What I’ve Learned as a Social Designer
By Alexander Appugliesi
When I finished my four-year graphic design program in 2015, I had the tools I needed to design logos, branding, business cards, letterheads, posters, etc. Little did I know that I would eventually head down a design path of strictly digital assets, navigating that pesky 20% Facebook-text rule, designing dynamic vertical assets for Instagram stories, and figuring out the perfect formula for laying out a Twitter header image. Along the way, I’ve learned a few lessons that you can read through below.
#1: You must keep current.
Working in the field of social and digital marketing is quite the adventure. Social platforms are always updating, launching or disappearing, which means you need to stay on top of all the changes taking place online. Don’t be afraid to explore what each platform has to offer - that includes making note of any changes in file format restrictions, researching optimal asset dimensions, taking advantage of video/gif capabilities, or testing what performs well with each audience - for example, developing an Instagram grid aesthetic versus developing vertical assets for the Instagram stories feature. Keeping up to date will allow you to experiment with different types of content and expand your portfolio and skills.
#2: Learn to adapt.
When working within brand guidelines, there are usually a set of rules that you must strictly follow. This is done in order to correctly portray the brand across all of their online channels. Most times, those rules are print-specific, so you must try to adapt them across social parameters while still maintaining the brand's established look and feel. This can be both fun and challenging, depending on the brand you’re working with, and also grants you the opportunity to experiment with engaging and developing a new audience altogether.
#3: Accessibility is key!
Accessibility means designing products, services, devices, environments for people who experience disabilities. Governments worldwide are beginning to identify web accessibility as a human rights issue, and rightfully so. As designers, we want our work to be seen and understood by as many people as possible, so accessibility is something we should learn and fully understand before we ideate our projects. Disabilities range from low vision or partial sight, visual impairments, motor impairments, hearing impairments or deafness, cognitive impairments, and epilepsy. Working mostly within the confines of brand guidelines, it is sometimes tricky to align consistency with accessibility, so we must open that dialogue with the client to breed inclusivity with our audiences.
#4: Always have those working files on hand.
ALWAYS. SAVE. WORKING FILES. There have been many times where I made quick one-off assets, thinking I wouldn’t need them going forward. Low and behold - edits needed to be made. This forced me to redo the asset all over again. Not only should you save everything you work on, but you should also have it on hand to make any necessary edits. Oh, and keep older versions as well - you may need to revert back at some point.
#5: Don’t get too attached.
Although it may sound pessimistic, don’t get too attached to any project, as it may never see the light of day. Whether there’s a change in budget, events being rescheduled/cancelled or assets not being scheduled in their allotted time frame, those assets you spent hours upon hours of time on might be trashed… but that’s okay. You can always put those ideas/assets in your back pocket to reuse down the line or adapt them to a different project.
#6: Criticism may not always be constructive OR helpful.
Sometimes clients aren’t sure what they want or are not equipped with the right vocabulary to steer you in the right direction. You will have to tread lightly in your search for answers. Try to produce multiple versions of the same idea to gauge what they like or dislike. For example, swap in different types of imagery, fonts or colours to get a better sense of what works for the client and what doesn’t, and then continue from there. This will hopefully help you navigate the client going forward on your quest to satisfy them.