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Aug

30

2017

How to Create 30 Days Worth of Instagram Posts in One Day

Did you know that 50% of Instagram users follow a business, and 60% actually use Instagram to learn about a product or service?

In fact, there are currently over 700 million Instagram users, and that number is expected to reach the one billion user milestone by the end of 2017. How’s that for a potential audience for your business?

Instagram is one of the fastest growing social networks out there — and with good reason! Businesses and individuals alike love connecting with each other through the image-dedicated platform by sharing inspiring images and videos with their communities.

For the marketers behind those brand Instagram feeds, it’s important to keep your audience engaged and loyal to your brand to really take advantage of the expanding network.Click here to access a month's worth of Instagram tips & free templates. 

Unfortunately, keeping your audience engaged is no easy feat. It requires constantly coming up with new ideas and creating a variety of content pieces to post every single day. 

At HubSpot, our social media team works on our Instagram content schedule well in advace, making sure to keep a stock of posts handy to schedule out everyday. If you’re a marketer wearing lots of different hats at your company, though, you may find it difficult to work far as far in advance.

But wouldn’t be great if you had your whole month of Instagram posts ready so you can have one less thing to worry about?

Not sure how? Don’t worry. We have a few tips to share.

How to Create 30 Instagram Posts in One Day

Creating a bulk of content for any channel requires a few hours of focused energy, some inspiration, and the right tools. 

Before we dig in, be sure set aside time to focus energy on your Instagram content. Start by blocking off time on your calendar to create all of your posts. Start with two hours. We promise: creating 30 posts at once will be easier than you think. 

Once you’ve found your focus, it’s time to look for inspiration.

1) Look to your favorite brands for inspiration. 

The best way to create variety is to get outside of your own bubble. Don’t just look around your office or at your past Instagram posts to draw inspiration for new posts.

Instead, start your creative process by looking at the brands you personally follow. Look at brands you admire (or even your friends) and look at what types of posts people tend to engage with. 

Getting inspiration from other people is one of the quickest ways to come up with new unique ideas. Or, if you want to even get out of the Instagram feed, check out Designspiration. It’s a great collection of designs to get your creative juices flowing. 

2) Start jotting down your ideas in one place.

As you look around Instagram and elsewhere for new content ideas, make a list of things you like and dislike. It can be anything — colors, quotes, images, types of posts, etc. 

Even if you don’t use some of your ideas right away, it’s important to keep a running list of the thoughts that flit through your mind when you’re getting inspiration. After all, you never know where that idea might eventually lead.

3) Use a mixture of phone pictures and created pictures using a tool like Spark Post.

While many Instagrammers spend tons of time each day taking new pictures on their phones, you aren’t limited to just posting photos that you actually go out and take. Instead, mix it up by having a stock of images you design alongisde those you take. 

Pro Tip: Not a great designer? No problem. Use a free design tool like Adobe Spark Post. With their free templates and easy-to-use interface, you can make beautifully designed images in no time. To get you started, we have 30 free exclusive Spark Post templates to offer you in our 30 day Instagram guide.

To get you started, we have 30 free exclusive Spark Post templates to offer you in our 30 day Instagram guide.

4) Use our 30 Day Instagram Guide and Free Instagram Templates to easily create 30 unique posts.

One easy way to come up with 30 unique Instagram posts is to focus on a new idea or aspect of Instagram each day. That’s why HubSpot teamed up with Adobe Spark and Iconosquare to create this full 30 Days of Instagram guide.

Each day is focused on a different aspect of Instagram marketing. From different content creation ideas to promotional tactics to reporting and analysis, the guide is jam packed with ideas and examples from the best of the best. 

The guide also includes 30 exclusive Adobe Spark templates for you to use to help you create your 30 days worth of Instagram posts. Check it out and get cranking!

5) Use a scheduling software like Iconosquare to schedule your content for the next 30 days. 

Once you’ve successfully created 30 (or more) Instagram posts for the month, don’t forget to get scheduling! Use a software like Iconosquare to schedule out a whole month’s worth of Instagram posts, then let yourself relax!

30 days of instagram

 
30 days of insta

Nov

4

2016

26 Clever Ideas for Marketing Over the Holidays [Free Guide]

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No matter what sector you’re in, the holiday season is a time when marketers can drive new sales, attract new customers, and create valuable promotional deals. 

With all of that opportunity comes the need for extra marketing efforts around the holidays. But it’s not enough just to execute deals like every other brand out there — holiday sales also bring holiday noise, so it’s essential that your marketing efforts to stand out from the crowd. 

