The School of Instagram is all about bringing you guidance and inspiration from experts who know their stuff. And if there’s anyone can teach us about creating a strong, unique aesthetic on the ‘gram, it’s Helen of the ever-so brilliant @mum_folk.
As a graphic designer and creative director, Helen is on a mission to encourage creative women, especially mums, to pursue their passions and create an online toolkit that will see them thrive. Here, she reveals her secrets to supercharge your Instagram and stand out from the crowd.
Let’s start with how it all began…
I set up Mum-Folk in 2017 while I was on maternity leave with my youngest child, Amelia. I wanted to create a space where entrepreneurial mums could learn the design skills they needed to set up their own business.
In my experience, maternity leave can be a great time to review and take stock of your career and a lot of my fellow mum friends were doing just this. Whether it was due to restraints of childcare costs or the inability to combine demanding, inflexible jobs with family life, I found that more and more mums were going freelance (myself included) or looking for ways to carve out their own business on their own terms. However they didn’t always have the design skills to know how to go about branding and creating a strong look.
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Working mums are extremely short on time and often lacking in confidence in their abilities, which brings a unique set of challenges. Mum-Folk is therefore a supportive space where mums can learn how to brand and design their businesses quickly and efficiently, without compromising on style, and to learn with other entrepreneurial mums who understand the #juggle.
How has IG helped with your mission?
Instagram has been invaluable in building my business. In fact, it’s the main channel I use to promote projects and gain new design clients. I’ve used it to interact with my ideal customer, gain knowledge about her struggles and then in return create posts and content that connect and speak directly to her. I’ve also teamed up with other IGers by collaborating on competitions, interviewing them or doing Instagram Live sessions.
Has that turned it into a money-maker?
I would say 50% of new work is from Instagram and 50% is referrals – so yes, Instagram is an integral part in running my business. What I like about Instagram is that you can sell something without being ‘salesy’. For example, when posting an image of a new logo design, rather than simply stating what it is – a new design – I talk about the results and what the new brand identity means to the client, how it will help grow their business and so on. This creates a conversation with potential new clients who are looking to achieve the same results.
So why is it important to develop a strong brand identity?
It’s integral to your success as a business and I would argue that you can’t achieve your true potential without one. The benefits are far reaching – it can help you build loyalty and trust, stand out in a crowded marketplace and attract your ideal client. People judge on first impressions, therefore the image you portray is one of your company’s most valuable assets and can directly influence your bottom line.
“People judge on first impressions, therefore the image you portray is one of your company’s most valuable assets and can directly influence your bottom line.”
Which Insta accounts have strong branding that inspire you?
Firstly, @organiczoo because I love their playful type branding and Scandi vibe. @andotherstories is always a favourite for their artistic approach to fashion. @nanushka for their inspiring photography and dreamy colour palette. And last but not least is @glossier — it’s a masterclass in Instagrammable product design and creating an irresistible aesthetic.
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What are your top tips for branding your Insta Stories?
Firstly, choose a primary colour and two secondary accent colours that reflect your brand’s essence. Then apply them consistently across your brand assets. Light colours work well for backgrounds with dark colours for text and vice versa.
Next, apply the same filter and photographic style to your image and video content on IG Stories. You can apply filters to videos using the ColorStory app (among others).
Do set rules for how you will use fonts within the Instagram app. For example, choose Strong for headers and always apply the same style. For pre-planned content, use a unique brand font (which again needs to reflect your brand’s essence) by using an app such as Over or Canva, which allows you to add your own fonts. This will help your audience become familiar with different styles of content.
Finally, be consistent! Decide on the format/layout/style for different types of Stories and stick to this so that your audience knows what to expect. Everyone loves familiarity.
“Do set rules for how you will use fonts for Stories within the Instagram app.”
Which are your favourite apps for Stories?
There are so many great apps for Stories but my current favourites are Over, Unfold and Stories Edit — the last two have great layout options and Stories Edit in particular is brilliant for creative backgrounds and adding interesting design elements. The Over app is handy for font choices (you can even add your own brand font) and has a great built-in image search (when you need to search for stock imagery), as well as interesting layouts and the ability to add graphic elements like brush strokes. It’s by far the best app at the moment for creating beautiful, on-brand Stories.
Any filtering tips?
I use VSCO cam and ColorStory — both of which I bought premium filter packs for. I use ColorStory the most, with flashes of delight filter pack which I totally love! You can even filter videos as well to keep everything looking on brand.
What colour combos are you loving?
Blush and saffron is a current favourite, as well as blush and electric blue I think this adds a creative edge to a feminine colour palette. I also love coral and jade – coral is coming through more and more this year thanks to Pantone’s 2019 colour of the year, it’s a contemporary choice that isn’t overly girly and not as harsh as red.
In what ways do you find Instagram to be a positive force?
I love IG for the community aspect. It’s a brilliant tool for finding and connecting with other like-minded people. It’s also an amazing way to promote your business and build your profile. I’ve found that on the whole, everyone is very nice and supportive so I try to not listen to any haters or get caught in the comparison trap.
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Helen’s top branding tips
#1 Define your brand values
Pick up to 3 values/descriptive words which sum up your brand’s essence and more importantly words which will resonate with your target audience (if you don’t know what your audience is attracted to then you need to get to know them on a deeper level – imagine a day in the life of your ideal customer, where do they shop, which brands do they buy, magazines do they read? etc). From here you can start to build a picture as to how you want to come across as a brand e.g. aspirational and feminine, bright and creative, calm and romantic.
#2 Craft your brand aesthetic
Use these descriptive words to guide your choice of colours and typography. Choose brighter colours often portray energy, youth and creativity whereas softer, more muted colours are calmer, more serious and elegant. Match your brand personality to your font choice too, on a very broad level sans serif fonts are considered modern, serif fonts elegant and script fonts feminine and romantic.
#3 Create a brand style guide
Once you’ve chosen your overall vibe, colours and fonts make rules for how you will apply this to your branding and use your branding elements consistently so that your audience can become familiar with your style. Also consider your choice of imagery and illustration style, does it match your brand essence? This is a very simplified version of the branding process, but hopefully, it’s a handy starter!