Instagrammable interiors

Instagrammable interiors can’t be authentic, can they?

Should Instagrammable interiors even be a commercial goal?

When “to Instagram” became a verb, people talk relentlessly about Instagramming a space or an experience. Instagrammable quickly became the future of social media marketing.

What happened when “Instagrammable” became a search term?

Type Instagrammable into Google search, and you’ll be led to results about “most Instagrammable places near me” or “Instagrammable cafes in London” and so on.

Even travel companies like easyJet built a search feature into their website that allowed users to filter content by “Insta hotspot”. 

According to Instagram itself, “200 million plus Instagrammers visit at least one business profile daily”.

Instagram’s millions of users actively seek and share moments of joy in well-designed spaces. 

That’s how Instagrammable interiors as a concept became so sticky.

What’s the business case for creating Instagrammable interiors?

Should businesses even plan spaces with social media in mind?

Is it possible to create commercial spaces that are Instagrammable, yet keep their authenticity and grace?

Photography for social media is now open to every passer-by with a smartphone. Everybody’s on reality TV now, like it or not. 

So should businesses be making it easy for us to capture a great photo and talk about their interiors online? 

Doesn’t “Instagrammable” just mean photogenic?

Well, yes and no.

And that partly boils down to the limitations of the medium.

We’re not all professional photographers. We’re mainly just amateurs with an iPhone.

It’s important for brands to understand this and create spaces that are easy for most people to photograph. The challenge is to make them look enticing on a small screen.

Who were the early adopters of Instagrammable interiors?

Generally the biggest players in Instagrammable design are in the hospitality and retail sectors.

From coffee shops to retail displays, many of these businesses recognised early that photogenic design has the power to be shared widely outside the local area. 

Designers’ tricky relationship with Instagrammable interiors

When the “Insta-moment” became a thing, commercial clients began asking architects and interior designers to build Insta-moments into their project. And when clients checklisted Instagrammable in their design brief, we knew the trend had traction.

Of course, architects and interior designers have created photogenic spaces forever. What changed quickly was that spaces needed to be deliberately camera-friendly.

And this is a tricky issue for designers.

Instagrammable interiors can feel two-dimensional

Some design professionals were critical of client requests for Insta-moments. Done insensitively, of course designing with social media in mind can feel tacky, formulaic or inauthentic.

Designing Instagramable interiors for social media

Designing creatively for social media became a very real challenge for professionals. It meant shaping spaces with photography (and increasingly video) in mind, staying ahead of trends and developing new photogenic opportunities for clients.

It meant creating an atmosphere and experience that users feel moved to share.

Valé Architects in Australia were early adopters and produced an Instagram Design Guide for other professionals.

Director Scott Valentine recognised the ongoing impact of shareable building design on marketing, particularly for the hospitality industry.

“In the hospitality industry, our priority, once the doors are open, is to get known. A big part of experience hospitality businesses is for guests to be delighted about where they are and what they are doing. So delighted in fact that they must show everyone. The more moments of delight, magic and excitement you can create, the more likely they are to share and help you get known. If done well, your customers will be your marketing team.”

Scott Valentine
Director, Valé Architects

Well-designed (and shareable) spaces can inspire joy and increase users’ well-being. That’s an amazing opportunity for designers and business, and nothing to be sneered at. 

Instagram and the power of social proof

Social proof is one of the most persuasive drivers in marketing. If we see people like us doing something, we are more likely to do it too. 

Social proof shapes consumer behaviour. It means that social sharing aggregates.

The more a space is shared online, the more likely that is to continue. For evidence, just search for Sketch in London, or Peggy Porschen’s pink cake shop.

But social proof also motivates designers and creators.

When designers see others like themselves creating spaces with social media marketing in mind, the trend gains momentum. Designers aren’t untouched by the persuasive power of social proof. 

And so Instagrammable spaces start to fill everyone’s phone feeds.

Conversational marketing campaigns

Marketing was blown wide open by the growth in social media platforms. Marketing campaigns had to become more responsive and conversational.

Campaigns may be created by marketing experts, but they’re shaped by direct user response and increasingly involve two-way chat. It’s usually not enough for campaigns to be creative and clever, they need to be conversational too.

Instagrammable interiors and the psychology of sharing

Consumers share spaces that reflect their values and sense of self. Brands must tell a story about themselves, through their spaces, that resonates with their customers. Customers have no interest in doing your marketing for you. They simply want to signal something about themselves.

As a result, some forward-thinking professionals began to analyse in their design brief what worked well on social media in similar spaces.

It’s also why some clients are actively asking their designers for social media sharing to be a driver in the design. In fact, if you were a business owner commissioning an interior today, you’d be foolish not to ask your designer for some features that photograph well for social sharing.

Instagrammable retail overcomes the Amazon effect

What’s true for the hospitality sector also holds for retailers. It’s partly how bricks-and-mortar shops overcome the “Amazon effect”. 

