OK, people, we spent most of our 2020 scrolling through G.O.R.G.E.O.U.S. Instagram grids. I tried to have one, my best friend tried to have one, even my personal-finance-obsessed teammate is planning to have one.
Why am I still writing about grids then? 2020 was the year of experiments. We got excited and transitioned from one type of grid to another, used too many colors, or simply gave up when maintaining our grid became way too complicated.
2021 will be about mastering our grids. For that, we need all the information in one single place. And this is why I’m writing this.
From colors and formats to structure, examples, ideas, and tools, here’s the full guide you can check whenever you feel like your grid needs improvement. If a year ago we were cool just for having a planned grid, now we need to innovate to stand out.
First thing first: how Instagram grids work
The Insta almighties decided the most appealing format is square. Square logo, square pictures, square ads. All this squareness was bound to lead to a grid format for each profile.
But then, somebody saw the big picture.
Hats off to the one who decided you can play with the entire grid and create art. From there, it was just a matter of time until people and brands jumped on the planned Instagram grids bandwagon and created puzzles, quotes, tiles, and so on.
Now, you have to pay attention to what you’re going to post next, so you don’t break the flow. And so, almost everybody is publishing three posts at a time in a specific order so the design remains sleek.
TL;DR: you now have to design the grid before you even think about individual pictures or posts.
Before technicalities: here are all types of Instagram grids you can start with
Deciding you want a planned grid is only the tip of the iceberg. Deciding what type of grid you want is going to take hours for research, one night to sleep on it, three friends to advise, and five stakeholders to approve. But let’s start by scrolling through some profiles and see where inspiration will take us.
Here’s what Kumba Dauda, Freelance Social Media Manager, Blogger and Influencer Outreach Specialist, thinks about all this Instagram thing:
If Instagram had a spirit animal, it would be a chameleon. It is the one platform that is constantly learning to adjust to what’s trending.
Running Wholehearted Social, a Social Media Agency I have worked with a real variety of influencers and brands where we have experimented with so many different ideas based on current and forecasted trends as to ‘stay relevant’ on the gram.
One trend that seems to always be underlying within Instagram is the classic Instagram grid. I believe this was born out of the idea that the trend on Instagram at one point was a ‘perfect’ feed which had to cater to a certain aesthetic. With a grid or puzzle layout as it’s also called, users can create that cohesive look as well as bulk up on a ton of content that could be scheduled which is more time-efficient. Instagram grids are particularly useful for those who own businesses and want a cohesive brand image to be projected within their page to make that initial great impression. Here are a few examples of Instagram grids that we have created:
From experience using this type of layout, here is what I would say are the overall pros and cons of adopting an Instagram grid layout.
Makes a great first impression which can increase the % of people who follow after visiting your page
Allows you to bulk create content and schedule everything in advance
Seamless and aesthetically pleasing
It’s a look that not everyone can achieve so it can make you stand out from your competitors
Assists in developing a consistent brand image
Instagram is moving in a new direction where people favor authentic content over perfectly curated content
May not work well on other platforms
Inflexible, unable to post ad hoc content
Must post x3 times in a row to make the layout work
Looks great on feed as a whole but may not be as visually striking as individual posts on the home feed
Checkerboard grids – making you smarter with quotes
The checkerboard Instagram grid is led by background colors. Most accounts using this type of grid stick to two solid colors or non-colors and alternate them to create the checkerboard impression. But that’s only the beginning.
What’s happening in the foreground is more important to your brand. Usually, checkers are used for two scenarios, depending on your specific activity. If you’re inspiring through words, you can easily use only quotes and use the checkers to visually diversify your content. If your content is a mix of words and images, you have the option to ditch one of the solid colors and only use the other one for quotes. Alternate them with other images.
And of course, there’s a third option where you use pictures as backgrounds alternating with a solid color to create the checkerboard feeling.
Text line grids – the fine line of creativity
If you’re not into quotes that much, but still have something to express with words, you can use the single line of text type of grid. This allows you to tip the balance to more visual content, having a ration of 2:1 (2 photos, 1 quote).
This grid is also an excellent choice if you don’t have much time to play with backgrounds and strategies, as you’ll most probably stick to the same font and background color for every quote. And this way, you can easily include videos in your posting plan without struggling with the background. An elegant approach to a well-thought grid, the 2:1 text tiles grid can be used by any brand or person for inspiration, education, or entertainment. So which one are you?
Border grids – for when you need space
Do you ever feel like your grid looks OK, but it still needs to be tidied up? Well, if we think about printed photos, we most likely imagine them lined up in an important spot in our house, with their own frames to match the room design. Photos are that important for us.
So why not bring the frames to the digital world where we share the most beautiful and interesting moments of our lives? Borders are a great way to put the focus on each picture without needing a strong strategy for how the grid will look like and save the time and energy focusing on the actual photos you’re posting.
