Fundamentals of Design in Social Media

You have a great idea in your mind and want to start working on it. But you need social media presence. Creating posts is not a big deal. You need to know the fundamentals of graphic design. Nothing is more important than an attractive feed with beautiful templates. Content is king. The design is the backbone of social media pages.

In this article, I will not teach you how to start designing right away. But instead, help you with the technical terms related to it that many people ignore and hence don’t know how to solve afterwards. I will also explain the importance of graphic design and its role in social media. Be it your merch or a website; it is everywhere. So without further ado, let’s get right into it:

What is Graphic Designing?

It is the craft of creating visual content to communicate. Every informative post you see on Instagram from various handles such as BuzzFeed, Pinkvilla, ScoopWhoop, etc., was made by someone who had prior knowledge of design, right? So, it is a pretty essential and crucial skill to learn.

It uses visual compositions to solve problems and communicate ideas through typography, imagery, colour and form. While designing, you take care of a lot of stuff such as fonts, images used, colour scheme and even the formatting, as in where everything should be placed to make it more appealing to the audience who sees it.

Mind you. Designers are not only used in creating social media content. They work in a wide range of industries catering to their clients through:

  1. Corporate design: any logo you see is created by graphic designers
  2. Editorial design: includes magazines, newspapers and books. Yes, even books. For example, book covers.
  3. Web design: consists of the actual UI design and even includes banners and ads you see on the website.
  4. Product design: Smartphones, laptops, even the design of a bulb, mouse, sports car, etc., needs one to have a good knowledge of design.
  5. Advertising: print ads, billboards, flyers, etc., everything is an essential part of advertising and hence requires graphic designers.

Role of Graphic Design in Social Media

As we discussed earlier, it helps to create visually appealing social media posts, website banners, professional logos, newsletters, etc. which:

  1. Boost your sales: More people will share your posts on social media, website traffic will go up, subscriptions going to rise. All because of good design.
  2. Creates credibility and a professional image. You will be remembered by your company’s logo, right?
  3. Build your own identity: Create your banners, posts from scratch. That will help you in achieving your own identity.
  4. Social media presence: Yes, it’s going to happen. As I said, content and design are both critical.
  5. Website design: As mentioned earlier, it is essential in designing websites.
  6. Merchandise design: If you want to sell your merchandise in the future, you need someone to design it for you.

Tool Used by Designers Worldwide

It can be categorised into software and web app:

Adobe is a leading brand for design with more than 20 software used directly or indirectly to design stuff. Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign are the most popular Adobe software, along with Acrobat used for PDF editing. The other two software called GIMP and InkScape, are similar to Photoshop and CorelDRAW respectively but are open source. CorelDRAW is another leading software used to create vector graphics identical to Illustrator.

Now, coming to the web apps. Their free version is quite good but is only limited to a few ready-made templates. So, if you want to create something from scratch, you will have a tough time doing so. And even the tools are limited as compared to any Adobe software. They include Canva, Adobe Spark (yes, even Adobe has a web app specifically used for social media designing), Lucidpress, Over and Placeit. One more thing to remember is that web apps are easy to use and can be learned without any help. I have created a few flyers on Canva and Instagram stories on Spark Post, and they work pretty well and are easy to use. But, Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign are the best with many features, and they get regular updates.

Technical Terms to Remember

Raster and Vector

I will give you an elementary example here:

When you click a photograph on your smartphone and try to zoom in, you can do that only up to a point before it starts losing quality. After that, you can see tiny squares of colours called pixels. You might have heard of it previously. You know, a 48-megapixel camera. Such an image is called a raster. Yes, in conclusion, a photo taken from a camera is an example of a raster.

When you open a PDF, for example, try to zoom in. You will observe that it never loses its quality. You will never see pixels. That’s a vector. Get it? These are basic but helpful terms that one needs to remember.

Keep in mind vectors have an advantage here. It never loses its quality. Never. I can’t say the same for a raster graphic.

Now, remember two things: PPI stands for pixels per inch, and DPI stands for dots per inch.

Vector requires less space as compared to raster. How, you may ask? Let me give you an example: Let’s assume there are 8–10 paragraphs of text that one needs to store digitally. You have two options: write it down, and save it as a photograph or a scan. Or else, type it down in a text editor, convert to PDF and save it. Which one do you think will use less space? PDF, right? It will not use more than 100–500 KB of space, whereas a single photograph (depending on the camera’s megapixels) will take up more than an MB of storage. And this is the least I am talking about. Get it?

Now, to make things simple, if you post on social media, it needs to be a raster, i.e. an image. However, if you are attaching a guide in the form of a PDF in your blog or through a link, make sure it’s a vector because the vector is of small size and hence can be downloaded quickly.

DPI and PPI

Here, I will explain all the points by giving an example: You click a photograph, zoom in on your smartphone, and see pixels as discussed earlier. However, try printing the same picture on paper and then zoom in using a magnifying glass. You will observe dots instead of squares. And that’s it. That’s called the resolution. Yes, just like the one you find on your phone. That’s measured in terms of PPI, i.e. pixels per inch. However, it’s estimated in DPI for printing, i.e. dots per inch. Get it? While measuring resolution, PPI is for display and DPI for print. That’s it. You only need to remember this.

A thumb rule is higher the PPI or DPI, the better the output. A clearer image or print. The concept of DPI is crucial while printing. You can see this in the picture. A photo with a higher PPI is clear when zoomed on the left side, and on the right side, a print with more DPI shows more detail.

Now, keep in mind that while exporting your image, make sure PPI is at least 72. Here, DPI doesn’t matter as you are not printing. Instead, you are displaying it as a web image.

RGB and CMYK

RGB stands for Red, Green and Blue, whereas CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key, i.e. black. Pretty basic. RGB colour scheme is used to display something on a screen — for example, social media posts, infographics, digital logos, icons, etc. In contrast, CMYK is used when something needs to be printed at the end. For example, billboards, posters, flyers, etc.

Now, an important thing to keep in mind: The highest value that RGB colours can attain is 255, and for CMYK colours, it is 100. At 255, RGB attains white colour, and at 100, CMYK attains black, which is the opposite of RGB, right? You can see that in the image. Fine-tuning the colour values will help us in getting suitable colours. These values exist to help us get the same colour we want. If we turn the value to 0 in both colour schemes, we get black for RGB and white for CMYK. Precisely the opposite colour when compared to the highest values for both.

In short, the black colour is obtained when the RGB colours are at min. value, i.e. at 0, and CMYK colours at max. value, i.e. at 100.

As you might have learned, photos need to be in RGB for social media. But unfortunately, CMYK colours are dull and hence not used for electronic displays.

Now that you have learned essential terms related to exporting designs for social media, start creating posts on your own using web apps in the beginning. You can download Photoshop for free through its 7-day free trial if you wish. Happy posting!

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