Is Instagram becoming the new design portfolio?

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It would be very hypocritical of me to tell you that keeping your design portfolio updated is incredibly important. It’s no secret that I’m awful at keeping things up-to-date around here. Sometimes I can be really good and blog every week. Other times it goes quiet for months at a time. This also applies to the portfolio side of this website.

As a designer I think it’s engrained in us to eventually dislike a lot of what we create. Either we didn’t get to spend enough time on a project or a client maybe wanted something different to what you envisioned. Whatever the reason, it can be difficult to create a portfolio of recent work when you are perhaps not always inspired by what you’re creating. Sure the jobs we do pay the bills, but not all the jobs that pay the bills are ones that fit the type of style of work you want to showcase to the world.

For me, the portfolio side of this website doesn’t get updated enough due to a number of factors. Either the work doesn’t fit the niche I want to design for, projects aren’t completed and when they are I forget to share them, the range or work is incredibly varied and messes with my OCD of consistency – consistency that I’m not brilliant at, and finally the age old excuse of sheer laziness or being busy and neglecting this one side of the business that essentially brings in new clients. These are all personal excuses. They can all be rectified. However, there has been a shift in the way we showcase out work as designers. That shift is called Instagram.

It can be difficult to create a portfolio of recent work when you are perhaps not always inspired by what you’re creating.

What started out as a social media platform to share pictures of you food or a selfie with a vintage filter has now grown into a hub of influencers and budding businesses.

For designers, Instagram provides an easy outlet to showcase work. You don’t need to show the whole project. In fact, showing a 1000px by 1000px snapshot of a piece of work is enough to get across your style and personality. Back in its prime, Dribbble offered the same portfolio style of image sharing. However, as invite only, it was, and still is, viewed as elitist. Whereas Instagram is open to all with a growing reach of 700 million users reported in April 2017. With the right hashtags you could reach a staggering audience regardless of the content you are sharing. It’s quick and doesn’t require any knowledge of how to operate a website to keep your feed updated.

You may have come across the term “Instagram aesthetic”. Its one of the key things that makes your Instagram feed noticeable to your followers. Over the past few weeks I’ve changed my Instagram feed aesthetic. It’s now black and white with the occasional pop of colour where necessary. The work I post on Instagram is purely personal projects too. Using just the black and white aesthetic therefore becomes recognisable in peoples feeds. Because I allow myself to experiment with my own designs, I don’t feel restricted to what is expected from a portfolio. I feel as though I have the freedom to post whatever I want, when I want, in a form that follows no conventions or expectations.

Because I allow myself to experiment with my own designs, I don’t feel restricted to what is expected from a portfolio.

A traditional portfolio ends up being restrictive in showcasing the work you’ve done for other people. When you add personal projects sometimes it invalidates you as a serious designer. It can, at times, suggest don’t actually have a body of client work to show. Instagram however doesn’t care. There is no protocol for how you use it to showcase your design work.

There are downsides however to using Instagram solely as your design portfolio. Your bio section don’t provide a lot of room to sell your personality and achievements. This is where a traditional portfolio really comes in use. The same goes for if you wanted to blog, a traditional portfolio website allows you to do so. Instagram might be a much more fulfilling experience for a portfolio. Yet its restrictions do not completely outweigh the need for fully-fledged design website.

Instagram is forgiving as trends constantly change as do peoples feed aesthetics.

When it comes down to it, your portfolio and the work you showcase has to work for you and the brand you’re trying to build and promote. Instagram is great because you get instant gratification that your work is being recognised. You know people are engaging with your content when you get a new notification. The analytics on my Instagram far succeed the analytics on this website. If you’re not concerned by the numbers and just want to have a digital playground, Instagram is the place for experimentation. That’s what I’ve learnt over the years, and even more so recently. Instagram is forgiving as trends constantly change, as do peoples feed aesthetics. Mixing things up and being personal with your followers is encouraged. This allows you to save the work you’re really proud of for an official website portfolio.

Hopefully I take a few things from this post into consideration myself. On reflection I would love to change up the portfolio section of this website. It’s something I’ve been looking into for a while. But for now, I’m happy to take a more relaxed approach to showcasing my work. Instagram allows me to show the type of style I personally like that I don’t get to experiment with very often. That’s what social media is for – free expression, not necessarily first impressions. So if you take away anything from this, keep experimenting with your design and showcase it in a way that you feel most comfortable and the least restricted by.

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