What Book Covers Can Teach us about Designing for Social Media

November 19, 2018 - Reading Time: 3 minutes

Imagine yourself in a bookstore with shelves and shelves of books around you. How do you decide which book to pick up?

Let’s face it: we all judge a book by its cover, at least initially. That is why its cover design is just as important as its contents. In his TED Talk Designing books is no laughing matter. OK, it is, graphic designer Chip Kidd shares the inspiration and process behind his book designs.

The talk isn’t just funny, it also provides insights into designing for marketing, in particular, designing content for social media. We’ve compiled a couple of those insights into this article. But first, watch the video if you haven’t – we promise it’ll be worth it.

1. Understand your goal

A book cover is essentially a marketing device that functions primarily to get people interested in the story. It doesn’t just have to effectively convey the premise of the story, it also needs to stand out from the other books on the shelf.

Similarly, social media visuals need to effectively grab the attention of your target audience as well as have a clear message. So your marketing designs, like a book cover, should be nothing short of eye-catching.

In his talk, Kidd shares his thought process behind some of his works. Below are some methods he has employed in his designs to get people’s attention.

2. Know the rules so you can break them

Kidd gives a really great example of this in his talk when he spoke about his design for Augusten Burroughs’ memoir Dry. He starts off describing one of the basics that he’d learnt in Typography class – making a word look like what they mean:

Taken from Kidd’s TED talk.

Then he describes doing the exact opposite in his cover design.

Via 99designs

A book that looks like it got ruined by water is bound to attract significant attention. And it did. The ingenuity of this design is that it doesn’t just aptly convey the contents of the book, which is about the author’s battle with alcoholism, it also compels people to pick up the book to get a closer look.

In order to make your ad or content stand out, you need to do something different, something unconventional; and you wouldn’t know what’s unconventional until you’ve understood the conventions.

3. Think outside the box

Another thing that makes Kidd’s designs so good is his willingness to think outside the box. In his design for Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84, a book that centres around a girl who travels across parallel planes of existence, Kidd uses the book jacket and cover to represent two separate planes. Check out his explanation in the video below:

So find creative uses of your medium. Take a look at how Harley Davidson made use of Instagram’s carousel function to create one large, continuous image out of four separate images.

Remember: the more unique you are, the more memorable your brand becomes.

4. Design for context

Kidd designed My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk with context in mind. He envisioned the entire book selection process – from scanning the shelves to pulling out a book – and found a way to design the cover in a way that illustrates the story premise through that process. 

Via Knopf Doubleday

When designing for your brand’s social media page, think about this: how will your target audience interact with your ad? Do they swipe? Scroll? Tap? How can you make it interesting for them? The above Harley Davidson visual is also a great example of how asking yourself this can lead to creative uses of social media functions that surprise and delight your audience.

So the next time you need a visual for your social media page, try to apply Kidd’s creative process to create something fun and different for your followers.

Learnt anything else from the talk that you would like to share? Leave them in the comments below.





Keeping Your Instagram Followers Hooked: 3 Brands to Learn From

November 12, 2018 - Reading Time: 2 minutes

If you thought building your follower base on Instagram was tough, boy have we got news for you: getting followers is only half the battle, keeping them is where the real challenge begins.

But it’s not impossible.

Here are three brands that have succeeded by producing quality content their audiences care about.

1. Virgin Atlantic

We’ve all been hearing about how brands should use Instagram as a platform to establish a more intimate connection with their target audience. But how do you actually go about doing it?

Virgin Atlantic’s answer: user-generated content.

Besides creating their own content, Virgin Atlantic also re-uploads photos from their customers and fans with their own captions and credits them. This is a smart way to acknowledge fans and make them feel seen. It is also a great way to add variety to your Instagram page.

2. National Geographic

Nat Geo’s Instagram account doesn’t just satisfy their followers’ thirst for knowledge – it makes them crave for more. They do this by producing visually arresting content surrounding topics that interest their audience. Visiting their Instagram account is like stepping into a photography exhibition. It’s not just a feast for the eyes – accompanying each photo is a short factual write-up so fans can look forward to expanding their knowledge as they admire the pictures.

