How do they do this wizardry? A team of graphic designers sprinkled with fairy dust working every day on Instagram? Well, perhaps they do have designers working on it (without the fairy dust!), but it’s likely they’ve got a simple tool they are using to make it look a million bucks: a set of visual brand guidelines. It’s a simple document which advises which fonts and colours they use, so their brand always has the same look and feel, not matter whether they are creating a post on Instagram or a banner ad.
It’s not too difficult to create a stunning account of your own, by setting up some visual brand guidelines for your own business.
If you’re a large company, it’s likely already you’ve got visual brand guidelines squirrelled away in a corner of your server. Your design team would know about it, but it’s not something they announce because they live and breathe it. Buy them a cup of coffee and I’m sure they’ll share it with you as long as you promise to follow it to the letter!
For everyone else, whether you’re a small business, freelancer or solopreneur, it’s pretty easy (and fun!) to create brand guidelines of your own with these free tools.
You talkin’ to me?
It’s essential to have a brand font, or a set of complementary fonts you use across all your content. There’s nothing worse than mismatching fonts (and we all know the punishment inflicted for those who use Comic Sans).
There’s a whole industry to font selection and design, but before you enrol in a typography course, it’s likely you’ve already got a font you see every day which you can base your brand visual guidelines on: the font in your logo.
For many people, it’s likely the exact name of this font has been forgotten after the original logo was made, but with the glory of the internet and with the wonder of the reverse-font search engine, you can find it again. Just by uploading a picture of your logo and the reverse-font finder will find it. Magic!
You may find that it’s a premium font that you need to pay to install. If this is out of your budget, find a similar font and use across your brand.
Next up: find a secondary font. Consider your logo font might be used for headings, and your secondary font is used for all other text – so ensure that legibility is key. No one explains font-pairing better than this amazing Canva post breaking it down. So get inspired and find your new set of fonts.
I feel pretty
Now: colours! These are a big step. Again, many of us already have a logo we can use as inspiration. Use a colour-picking tool in your favourite image editing tool and get the hexadecimal code for it – this means that your colours will be exactly the same no matter what program you’re using.
Now, if you’re like a lot of brands out there, your logo is only one or two colours – and perhaps they aren’t amazing. You may want to create a secondary palette, which is another set of official colours you can use, but compliment the original palette. My favourite tool for this is coolors.co – it’s an ace tool where you can list your set brand colours using their hexadecimal code, them ‘lock’ them in. Then, pressing the spacebar, you will be suggested a whole array of complimentary colour palettes.
For those who are using photographs without fonts or additional colours, you may want to choose a specific Instagram filter as your brand filter to get that consistent look.
Pro tip: create a document which lists your official font and brand colours (both the actual colour for easy reference with a colour picker tool, and the hexadecimal code). This is my current font and colour scheme:
Fit the frame
One of the things which make well-designed social media channels look stellar is the fact that all their images are actually set to the specifications of the social media channel they are on. It means no awkward landscape images getting cropped off on the edge, or people not being able to read text because a landscape image won’t zoom on a phone.
In this day and age, there are loads of tools to make this super simple. If your team is a fan of photoshop, the always-updated size guide for social media posts is online here, or you can use Sprout Social’s Landscape Tool to crop images in one click, or you can use Canva either by selecting the channel you’re creating your image for from the outset, or using the ‘magic resize’ tool to auto-magically rearrange all the elements for another social channel.
Where did I put that?
It’s easy for things to get lost. Like that style guide you lovingly created. After you’ve created your guide, make it priority number one to let everyone who is working on your social media know about the style guide, and make it easy for them to implement it. Save the style guide and the official fonts on your server or dropbox so everyone can access it. Even better, if you regularly use Canva, set it as your official brand palette.
And, of course, be firm about implementing it. Anyone who posts on social media using the wrong font needs to do the coffee run for the next week. Afterall, drool-worthy accounts aren’t created when you use the official palette only sometimes. Keep it consistent, use it every day and your visual brand will shine.
Ready to rock and roll? Do it!
Sweet! You can access your visual checklist here! You can also check out Rachel’s online course on How To Create Instagram Ads Like A Boss here.
About Rachel Beaney
Rachel Beaney is an Australian freelance social media specialist with over a decade in digital media. She’s worked with global names like Microsoft, Samsung, News Corp and General Assembly, in addition to not-for-profits and government bodies. She loves helping clients solve their business needs with creative and data-driven solutions. Get in touch today to jump on a free consultation call to find out how Rachel can help you.