Small Business Saturday, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and general online holiday shopping are predicted to increase up to 19% from last year — now is the time to think about amping up your marketing efforts to generate more revenue. 

Luckily, HubSpot and Square put their heads together to come up with 26 solid ideas for holiday marketing. With these free tips, you’ll be on your way to doubling your holiday revenue year-over-year in no time. Tips from the ebook include: 

  • 26 unique tactics for holiday campaigns.
  • Moving the needle for sales during the holidays and ensuring ROI on your campaigns.
  • Analyzing, optimizing, and tweaking content you already have to make a bigger impact over the holiday season.
  • Examples and resources for great holiday offers.
  • Utilizing your audience and customers to generate more business near the end of the year.
  • Much more about smart marketing over the holidays, and beyond.

Want to learn more? Download your copy of Holiday Marketing Campaign Ideas A-Z today.

free ebook: holiday marketing campaign ideas

Nov

1

2016

How to Use Twitter Polls to Engage Your Audience: 13 Examples From Real Brands

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It’s been a year since Twitter polls became an option for users to engage, entertain, and survey their social media audience. And just recently we’ve found ourselves asking, “Are there any brands out there that are really using Twitter Polls well?

In the not-so ancient past, Twitter users used to tweet out makeshift polls and use likes, retweets, or replies to get their “results.” It was a way of engaging with followers over timely events, random questions, and product promotions.

Yet, without real-time voting options and results, these makeshift polls weren’t all that valuable. In fact, they were just like any other tweet meant to drive engagement.

Thanks to the introduction of Twitter polls, all that’s changed. We’ll walk you through how to set up a poll below, and provide some inspiring examples to help you plan one of your own.

How to Create a Twitter Poll

1) Click the ‘Compose a Tweet’ button in the top right-hand corner of your homepage.

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2) Click the “Add Poll” option in the dialogue box that pops up and write copy for your polling question.

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Include relevant hashtags, @mentions, and links. Polls are just like any other tweet, just with the added polling feature. Keep it short, clear, and engaging.

3) Add at least two choices (up to four) on your poll.

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Dress your options up with emojis or witty options to show off some personality and catch the attention of folks scrolling by.

4) Set the length of your poll.

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5) Click “Tweet” and watch your poll results come in during the set time period.

When the time period you set ends, you’ll see a “Final Results” display in the Tweet, like this:

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Couldn’t be easier, right? So now that you know how to actually use Twitter polls, it’s time to dig into how you should use them to engage your audience, gain insights into your follower base, and provide context around your marketing campaigns and efforts.

Luckily, we’ve curated examples from 13 brands to give you ideas for how to use Twitter polls to engage, delight, and entertain your followers.

13 Examples of Clever Twitter Polls From Real Brands

Generate Follower Insights

While Twitter polls aren’t really a reliable way to find sophisticated market data, they can be used to engage your audience by asking for follower insights.

1) The Muse

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The Muse is a career advice and job searching site focused on providing job-related content to people looking for it. This particular poll serves as a stand out piece of social content that’s not only relevant to the audience, but also aims to generate engagement through votes, retweets, and likes. What’s more, the results of the poll should offer interesting insights to inform future content.

For example, if the #1 answer ends up being “fewer emails,” The Muse could write a blog post around helping people clear out their inbox.

2) Eventbrite

Similarly, Eventbrite’s poll also aims to collect follower insights related to holiday seasonal habits.

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Given that Eventbrite posted this poll in October, it’s probable that this poll was in part a strategic tweet aimed at getting its target audience thinking about holiday event planning. Yet, the results can also be used to help frame content or generate new holiday campaign ideas.

Engage Your Followers’ Interests

Ideally, your Twitter followers fit your general buyer persona, which means you should have a strong grasp on the content they like to consume, as well as their interests. You probably already use this information to create your social media strategy, so why not tie polls into that strategy, too?

3) Product Hunt

Product Hunt is a content curator that collects and reviews the latest apps, tools, technology, and more. As a hub of tech-information, it curates and posts content for people interested in the tech industry, hence the following tech television-inspired poll:

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While this kind of poll may seem silly and goalless (especially compared to some of your other tweets that may help you drive leads and blog views), it ultimately helps Product Hunt create a positive brand perception and generate audience engagement.