Diagonal grids – spiraling content
And here’s where things get complicated. Because yes, I took a chance and showed you the simple-to-make but not-so-wow ones first. They’re a great start if you’re not an editing expert. I’m not either.
But what truly turned the Instagram world upside down are some crazy grid combinations that make me look through the green glasses. Why didn’t I think of it first? But enough with this jealousy, this is the diagonal grid.
Looks complicated? Well, it is not that hard to maintain this consistency. All you have to do is pick one kind of photo or video and one color. Then drag them to form a diagonal.
The tricky part? You have to plan your grid beforehand because you’ll constantly need magnificent trios of photos with the same content and color.
Example time. Look how Naomi created a diagonal grid using photos of sweets with a brown accent:
Row by row grids – classy, yet in trend
This creative layout makes me think of some sort of reinvented comic book. Want to tell a story in more than one photo with zero words? Then this is your perfect type of grid. Basically, you’ll use each row to create a story or one chapter of the story. Brand storytelling at its best!
Honestly, I’ll use that only because when I take my cat’s photos, I can’t pick only one to post. Jokes aside, I’ve seen pretty spectacular stories created using this type of grid. And it’s easy to make because it doesn’t need much planning. Its only disadvantage is you have to publish three posts at a time or you’ll break the flow. But the sacrifice is worth it.
Rainbow grids – color is everything
Not a fan of routine? Then this grid is for you. Because you’ll probably get tired of using the same colors or the same backgrounds over and over again, the rainbow grid will allow you to play with colors like no other grid. But spectacular details don’t come easy.
The rainbow grid requires a lot of planning, special tools, and creativity. Basically, you’ll use the row by row technique, but every row should be connected with the one above and the one below. Are you committing to find transitions every time? You’re my hero.
The rhythm is usually of 3, 6, or 9 photos for each color. But who’s counting anyway?
Puzzle grids – infinite storyline
And now, for the grid of the grids, creme de la creme, the best of the best, we’ll talk about the puzzle grid. It may sound simple, but really, it is the most strategic, painful and beautiful form of art you can find on Instagram. It works great with videos too.
And I’ll tell you why: puzzles have a background that is continuously evolving. Each post should be connected with all its neighbor posts. Easy? Think about how when you post a picture, you also have to include elements of the picture that will come above it. And what happens if you don’t post the pictures in the correct order?
*Cough cough* Thank God for these tools that let you plan your grid and preview everything before hitting publish.
Squares grids – back to the basics
Now you’re probably thinking: “Wait a minute, Luciana, what’s there to talk about squares?”. What can I say, we live in weird times where squares are actually a thing.
We can’t miss the minimalist type of grid. The first type of grid that looked messy back in the day made Instagrammers transition to a minimalist layout where they focused on one or two colors positioned in the center of the picture, while the rest of it is just plain background. If you’re not all rainbows, then this grid may be the one for you.
Mixed grids – your own magic formula
Can’t stick to one type? Me neither! Don’t worry, there’s something for us too. Mixing and matching is also a type of layout and some Instagram accounts are slaying with creativity.
How to mix the grid? Try the line in the middle with a puzzle, or row by row with borders. In the end, you have to be yourself, so don’t necessarily stick to the rules.
OK, OK, but how do I keep my Instagram grid in order?
Consistency is key, and when working with photos and videos, it can become challenging to create cohesion. You can use some sort of formula and come back to it whenever you feel like you’re drifting away.
Step one: your brand’s personality
Personal or business account, there’s always some traits defining your brand. Which one are you? If you represent a business, think about the colors of that business. If you’re a lovely soul, think about what your friends say about you. Are you bright and glittery? Are you a minimalist or old school? Do you like nature or skyscrapers? Are you more into cats or flamingos? These questions will help you create visual harmony throughout the mighty scroll.
Step two: your Instagram grid layout
Believe it or not, the layout you’re going to choose will help you a lot, because it is going to tell you what type of content to prepare, when to publish it and where to place it. Sometimes, complicating things at first may help you in the long run.
Step three: choose your colors
I mentioned your brand’s colors at step one. They should be prominent in your layout. If you don’t have the colors yet, pick no more than three shades that fit your brand. Give it time and make sure you’re going with the right colors, as they will become the visual personality of your account.
Step four: decide on a filter
A quick trick for maintaining consistency is to apply the same filter for every post. This filter should work with your colors and your brand personality, so it doesn’t have to be something very complicated.
If you don’t want to create your own filter, there’s plenty of presets you can choose from. Test them out until you feel like you found the one.
Step five: post in order
The order of your posts is also part of consistency, especially if your grid layout is more sophisticated. But don’t get anxious, you don’t have to put much effort into this arrangement anymore.
With tools like Planable, you can easily drag and drop your posts and rearrange everything until you reach perfection.
Here’s how simple everything works: