Design considerations for launching the Your Turn book on Instagram
Seth Godin’s newest bestseller, What To Do When It’s Your Turn, is about choosing yourself and not waiting for permission to stand up, make a ruckus, and do work that matters. One of the channels we used to to rally the tribe for Your Turn was Instagram. This was Seth’s first official Instagram channel and he asked me to own the project. From December through April, we posted a set of 27 slides, gained over 6,950 followers, and earned 7,210 likes.
I created a branding system for creating these slides and a learned a lot in the process. Here are some things you might find helpful:
Articulate why you’re doing this: “What’s it for?”
Our purpose for the Instagram campaign was to amplify the positive message of the Your Turn book by sharing pithy quotes meant to provoke and inspire.
The overarching goal, as for every project we do, was to change people. This was a way to share Seth’s ideas in a place where a certain portion of readers spend time and are primed to consume visual content, and perhaps be inspired.
In terms of picking the appropriate channel, Instagram made a lot of sense to try because Your Turn was the first book that Seth has written that’s in full-color with a magazine-like layout. Since Instagram is visually-driven, it matched the style of the book.
Quotes versus “here’s what I had for lunch”
Another major decision was to limit out posts to “quote slides,” which paired a quote from the book with an image.
This was an important line in the sand, because Instagram as a platform lends itself to behind-the-scene photos and snapshots of your workspace, travels, and day-to-day life. Those are what I call the “behind-the-scenes” category of posts, which are a great way for authors and people in general to share what inspires them and what they’re up to through photos.
We deliberately decided not to include posts in that category because we wanted the Instagram slides to (a) focus on the Your Turn book, and in turn, (b) focus on the reader. The quotes were meant to get people to think and reflect and decide for themselves how the quote applied.
By taking personal photos out of it, it allowed the focus to stay on our goal: to create change in the reader from within. This is an example of how knowing your goal and what this project is for, can help to drive the creative decisions that come after.
Decide the guardrails
To make sure that the overall branding of the Instagram page was consistent, each slide had to be distinct while still looking like it “came from the same factory.”
Key elements of that style included vintage photography, bold colors, interesting crops, text on images, historical figures, and out of the ordinary things.
Being able to articulate the patterns and visual tone of the book was important because it allowed me to accurately reflect and stay true to the same aesthetic in the Instagram slides. This could attract new readers by giving them a representative peek into what the book looked like, and delight those who had read already read it with something that looked familiar.
Get the right words
A good quote on Instagram is short (because cell phone screens are small and size 8 font wouldn’t work here), easily understood, and meaningful. Seth’s writing is bold and insightful, so there were many good quotes to choose from.
My challenge, then, was to find the right mix of quotes: I didn’t want the quotes to be repetitive, and there needed to be variation in quote length, topic, and tone.
For example, I tried to post quotes in a sequence that mixed things up, and therefore heightened each quote and let them shine. I’d do a mix of quotes that were provocative, direct, pensive, uplifting, etc.
Avoid banal photos
Here, there was an decision to be made from a strategy perspective:
(a) We could have directly shared pages from the book exactly as they appeared. E.g. taking a page from the book and cropping it to a square so it’d fit on Instagram.
(b) We could split up the images and quotes, and recombine them in interesting ways, but still use actual images from the book.
© Or finally, we could use quotes from the book with completely new images that matched the Your Turn book’s aesthetic. We chose to do the third because it would allow the original material to stay fresh and also be more delightful for readers who already owned the book and saw the images.
By choosing to path ©, I had to scour the internet for images beyond glossy stock photos or anything trite. I wanted photos that were a little unusual and surprising, that were relevant to the quotes.
For instance, in one post where Seth’s quote talked about having lots of ideas and curating later, I used a dandelion with seeds blowing in the wind as a fresh metaphor to represent the concept.
It’s surprisingly difficult to find the right images for quotes, especially if the quote is about an abstract idea. I faced the same issue when I worked at Flite and had to find photos about topics like customer engagement. It would either be pictures of people writing on white boards, smiling while tapping on a cell phone, carrying shopping bags, or talking around a conference room table. Brutal.
It’s worthwhile to poke around and keep searching to find images that might work though, so don’t give up if you’re in the same position.
Consistent fonts and colors
We selected a single font, Franklin Gothic Condensed (one of his signature fonts), to use for all the quotes. Seth’s name always came at the bottom of the quote.
I stuck to a limited palette of colors: mainly marigold and dusty blue, plus black and white.
Forcing myself to use a limited set of colors and fonts felt like a huge constraint at first. But setting some guardrails helps to create a consistent look and feel, and goes back to the idea of making sure that the slides look like they came from the same factory. The upfront font and color constraint ended up providing just enough structure, which allowed the the quote and images to shine.
Cropping & filters
Once the quote and photo are paired, there’s usually some work that needs to be done to make the images really pop. Sometimes, it was about darkening the image with a filter, other times it was applying an interesting crop.
One of my favorite design hacks is what I call the “black transparent box.” You’ve probably seen lots of websites with carousel images where there’s a slightly darkened photo and white text on top that just pops. I love how clean and modern it looks, and I wanted to replicate that with my slides.
You can create that for your own images by making a shape, using a fill color (black), setting transparency at 50% – or whichever you like. You can play around with the fill color and transparency levels. I did navy for some of the filters, and more or less opacity depending on the photo.
Anyway this might be passe for designers, but I found as a non-designer that this hack made my slides look a lot sharper and more professional.
Text placement and composition
It’s important that whenever you put text on images, it is easily readable. That’s why short quotes work better on Instagram – they are easier to grasp when people are quickly scrolling through their feeds, and they work well with large font sizes. I experimented with text placement too – top, bottom, right, left, or center alignment.
There are many ways to express an idea visually. The important part is that whatever you do is a deliberate choice, and looks intentional when it’s done.