4) Urban Outfitters

Urban Outfitters also played off their audience’s interests with this fun, seasonal poll:

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These types of polls might just be for humorous purposes, but again we can see here how Urban Outfitters might be pairing their tweet messaging with seasonal, autumn promotions. But rather than just Tweet Fall content, they’ve created a Tweet that more effectively encourages engagements.

When thinking up copy for your own Twitter polls, don’t forget to think about timing when it comes to surveying your followers. If you’re tweeting a poll to business professionals at midnight, you’re unlikely to get nearly as much engagement as you might if you were Tweeting the poll during commuting hours. This kind of mindset is helpful when it comes to planning when to schedule your Twitter poll.

Want help choosing the best times to post on social media? Check out this infographic.

5) Evernote

In this next example, Evernote used timing as a part of its poll by asking what agenda item they tend to tackle first at the very beginning of the week:

Evernote Twitter Poll.png

This tweet is a great example of using timing to engage your audience, but it’s also an example of a way Evernote suddenly encourages users to use its product. If a business professional is scrolling through Twitter and decides to create their to-do list for the week because they see this poll, they might decide to open up Evernote to do just that. It’s a great way to keep your products at the top of your followers’ minds.

Take Advantage of Timely Events

One of the best ways to take advantage of polls is by using timely events — holidays, sports events, news stories, viral hashtags, and so on — to engage your audience.

Because Twitter users are already tweeting about these types of events organically, using polls to entertain them or add to the conversation is a strong strategy.

Want to see it in action? Here are a few examples of brands that newsjack events by using polls.

6) Domino’s

As you’ve likely already noticed, there has been no shortage of political tweets being exchanged lately. During one of the presidential debates, Domino’s decided to tap into the conversation by posting the following poll:

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By using a timely event, Domino’s effectively tied the conversation around the debate back to the brand to entertain its followers (and hopefully encouraged a few of those voters to order pizza during the debate).

7) Refinery29

Refinery29 — a women’s news and entertainment media source — posted the following poll during Breast Cancer Awareness Month to ignite a conversation amongst its followers:

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This kind of poll is great because it’s relevant to the brand, sparks interesting conversation, and engages with the overall Breast Cancer Awareness Month conversation.

8) Dunkin Donuts

Another great strategy? Pay attention to timely events that are relevant to your brand. Check out how Dunkin Donuts used a holiday-inspired poll to engage its audience on #NationalCoffeeDay:

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Pretty clever, wouldn’t you agree?

Encourage Predictions

Using timely events is one way to generate engagement, but you can also ask for relevant predictions through polls based on those timely events. Think about sports events or any other competition that might be relevant to your brand. Are your followers and target audience engaged and watching to see who wins something? Is it relevant for your brand? Use polls to ask for predictions and drive engagement before and after the event.

9) NFL

In this example, the NFL asked users for their predictions on who would win the game between the Minnesota Vikings and the New York Giants:

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Considering the National Football League was asking for predictions on a professional football game, it makes sense why this prediction is relevant to their brand.

The lesson? Look for ways to poll for predictions that make sense for your brand, and always keep in mind the goal of engaging your audience based on what they’re interested in.

Let People Choose Products, Features, etc.

Twitter polls offer a great way to drive engagement and buzz around an upcoming product or offer launch by giving your followers a choice in the matter.

10) eBay

Here, eBay asked its followers what they were more excited about: 50% off an Apple Watch deal or 40% off Fitbit Charge HR:

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Keep this poll idea in mind the next time you launch a new product, event, deal, offer, etc. By letting your followers have a say in your launches, you’ll get them more excited and bring generate positive associations toward your brand.

Promote Offers, Live Events, etc.

Here’s another helpful idea: You can also use polls to set context for your marketing campaigns, content, and offers.

11) HubSpot Academy

In this example, HubSpot Academy used a pop quiz-style poll to set context for the Inbound Sales Certification:

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Whether you’re promoting a blog post, an ebook, or some other offer, try asking engaging questions that set the user up to click the link and find the answer.

Aim for Delightful Brand Relevancy

Believe it or not, using polls to delight your audience with branded questions goes a long way when it comes to entertaining and engaging your audience.

12) COVERGIRL

COVERGIRL — a makeup and beauty brand — used this clever poll to get its audience thinking about its products:

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When trying to delight your audience, don’t be afraid to have fun with it. As shown by COVERGIRL, not every tweet needs to be about generating leads or page visits — in some cases, polls are simply a great way to encourage brand awareness.

