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personal branding #2: instagram research!

Updated: Feb 8, 2019

Welcome back to my personal branding series! As I previously mentioned, I wanted to look at some instagram icons to get a good sense of what I can produce, keeping the circular restriction in mind. I mainly focussed on icons from the illustrators I follow, as at present I feel that marketing myself as an illustrator primarily is the best fit for me.


Here are the first examples I found, from Maureen Van Der Hout, Grace Helmer and Alina Grydz respectively. It seems that using a block colour background behind a character or caricature of the illustrator is the most common angle to take:

All of the icons allow for the space that will be lost due to Instagram's circular cropping, placing the face or main focus of the character in the centre so that it won't be lost. The icons are not too complex as they will be seen at a really small size, especially if seen in a comment or in the recommended section. The icons try to display the illustrator's overall or most popular/recognisable style at a glance. Generally, there seems to be a limited colour palette and simplification of shading, so that depth and light can be seen at a small size.


I really love Maureen Van Der Holt's icon due to the colour palette as the use of light pink with dark brown creates a wealth of contrast. The use of an interesting pose is also notable, compared to the simpler poses used by other illustrators. It also really sums up Maureen's style and displays one of her most popular posts. Grace's use of a quirky frog is memorable and is definitely easy to visually read even when shrunken down. Alina uses a similar contrasting palette with the use of black and white, also summarising her style well.


Some illustrators choose to include a scene behind them rather than a blank colour, like these from Ann De Steur and Fran Meneses:

Although I love both of these pieces as illustrations, I feel that they don't necessarily work as well as my previous examples for this purpose, as the backgrounds seem to invade on the main image and almost distract from it, making it difficult to pick out the main figure in the context of an Instagram icon. This is especially apparent in Ann's icon, in my opinion, as there is no contrast between the background and skin colours, making the figure feel lost in the middle. In Fran's case, however, the use of pink in the middle of the green leaves helps to make the character stand out, so it is still noticeable at a smaller size.

Next, I found this icon on Tom Peake's instagram:











It seems that Tom chose an illustration (or part of one) he had already created to use as his icon; interestingly, Tom focuses on an inanimate object rather than a character; something which I rarely saw when searching for inspiration. For me, this kind of creates a lack of feeling, and a lack of a face to put to the name, that I didn't feel with the other icons (even Grace's frog portrait, which obviously wasn't a human). Something I did appreciate about this design, though, was that Tom achieved a happy medium between a plain background and an actual scene; using subtle shapes to create a sense of space without being distracting; I'd like to do the same. (And as always, double points for the pink/blue colour scheme- it's a winner).

Other accounts use a circular border to create a badge look, also demonstrating that the icon is built for the purpose of an Instagram icon, like this one, from the Keekee's big adventure Instagram account:









I really love how the circular restriction is incorporated into the image as a globe here; but again, it doesn't really distract from the main character, especially with the use of a white stroke around the cat. The red border also gives the icon a whole and complete feel, also solidifying the background as the globe. This was definitely one of my favourites.


Lastly, I found some other examples from Jarom Vogel, Chey Barton and Francesca Sanna.

I absolutely love the clean lines in Jarom's icon, as they make the image very easy to decipher even at small display sizes. The great contrast between the skin and dark background also help this. I appreciate the clean, simplified style too, as this again helps the communication of the piece. This means that the actual head can be slightly smaller, allowing for more of the black space to be included in the icon, so it doesn't feel squashed to fit.


By emphasising a specific element of her portrait, Chey demonstrates her style of large, rounded hairstyles and noodle-like arms in a fun but clean way. I do, however, appreciate Francesca's icon more as using the kneeling pose allows the whole body of the character to fit into the rounded shape- without feeling like a tight fit or becoming difficult to recognise. Again, Francesca clearly demonstrates her style, giving potential followers a good look at the kind of art they will find from her in one glance.


Overall, I think this mini investigation into Instagram profiles has really helped me in gaining an understanding of what is effective and what isn't best when it comes to social media icons. I'll be looking back to these examples when creating my own. (I'll still add my own strange ideas in too, of course!)

More coming soon!

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