An exploration of a mass visual communication tool

Design ・ June 03, 2017 ・ 6 mins

A bit late to the game, I indulged in playing with Instagram for the first time a few weeks back. With its strong brand association and prominent integration into Facebook, the seven year old picture-based social network has gained an exponential following over the years since its inception, currently at over 700 million users. So why did I take so long to get with the trend?

Instagramification - Original photo by Felipe P. Lima Rizo on Unsplash

Another Social Media Platform

Ah, FOMO, the ‘Fear Of Missing Out’, a modern first world problem and stealer of agency. With every ounce of willpower, attempts are made to resist the addictive nature of social media in order to embrace balance as a better life philosophy; by far this is a dwindling occurence in the face of constant pressure by modern society to be present on mutiple social media brands. With that said, my position as a professional in the digital space means it’s my occupational responsibility to stay up-to-date with noteworthy platforms for their potential benefits for clients.

Social networks can be test beds for innovative interaction paradigms. Amongst the big names, Twitter is my main modern vice because not only does it act as a global news outlet from various sources, it also offers idea exchange across a universe of topics and with a diverse set of complete strangers. It’s literally a network for connecting with new people and sharing thoughts on a variety of (occassionally hashtagged) subject matters. An absolute bonus is that my range of interests are taken into account and discussed.

Thus, when I read into the concept of Instagram, or ‘Insta’ as ardent users like to call it, it reeked of similarity, relying instead primarily on visual communication rather than text.

Public Posting Anxiety

As a user, outside of the designer mindset, I field my own opinions and biases. I take to the addage of ‘look before you leap’, thinking at least twice before posting something on the internet; because as we all know, once it’s on a server, it’s copied and cached multiple times by a host of invisible others. Even a deletion can’t retroactively save one’s reputation.

So apart from FOMO as an observer, an extra friction for my adoption of the platform as an active user also came from a public-posting anxiety. My thought being that if I were to contribute to the platform in a meaningful way, I’d have to post something of value, potentially of artistic merit and probably on a regular basis. It would be years after I first heard of Instagram that it would finally earn my trust, especially after reading about dubious terms and conditions attached to captured personal credentials.


Fast forward a few years and a Facebook acquisition later. I revisited the concept to fully digest its incredible popularity. I decided to launch my foray into Instagram with an account called Don’t Nod, Say Something with two goals in mind:

  1. To inspire viewers of my account by providing concise quotes from some of history’s greatest figures.
  2. To experiment with the visual-communication language afforded by the platform, particularly 1:1 ratio images viewed at different zoom levels on mobile and web.

For me, succumbing to this gargantuan picture-sharing phenomenon was a way to understand what made the platform compelling at the user level.


A couple of things that are obvious to Instagrammers but were intriguing to me:

  • The UX of the Instagram app encourages posting by reducing interaction friction.
    • It ranks highly in the OS’s share menu,
    • provides a clear three-step path to connecting your image on the platform,
    • and the impact of posting is immediate, usually resulting in random likes/follows within seconds of hitting the “Share” button.
  • Random users will interact with your posts if you include appealing hashtags in your captions.
    • Tying in with the visuals of the post,
    • reinforcing the message contained within.
  • Users will engage more with posts if the visual imagery is compelling:
    • High resolution photos,
    • of interesting subject matter,
    • and complementary colours all play their part.

Having seen how much some of the more popular accounts post, I can tell Instagram is used in a very professional manner to support marketing for businesses. With the amount of attention the platform has, this is a good enough reason to set up an account, if not essential to generate more traffic to your digital real estate. The effort required, however, seems like it would demand a considerable amount of thought and time from a company so would probably be suited to a social media specialist. For me, I will continue to monitor the platform to see how it will evolve in the face of more “capable” competitors like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat.

You can check out my Instagram experiment here.

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