13) Cheesecake Factory

Here’s another great example of a brand-relevant poll by Cheesecake Factory:

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Simple, yet delightful polls (like this one) are a great way to create positive brand perception and awareness. And the more fun and engaging the poll is, the more opportunity to have to effectively expand your audience reach on Twitter.

Best Practices for Creating Twitter Polls

You now know how to use Twitter polls in practice, and you’ve seen some great examples of brands that are using polls to engage and delight their audiences. At this point, it’s time to take this information and create relevant, timely polls for your own audience.

Still need a few last minute tips? Here are some best practices to keep in mind:

  • Don’t be too serious. Twitter polls aren’t meant for mass market research. They’re meant to be fun pieces of engaging social content, so use them as such. Ask questions that your followers want to answer, not just questions you want to know.
  • Use hashtags. Want to use polls as a part of your marketing efforts around an event or launch? Don’t forget to include hashtags and links in your tweet copy.
  • Keep timing in mind. Just like any other social post, you should be posting your polls when followers are going to see it. Check out this blog post on the best time to post on social media — but don’t forget to dig into the data on when your followers are using Twitter.
  • Set context for your marketing campaigns. Polls are a great way to set context for your other content marketing efforts, events, or product/campaign launches. Ask your audience questions that set context for your campaigns and generate buzz for your content or launches.

What’s the best Twitter poll you’ve ever seen? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

free kit for growing followers on Twitter

Nov

1

2016

How to Run Successful LinkedIn Ads [Free Two-Week Planner]

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LinkedIn is the #1 social media platform for B2B content distribution. That makes it a key platform to generate leads, build professional relationships, and drive leads.

But it’s not enough to use LinkedIn just to build an organic following. If you want to effectively expand your content’s reach and get it in front of the right eyes, you should be using LinkedIn’s Sponsored Content feature.

Even if you’ve used Sponsored Content before, you may not have mastered all of the steps it takes to make sure you’re getting the most ROI from your campaigns. Luckily, HubSpot teamed up with LinkedIn to bring you How to Run Successful LinkedIn Ads — a two-week guide on running successful LinkedIn Sponsored Content campaigns.

More specifically, you’ll learn how to:

  • Build an organic audience on LinkedIn.
  • Select the right pieces of content.
  • Identify the best target audience.
  • Build an effective editorial calendar.
  • Implement conversion tracking to prove ROI.
  • Develop an effective targeting and A/B testing strategy.
  • Monitor, report on, and optimize your sponsored content campaigns over time.

Download your copy of How to Run Successful LinkedIn Ads here.

free planner: how to run successful LinkedIn ads

Jul

5

2016

How to Pick the Perfect Color Combination for Your Data Visualization

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Choosing any color scheme — whether for graphics, websites, brands, etc. — is a challenge in and of itself. That choice of colors sets the mood for anything and everything you create.

When it comes to data visualization, color is especially important. The color scheme sets the tone of the imagery and each color serves to represent a unique piece of information.

The colors you use in your data visualizations represent more than just one idea. The color scheme you choose has the power to display the type of data your showing, its relationship, the differences between categories, and more.

This post will take you through the process of choosing the perfect color combination for your next data visualization — from understanding your data to finding the right color tool.

How to Pick the Perfect Color Combination for Your Data Visualization

Is Your Data Sequential or Qualitative?

The first step when choosing a color scheme for your data visualization is understanding the data that you’re working with. There are three main categories that matter when choosing color schemes for data: sequential, diverging, and qualitative color schemes.

Sequential color schemes are those schemes that are used to organize quantitative data from high to low using a gradient effect. With quantitative data, you typically want to show a progression rather than a contrast. Using a gradient-based color scheme allows you to show this progression without causing any confusion.

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Diverging color schemes allow you to highlight the middle range/extremes of quantitative data by using two contrasting hues on the extremes and a lighter tinted mixture to highlight the middle range.

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Qualitative color schemes are used to highlight — you guessed it — qualitative categories. With qualitative data, you typically want to create a lot of contrast, which means using different hues to represent each of your data points.

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Note: The images above are from Color Brewer 2.0 — a data visualization color tool designed for working with data mapping. Check it out for your next data map visualization or for grabbing pre-made color schemes to use based on the sequential, diverging, and qualitative models.

How Many Unique Hues Do You Need to Use?

Now that you’ve determined which kind of display you want to use, it’s time to determine the number of hues you need to use.

