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Graphic Design for Social Media

Updated: Nov 14, 2022

What are Graphics?

Graphics are visual representation of an object on any medium or surface. Graphics for digital advertisements would be simply images on computer screen that are complemented with text slogans and other information about the business. Designing graphics for social media advertising can be complicated given the small attention span of the audience on social media screens. Attention span of audience on social media could be very low, anything between 3-7 secs. It is in this short duration that the graphic is supposed to communicate the message and also leave an impact on the viewer. Right use of graphic design principles and balancing them with the digital promotion content features can help develop content that can create long-lasting impact on the audience.

What are the Principles of Graphic Design that can help in producing impactful visual content?

Now let’s compare your graphic advertisement with a platter full of delicious, fresh fruits. If all the fruits are huddled in one corner of the platter and the rest of it is empty, this will lead to an unbalanced platter that can topple at the slightest of cues. Also, the onlooker is not able to appreciate the richness of fresh fruits that the platter has to offer and might not be attracted to eating from it as well.

Now, organise the same platter in a way that the fresh fruits are placed all over the platter in some kind of arrangement. This arrangement could be colour groupings, size groupings, equal number of fruits on all corners, symmetry or anything else that provides a balanced look (this is formal balance). Another option could be to organise all the fruits in one corner of the platter and in the diagonally opposite corner place a small bowl of dip/dressing/accompaniment that might be smaller in size but equivalent in weight to the stack of fruits in the other corner (this is informal balance). The viewers eyes will definitely hold back for few seconds to admire the beauty of the platter arrangement (congratulations, this is the first step: your platter has managed to catch attention).

Next, use other elements to quickly communicate the intended message (remember, attention span on social media is often limited to 7 secs. You caught someone’s attention doesn’t mean they are going to wait forever to understand your message). So, if the intended message is ‘Fruits are Healthy & Delicious’, you can have it written over the bowl of accompaniment OR a note sticking on the border of the platter OR maybe a small but noticeable flag sticking onto the outside of the bowl. The idea is that the message has to be readable (font & colour scheme), quickly noticeable, short to read & NOT lost or crowded with the fruits.

Let’s look at the contribution of following principles of graphic design in making the platter of fruits desirable for the onlooker:

1. Balance & Alignment

The platter of fruits can topple any time if the contents are not organised in formal or informal balance. So if the platter is your Digital Advertisement screen and the contents (fruits) are the pictures, text, call-to-action etc. all the elements on the advertisement; they have to be placed in a manner that final view looks balanced (formal or informal). Balance does not always mean symmetry. However, a designer has to make sure that final visual looks appealing and are not a collection of elements put together thoughtlessly.

Alignment has a huge role to play in balance as it is by providing the right alignment to the text, images and other elements that this balance can be easily achieved. There is no thumb rule for alignment in graphic designing. The choice of alignment (right, left, centre) could differ with every concept of graphic design. Ever wondered why graphic designers are huge fans of those annoying grid lines, while working on a project? Well, now you know why!

2. Repetition/Consistency

I can have one banana, one strawberry, one blueberry, one mango placed on this platter OR I can have a bunch/row of all these in some kind of formation. Which idea do you think would work better?

Actually either of them could make a good visual if the principle of repetition is used in the right manner. I can have rows/bunches of each fruit and a single line of message/slogan (bold, readable) OR I can have just one fruit each and have the message repeated consistently all over the platter.

Either way, we are using repetition/consistency as a way to reinforce the idea/message/ business objective. You can achieve reinforcement in your advertisement by repeating the fonts, font colours or any other element that directly but subtly reinforces the message! If your advert requires 3 lines of messaging, you could probably use the same font (but different sizes to adjust message hierarchy) OR use the same font colour at least!

3. Contrast

Now my platter might look in perfect harmony, if I use all red fruits and a red font to display the slogan as well. Just one problem, the slogan won’t get noticed. Your beautiful red font just got lost in the sea of red deliciousness around it. Maybe a contrasting font in yellow or green would be more noticeable here.

Contrast can be an effective tool to draw immediate attention on that part of the screen that deserves the quick first glance! But limit this technique for that one most important element. Doing too many contrasts will only confuse your audience as their eyes will not be able to focus on any bit.

4. Proximity/Unity/ Movement

So you do want your fruit platter audience to take a look at the delicious looking fresh fruits first and then read the message! How would you ensure that after looking at the fruits, their eyes immediately travel to the message? So maybe the message needs to be in proximity with the image, so that eyes automatically fall on the message. But this can sometimes conflict with the principles of balance.

If proximity or unity are not possible, try movement! Maybe the message is placed in the diagonally opposite corner (remember a flag sticking to the outside of the accompaniment bowl!) Your audience’s eyes will move from fruit to the accompaniment and that will lead to the message. OR if the slogan/message is printed on the border of the platter, as soon as the fruits catch attention, eyes start moving along the message OR why not place a fruit fork pointing towards the direction of the messaging!

You will have to create a journey for your audience in the advertisement where one element leads to the next. That is why call-to-action, ‘Buy Now’, ‘Find Out More’ buttons are always placed where the message is completed (bottom centre of the advert.)

5. White Space

Wondering why we are planning to place the message on the border of the platter OR one corner BUT not on the platter centre itself?

