Instagrammable interiors

Instagrammable versus authentic interiors – squaring up

Should Instagrammable be a commercial goal?

What does Instagrammable even mean?

To Instagram” is now a verb. 

People talk about Instagramming a space or an experience. That means that Instagrammable is not the future of social media marketing, it’s the present.

 “Instagrammable” is now a well-used search term. Type it 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 have built a search feature into their website that allows users to filter content by “Insta hotspot”. 

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

Instagram’s millions of users actively seek and share moments that speak to them. Many users find their shareable moments of joy in well-designed spaces. 

Instagrammable is here to stay.

What’s the business case for creating Instagrammable spaces?

Should businesses even plan spaces with Instagram 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 everyone with a smartphone. Everybody’s on reality TV now, like it or not. 

So shouldn’t businesses be making it easy for us to capture a great photo and talk about them online? 

And 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 that business understands this and creates spaces that are easy for most people to photograph, and that look enticing on a small screen.

Generally the biggest players in Instagrammable design are in the hospitality and retail sectors. From coffee shops to retail displays, photogenic design has the power to be shared widely outside its actual locality. 

Designers and their tricky relationship with Instagrammable

The “Insta-moment” is real. Commercial clients have already begun asking architects and interior designers to build such Insta-moments into their project. And when clients are checklisting Instagrammable in their design brief, we know the trend has traction.

Of course, architects and interior designers have been creating photogenic spaces for many years. What’s changed now is that spaces need to be deliberately camera-friendly.

And this is a tricky issue for designers. Instagrammable design can feel very two-dimensional. Some design professionals are critical of client requests for Insta-moments. Done insensitively, of course designing with social media in mind can feel tacky, formulaic or inauthentic.

designing for social media

But designing creatively for social media is a very real challenge for professionals. That means shaping spaces with photography (and increasingly video) in mind, staying ahead of trends and developing new photogenic opportunities for clients. It’s about creating an atmosphere and experience that users feel moved to share.

Valé Architects in Australia are early adopters and produced an Instagram Design Guide for other professionals. Director Scott Valentine recognises 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. It’s not an impossible leap to imagine that uplifting, well-designed interiors can increase the wellbeing of those using them and inspire their moments of bliss.

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!

#peggyporschen on Instagram

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. Instagrammable spaces fill everyone’s social media feeds. Designers aren’t untouched by the persuasive power of social proof. 

Conversational marketing campaigns

Marketing has been blown wide open by the growth in social media. 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.

Consumers can geotag business spaces or mention social media profiles. That means they share brand stories with their friends. 

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.

Simply by recognising what customers share about business spaces, marketers and designers can see what resonates and create accordingly. That’s why some forward-thinking professionals analyse in their design brief what works 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, you would be foolish not to ask your designer for some features that photograph well for social media.

If that sounds cynical, just think about whether designing a building or interior without the user in mind is a smart move?

Instagrammable retail

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 impressive range of 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?

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.

cost-effective marketing

Participating in these social media platforms is free, unless a business chooses to advertise. By making an effort to create one (or more) Instagrammble “style spots”, a business can benefit from low-cost 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.

That’s why Instagrammable design increasingly means creating photogenic spaces that don’t lose their authenticity. 

Photogenic V 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” is the social media buzzword of the moment.

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

perfect imperfections

Perfect imperfection is a great concept to live (and style spaces) by. It still requires careful consideration though. Trend hunters know that it’s not cool to try too hard! 

A recent article on Dezeen 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 at what photographs well, Instagrammable design can feel two-dimensional, flat and formulaic.

And yes, there are 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.

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

innovation and instagrammable

There is room for creativity and innovation when creating Instagrammable spaces. 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’s reflected in the belief that nothing is ordinary.

Trend forecasters JWT Intelligence wrote recently 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 everyday things.

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

Insta-moments can whisper as well as shout.

Curating corners – how to 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. 

#HonestlyGrammable Styling School offers a free checklist on where to locate Instagrammable style spots. An online course on styling authentic Instagrammable spaces is coming soon.

Find out more at

To download the checklist, click here.