View this post on Instagram

Photo by @amivitale | It is devastating to hear that China has decided to reverse its 25-year-old ban on the sale and use of rhinoceros and tiger products. The reversal allows for these products to be used in medical research or healing, uses long since proven to have no benefits to humans. This change will certainly lead to more pressure on already terribly vulnerable animal populations and place in greater danger the conservationists, rangers and communities who fight for the survival of these majestic creatures. Here, Sudan, the last living male Northern White Rhino left on this planet is comforted moments before he passed away March 19, 2018 in northern Kenya. Sudan was brought to Kenya from @safari_park_dvur_kralove in the #Czechrepublic in 2009. He died surrounded by people who loved him at @olpejeta and has been an inspirational figure for many across the world. If there is any meaning in his death, its that Sudan can be our final wake up call. In a world of 7 billion, we need to start recognizing that we are not separate from nature. When we see ourselves as part of the landscape and part of nature, then saving nature is really about saving ourselves. Today, fewer 30,000 rhinos and 3,900 tigers remain in the wild. We are witnessing extinction on our watch and must help them by speaking out and supporting conservation efforts worldwide, especially among the indigenous communities who are on the front lines every day against poaching. Follow @olpejeta @safari_park_dvur_kralove @conservationorg @nature_africa and others to learn more and get involved. @kenyawildlifeservice @thephotosociety @natgeo @natgeoimagecollection #LastManStanding #SudanForever #WorthMoreAlive #OlPejetaRhinos #NorthernWhiteRhinos #protectrhinos #DontLetThemDisappear #rhinos #saverhinos #stoppoaching #kenya #northernkenya #africa #everydayafrica #photojournalism #amivitale

A post shared by National Geographic (@natgeo) on

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Photo by Stephen Alvarez @salvarezphoto | The Moai of Rapa Nui (Easter Island) are some of the most iconic statues in the world. The heaviest erected statue weighs an astonishing 86 tons. Nine hundred of the statues were erected between 1250 and 1500 one an island that is barely 15 miles long. There are no other inhabited islands for nearly 2,000 miles in any direction. Sometime around 900 A.D., the founders of Rapa Nui set out from their home islands in Polynesia in open-decked sailing canoes. They not only found this incredibly remote land, but then, guided only by the stars and their knowledge of the ocean, they returned to their homeland, packed up all that they would need to begin a new existence on Rapa Nui, and set out to find the island once again.

A post shared by National Geographic (@natgeo) on

Even their Instagram Stories, which are mostly meant to promote their publications, are filled with interesting facts aimed at enticing viewers to “swipe up” to read a full-length article on the topic.

Granted, not all of us are lucky enough to have a team of professional photojournalists like Nat Geo. The good news is that you don’t necessarily need one – a decent designer and copywriter will do. As long as you create content that your target audience cares about, you’ll be giving them a pretty good incentive to stick around.

3. Airbnb

Though Instagram Story was meant to give users a platform to showcase less polished pictures or short videos, Airbnb uses the medium for regular bite-sized content that pack quite a punch.

Travel Tuesday is a weekly series by the brand that is ultimately aimed at getting fans to check out Airbnb listings. However, they do it with such finesse that it doesn’t come off as “sales-y”. Instead, it brings audiences through a journey of discovery.

A typical Travel Tuesday story starts off with a bit of background on the selected destination in the form of facts and a picture of the place, after which viewers can participate in a poll to identify the location. The actual location is then revealed and the wanderlust is further fueled through a short “slideshow” of location shots taken by members of the community. It ends off with a call to “swipe up” to view the Airbnb listings in that location.

This weekly series is a mix of the first two strategies by Virgin Atlantic and National Geographic. It doesn’t just create opportunities for followers to interact with Airbnb, it also shares content that their followers care about. The clear, simple call-to-action at the end is the cherry on the cake – it provides a painless way for viewers to follow up on their newfound craving to travel.


So, take a leaf out of these brands’ books and apply them to your own Instagram strategy. What do your followers want to see? Keep them hooked!