Every design needs Breathing Space! This Breathing Space / White Space could be an empty centre in the platter or a free border if all other elements are centrally aligned OR in some designs a free left or right OR empty alternate corners. There could be many more options though!

For a visual to be alive, it needs space to breathe!

6. Hierarchy / Proportion

Not all elements in the advertisements can claim equal attention. This would result in each element vying for attention and total loss of focus/interest from the onlooker. So set-up hierarchies by placing the primary messaging in biggest/boldest fonts and reducing the emphasis/proportionate size etc. of other elements in a sequenced manner.

Common ‘Sale’ posters have SALE / DISCOUNTS / 50% OFF written in bold followed by dates, store address, T&C apply written in smaller fonts under it. If you are interested in DISCOUNT, you will read the rest of the information anyways!

How can a good Graphic become an effective Digital Promotion Content for Social Media?

How to Design Effective / Impactful Digital Promotion Content?

What are the Parameters / Features of a good Digital promotion Content?

A visual can be a good graphic but still not impactful enough for digital promotion or online advertising. To check if your graphic is good for digital promotion, test it on the following parameters:

1. Attractiveness

Is my graphic eye-catchy? Will it hold someone’s attention while they are hurriedly scrolling down the social media feed and prompt them to pause for a few seconds? Will it stand-out of the continuous feed of other advertisements vying for attention?

2. 3 sec principle

Is my graphic communicating it’s objective in 3 seconds? It is commonly said in advertising circles that if your audience has not understood in the first 3 seconds what the advertisement is about, you have lost them already!

This does not imply that all of the graphic content has to be consumed by the audience in the first 3 seconds… simply means that the audience should be able to understand in the first 3 seconds if you are trying to sell fruits or a course in healthy eating or a fruit diet. If the advertisement objective aligns with their area of interest, the audience will stay with your advertisement for a longer duration and pay attention to all of the elements. If the audience is not clear about the advertisement objective in the first 3 seconds, they will just scroll it up and move to the next item on their feed!

3. Call to action & Next Steps

So now your audience is super impressed with the arrangement on that platter of fresh, delicious fruits...what next? They are not sure if this is just a display or they are invited to eat from it as well or if they have to pay, how to proceed with the payment!

If you have not created a very visible ‘call-to-action’ (Buy Now / Book Now etc.) just where your customer has finished reading the advertisement, all the hard-work in impressing the customer has been wasted. Do not expect customers to make an effort for finding a way to reach out. That information has to be readily, clearly available, just where it should be. It could be a hyperlink button, or a phone number or an email id, depending on your line of business. But the Next-steps have to be clearly visible.

4. Clean with breathing space-40% rule

As mentioned above, check one last time, does your advert have enough breathing space? Ideally, at least 40% space on the advertisement should be free, if possible more! Most impactful advertisements are not the ones that are most loaded with information, they are the ones that are cleaner than the rest. Remember, it's a race for impact not beautiful complexity!

5. Colour palate & Branding

Are you still thinking, exactly which fruits to arrange on the platter? Answer is simple, pick the ones that go with your branding!

The elements in the visual should be able to relate with your brand, i.e. brand colours, logo, iconography, messaging etc. Ever wondered why a soft drink giant always uses that beautiful red to the max in their picture and video ads? That perfect red and white combination is known to have inspired our present day imagery of Santa Claus and not the other way round. Santa were not particularly dressed in red & white till the imagery was heavily advertised to promote use of C…....a for Christmas parties, long long ago!

6. Less Text More Pictures

Yes, a picture speaks a thousand words! Since there is so much that is to be communicated to the customer in that small screen space, within a span of a few seconds; it makes sense to make your advertisement more pictorial and less text-heavy. So whatever can be communicated by pictures, let them do the job. Use text characters for only that part of information that just cannot be communicated pictorially (phone number, address if required). For retargeting advertisements, just an image and slogan are enough!

7. Compulsive

Finally, after doing all the hard work, is your advertisement compulsive in totality? Is it creating a sense of urgency (remember ‘discounts ending soon’)?

Get feedback from few well-wishers on your creative piece of work, is it compelling them to buy the product / service immediately?

Not all advertisements are meant to sell. Your advertisements could be aimed at brand building, retargeting, relationship building and of course sales? Is the objective being met by the final piece of work?

How to plan an Effective / Impactful Digital Media Content?
Steps in Planning an Effective / Impactful digital media content:

1. Identify the advertisement objective

2. Decide upon the platform for meeting this objective (this could be facebook, instagram or any other depending upon where the user base is.)

3. Depending upon the platform, choose the advert format (picture, GIFF or video)

4. Enlist the features that can be utilised to further the business objective…colour scheme, slogan etc.

5. Design the advertisement based on the parameters mentioned above

6. Test and track the effectiveness of the advertisement by keeping record of its performance on social media

If you have already thought of several ways of organising fruits on the platter by now, you have embarked on a creative journey of designing unique, impactful content that not just looks good, but creates an impression on the customer.

Remember advertisements are not for eyes to admire, they have to get embedded in your customer’s psyche to leave an impact and create brand recall…...nevertheless, ‘Fruits are good for health’!

(Still wondering why we did not use any pictures in this blog….well they were already in your mind. That’s the power of content…...but that’s another story for another day!)

Do you want to grow your business with impressive graphic design content & right digital marketing strategy? Contact us to learn more about our Digital Self-reliance Program customised for micro / small businesses!

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