UK-based consultancy Echo Chamber provides creative trend intelligence to the retail sector. Or as they say themselves, “We travel the world looking at shops.

Their shopping safaris track global consumer trends to inspire their clients in the retail sector.

Director Matthew Brown believes in a creative and authentic approach to Instagrammable spaces –

“The power of instagram as a marketing tool is absolutely genuine and if your customers are sharing their positive thoughts about you in enough numbers they are doing your marketing for you!

Any business that still prevents customers taking photos instore is living in the Stone Age and every brand should think how about how their stores and experiences photograph and might best appear on social media.

There is plenty of cliched and lazy Insta-moment design out there – where brands build a selfie spot, without considering how engaging the overall shopping experience is, so we believe that retailers should think holistically and plan genuine Insta-moments into their spaces.

Great visual merchandising, social areas that encourage interaction, and personalised experiences are all great ways to excite customers and make them want to share and shout about you.”

Matthew Brown
Director, Echo Chamber

Instagrammable and the bottom line – does it square up commercially?

Does social proof and user-generated marketing make business sense for commercial interiors?

Creating Instagrammable spaces has two main commercial benefits.

Firstly, customers do some of the marketing for the business.

Secondly, the online audience is virtually limitless. A social media profile extends the business “shop front” beyond what’s physical. 

This increased commercial reach can be a cost-effective marketing tool.

Instagrammable is cost-effective marketing

By making an effort to create one (or more) Instagrammble “style spots”, a business can benefit from low-cost (often free) organic marketing.

They also get the added bonus of built-in social proof.

By encouraging visitors to share and tag photographs of their space, a business also gets access to a bank of user-generated images. This means they don’t need to rely on the skills or creativity of one photographer to capture their brand.

Crucially, user-generated images add a feeling of authenticity that commercial photography often lacks. It feels more real to see photographs of your space captured by users, rather than technically perfect marketing images.

Can Instagrammable be photogenic AND authentic?

For many Insta-cynics, the Instagrammable interior suggests only clichés of selfie walls and neon signs. 

Can Instagrammable and authentic co-exist?

And is the anti-Instagrammable feeling just the social media equivalent of the patronising assumption that brains and beauty don’t mix? 

“Authentic” was the social media buzzword of the last few years.

The relentless demand for authenticity suggests a clash between creating photogenic spaces and keeping it real. 

Instagrammable interiors: fake, clichéd and predictable?

A Dezeen article about Instagrammable architecture said this about anti-creative, transitory and clichéd experiences of many so-called Insta-moments –

“The result is a series of transitory spaces codifed and recognisable the world over, which don’t so much call for us to dwell in them so much as digitally record our presence, capture that moment then move on.

It removes the unexpected, the exploratory and sense of a local, creating a comfortable global aesthetic in which, without prompting, the inhabitant knows how to act and perform.”

Will Jennings

By aiming only for what photographs well, Instagrammable design can feel two-dimensional, flat and formulaic.

And yes, there were a lot of Millennial pink colour palettes, flamingos and flower walls out there. That’s standard Instagram fodder. But it’s not all there is now.

As video sharing went on a steep rise, photogenic design became less two-dimensional and more filmic. Just check out the hashtag #accidentallywesanderson for evidence.

Can Instagrammable feel creative and new?

Styling Instagrammable spaces can be authentic, personal and unique to a brand’s own story.

Photogenic styling can also come in unlikely packages. Mindfulness encourages many of us to find beauty in the everyday. That nothing is ordinary.

Trend forecasters JWT Intelligence wrote about the food retail sector and the rise of the vegetable gallery. The article highlighted how photogenic experiences are even starting to shape the style of the humble food shop.

“Curated produce shop Natoora, described by design bible Wallpaper* as the “Aesop of vegetables,” opened in London in October 2018. The store displays vegetables as if they’re works of art, laid out on smooth concrete shelves with labels akin to museum captions and an attentiveness to provenance …”

JWT Intelligence

You may not find it refreshing to fetishise everyday foodstuffs as museum-style artefacts. However it’s unarguably the ultimate ‘living in the moment’ mindfulness that finds beauty in ordinary, everyday things. Witness Natoora’s Radicchio not Roses campaign.

Instagrammable doesn’t have to be photogenic OR authentic. It can have both style and substance, maybe even a version of leaning in towards more mindful living. 

Insta-moments can whisper as well as shout.

How can your business be more authentically Instagrammable?

There’s great value in the idea that you can start small with Instagrammable design.

Most businesses don’t need to overhaul their interior design entirely. Often, they simply need to create an obvious focal point.

That means starting off by curating a corner with a simple style spot, and then responding to what resonates with visitors. 

I have a free checklist on where to locate Instagrammable style spots.

Interested in photography, styling and marketing?

Click here to read about creating movement in photography.