “Observe, Collect, Draw!: A Visual Journal” (2018), a guide for readers to create their own visual languages for their data. The original postcards are in the permanent collection of @themuseumofmodernart. See dear-data.com for more info. . 2/10 in a series of posts that will explore Giorgia’s work. . #datavisualization #datahumanism #deardata #informationdesign #databook

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As Creative Strategist Chris Ames says, “I love the idea of treating Instagram as an imperfect, collaborative tool between creatives. There’s a sleekness and polish to the digital age that we should push back against. I want to see process shots, behind the scenes sketches, the joke ideas that never made it to the client.”

The World Is Your Mood Board

Spin Studio, a graphic design agency in London, treats their Instagram as a constant source of inspiration. From experiments in typography to their travelogue photography, they capture whatever intrigues them. Everything is potential fuel for better client work. So often, projects become hermetically sealed within the confines of a studio. If we’re making work that ultimately goes out into the world, shouldn’t we turn a critical eye to the world around us?

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Fondation Vasarely #spintravelogue

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As Designer Keyoni Scott says, “Mobility is really powerful. Being able to always be in touch with a studio’s work and the new inspiring things they are doing is amazing. So, I think it’s really important to do quick experiments and just put your work out for people to see. I think everyone sees things differently and can be inspired in different ways, so you can’t be afraid to just put your work out there.”

Keep It Weird

Chances are, your website already has a section for case studies. Instagram doesn’t have to be your portfolio. Instead, it can be a repository for your 3 a.m. ideas, your moonshot designs, and wonderful distractions. After all, finding new ways to flex our creative muscles will only make the client work stronger in the end.

Emotive Brand is a brand strategy and design agency in Oakland, California.

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