On hearts, likes and sharing your work on social media

Sharing work online can bring more than just ‘hearts’ and ‘likes’, but designers may need to start channelling their inner window-dresser in order to keep up

Illustration by Calum Heath

I’m trying Instagram. Again. This happens every few months – I’ll shoot all the vaguely interesting details of my life, filter the bejesus out of them, share them, get really into all the comments and the following and all that jazz. I’ll be constantly on the lookout for the next instagenic moment and the little grid of banality will be my everything. I’ll love it … right up until the moment I hate it and delete everything.

I’ll grow bored of the self-imposed social pressure of delivering the goods; become overly precious with the quality/consistency of my pictures; find myself unhealthily obsessed with the quantity and value of the tiny little hearts, knowing that they mean nothing at all (psychologists would call this ‘cognitive dissonance’ and ‘stupid’). And so I scrap it all. The app will sit there on my phone, dormant and unloved for months and months until memories of this whole ridiculous cycle have withered sufficiently for me to convince myself that none of these things matter and then it’ll start all over again.

Of course, this time is going to be different. No more pictures of sandwiches or feet or amusingly obscene clouds! It has a new purpose: rather than fill it with meaningless nothingry, I’m going to start using it to share my work. I’m quite happy to yammer away about my work on the more verbose social networks, but when it comes to actually showing it, I’m useless. I generally just post finished book covers on my isolated, anti-social little website for literally tens of people to see and then hope for the best.

But I see how other designers are using visual social media like Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr in exciting, engaging ways, and I realise quite how many tricks I’m missing. They’re revealing work in progress, they’re sharing techniques, inspirations, experiments, tools, preferences, mistakes. They’re communicating directly with potential clients and creative partners and customers. You get to see where they design and how they design; you get to see their work grow, developing from one project to the next. It’s rather wonderful.

You get to see where they design and how they design; you get to see their work grow, developing from one project to the next. It’s rather wonderful.

There’s a certain look to it all as well. There’s a new aesthetic emerging on social media that’s a million miles away from the stark cover-against-white portfolio images that I’m used to. Books are presented as gentrified, aspirational lifestyle units, shown in quirky dioramas of coffee and typewriters and sketchbooks and flowers and avocados and kittens and kale; accessories to some hygge ideal (look how complete this reader’s life must be, with book perched cheekily upon their selvedge-denimed lap!). Judge a book not by its cover, judge it by its surroundings. And then share the heck out of it. All of this design-as-public-performance may sound a bit twee, but my word it makes for an effective shop window.

The problem is, it feels like the sort of thing that requires significant chutzpah – perhaps even moxie – when all I’ve got is acute imposter syndrome. Can I be this outgoing? What if people actually pay attention to the ridiculous ways I do things? Do I really want a comments field directly beneath my work (or worse, beneath unfinished work)? What do I know about window-dressing? What if people see my work? What if they share it? Or what if they don’t? What would that mean? Can’t I just keep all my work over here under this trusty bushel and not worry about it?

No, shush brain. I’m trying Instagram again. No more preciousness. Let’s just get on with it and try really, really hard not to delete everything.

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Junior Designer

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