Navigating Photoshop and Design Trends in an Age of Social Media Marketing

By Devin Morrissey

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For better or worse, social media has vastly changed our world, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Companies, organizations, and brands are forced into the social media arena gladiator style — not only to fight each other but to win audiences in an instant-gratification world. Players in this game are only given so many pixels and characters across each platform to put their best foot forward. And conversion from there on out is hard.

This causes those in the social media game to innovate in ways nobody else is, because, at the end of the day, quality and uniqueness of a service are important. But to even grab a potential participant’s click in the first place is a challenge in today’s world. There are current trends in the world of Photoshop users and designers that you can use to differentiate yourself from the rest of the social media marketing world while still remaining relevant.

Of course, Photoshop isn’t 100 percent necessary for making marketing visuals, but it is often recommended and treated as a creative standard across most industries. So without further ado, let’s look through some of the current trends in design — specifically used by those who use Adobe software — and how we can capitalize on them in social media marketing.

Triple your Dimensions

According to Adobe’s Create Blog themselves, a 3D design is something coming back for product mockups used in advertisements. Using other Adobe Creative tools in conjunction with Photoshop will be necessary for the best results. But you may no longer need to pay for an extensive photoshoot to show your product off — you can simulate it with these tools.

Now, regardless of whether you’re a designer or just on a team working with one, communication between marketers and designers goes easier if everyone can speak the same lingo. It may be smart for marketers to mess around in those programs, especially with the 3D design tools, if that’s what they want a design to go for. If they have no experience or time to learn the basics of these programs (even on a free trial), then asking for visuals always helps. And as a word of advice, you may be able to make the best 3D designs using Adobe Dimension.

Some companies that have worked 3D design into their marketing campaigns recently include:

Visual Dynamics and Platform Awareness

During any market or advertising research, observe different image trends and design types used across various social media channels (sometimes this is called multi-channel attribution). This is important because the rules and guidelines of platforms differ from one another, and sometimes that creates different posting trends on different platforms.

For instance, Instagram allows its users to upload multiple photos at once, so it’s become somewhat popular to do so. But that’s not as common on Twitter and Facebook, even though you can also do that on those platforms. Additionally, the recommended image sizes and video lengths change depending from platform to platform, so that also creates trend differences.

For an example, take 99designs’ list of graphic design trends in 2018. A common theme across several of their points was using gradient colours, depth, and duotones. However, some of these would certainly work better for a larger design, similar to the one you’d find on a Facebook cover photo, than in a smaller Instagram picture. For Instagram, simpler, colourful backgrounds seem to work best. Of course, the way you edit real photos you’re using is going to change and depend on the final format you use too. A drone-taken panorama may not work well on a small Instagram ad the way it would on a cover photo. While it can be used in both, what details are highlighted and any text or branding images surrounding it will change — those eye-grabbing details will be different on one platform than the other.

Speaking of multi-dimensional photos and designs, the effectiveness of these also change across the social media world. Take Snapchat for instance. Snapchat Geofilters are a very popular trend in digital marketing right now. It might be better to use newer 2D design skills rather than some of the more in-depth 3D ones, as it’s easier to process on an image that is only visible for 10 seconds (though this is changing as Snapchat changes their limits). But those same 2D filters may not work as well on a photo you post to Twitter because you have more time to look at it. The platform matters and your design methods should change from one to another.

Measuring Success

Navigating the trends as they change through time while maintaining consistency in your brand image, is a hard line to walk. Many companies use paid promotion campaigns in order to boost their content past social media’s restrictive algorithms. While all paid promotions end with analytical results reports, no tool may be quite as good for navigating traffic and the success of different campaigns than Google Analytics.

People need to get to your store or website through your social media promotions — that’s how conversion happens. Proper training in Google Analytics can show you how well your campaigns are doing and measure what kind of designs work better than others. SEO Yield Value recently wrote a piece about the benefits of using Google Analytics, and if you use them wisely, you may be able to recognize what kind of advertising art works best with what audiences. Their list includes three things that are relevant to design changes and trends:

  1. You’re able to find out how your visitors locate your website

— That is, you can see if paid promotions are working.

  1. Able to identify which pages and links your visitors click the most

— Are your ads taking people to the correct conversion pages?

  1. Visitor segmentation

— What are the demographics your designs and advertisements appeal to?

In short, if you explore new trends and methods for art and design, you’ll find what works best. You’ll also find what doesn’t — sometimes people can be hard. But you can navigate their negative comments productively as well — all parts of the business have to. In doing so you’ll discover what trends stick and which ones don’t. This is why a lot of people choose to use Analytics, but there are, of course, other ways to measure said metrics, such as the campaign reports and monitoring traffic through other websites. Designers usually don’t deal with this, but design directors often do. Regardless, it may be good to be in the know of how a design is performing so you can better craft your next one, should you be the designer and not the director.

What Photoshop/design trends have you used this year that have seemed to work well for your marketing campaigns? Which ones haven’t? How have you measured it? I’m curious to know!

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