Your hues are the unique colors (like red or blue) in their purest form (without any tinting or shading). Using unique hues is what creates contrast. In data visualization, creating contrast is highly important because it tells the viewer that the contrasting colors are comparative data points. Contrasting colors suggest that the data points are categorical, not correlated, showing you the difference between them rather than the relationship of progression.

Keep in mind that it’s possible to use both a sequential and qualitative color scheme in the same visualization. And if this is the case, you’ll need to build a scheme that uses both gradients and unique hues.

The Role of Brightness in Color Selection

One very important tip for creating and finding color schemes for you data visualizations concerns understanding and utilizing the brilliance of colors for a purpose.

In the two pie charts below, notice the brightness of the colors used. On the left pie chart, you can see that there are four main hues used and four tints of each hue. This might signify a relationship between the hue and the tints, or it may just be used to draw attention to some sections of the data over the others.

Pie Charts Brightness

On the right pie chart, all of the eight hues used have the same brightness. None have more white or black added them to create a shade or a tint, which ultimately creates a balanced, contrasting aesthetic.

Shading and brightness is incredibly important to consider when creating data visualizations because it can be easy to skew the interpretation of your data by drawing attention to some data points over others.

For qualitative data, unless you’re trying to point out one specific data point’s significance, try to use equally bright hues with contrasting colors to display your data.

For sequential quantitative data, shading is important because you’re likely using a gradient. Gradients are made up of different shades and tints of a hue to show the progression of one hue from light to dark — much like the progression of the data from high to low.

What Tools Can You Use to Find the Perfect Color Combination?

When it comes to finding the perfect color scheme for your data visualizations, I highly recommend finding a scheme that’s already out there. This isn’t to say that you don’t need to have a strong grasp on basics of color selection, though — even existing color schemes will need to be customized to the data you’re using. In other words, it’s still important that you know you’re stuff.

Let’s check out a few tools that’ll help you get started …

1) Colorpicker for Data

A fairly simple tool, Colorpicker let’s you hold one color in place while you drag the other locator around to find a multi-hued, gradient-based color scheme. Although this tool is limited in nature, I like that it gives you the option to visualize your color scheme on a map to show you what the scheme looks like in practice.

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2) Color Hunt

If you’re just looking for premade color schemes to browse through, Color Hunt is the tool for you. This website is devoted to just color schemes, allowing you to easily gain inspiration and uncover HEX codes.

A caveat, however, is that each of the schemes are limited to four colors. If you’re data visualization requires more hues than four, this may not be the tool for you.

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3) Designspiration.net

One of my personal favorite sites for design work, be it data visualization or otherwise, is Designspiration.net. Not only does Designspiration give you thousands of graphics to look through for inspiration, but it also allows you to sort through designs by color.

This is a great tool to use for your data visualization (even if the representations aren’t data-based) because it shows you what colors look like in contrast to one another. The color-sort tool also gives you the HEX codes ready to access, making it really easy to put together a combination that suits your needs.

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4) FlatUIColorpicker.com

As a part of Designmodo’s Free User Interface toolkit, they created a tool to help you uncover colors to use in your design process. Although these colors aren’t necessarily part of premade schemes, they are really great for showing you bright, vibrant colors used for user interface design. You can easily browse through their color lists and create your own color schemes using the color picker.

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5) Adobe Color CC

A classic tool for designers using Adobe products, Adobe Color CC allows you to create your own color schemes using the mathematical model-based color schemes (monochromatic, analogous, triadic, complementary, etc.). Adobe Color CC also has a great browser section you can use to find premade color schemes.

What If You Still Can’t Find What You Need?

What if you decide you’re really looking for a color scheme that isn’t already out there? What do you do?

Creating a color scheme for data visualizations from scratch can be especially difficult because the colors you use have to either show vast contrast or natural progressions.

A great way to find inspiration for these types of color schemes is to draw on your surroundings. This could be a colorful photo, a mural, a sunset, or anything in nature — you name it. If you look around to find color schemes that appeal to you in your physical surroundings, you can use this to create a color scheme for the virtual.

If you have a good eye, you may even be able to create a color scheme this way by trial and error. However, it’s more likely that you’ll need to use a tool like Adobe Capture CC or Chroma by Softpress to snap a picture and grab the colors from the picture to use in your designs.

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When creating data visualizations, the most important part of choosing the right color scheme comes down to understanding your data.

With so many different tools and premade color schemes out there, the hardest part isn’t actually finding the right colors; it’s knowing how to use those colors to display the information in the best way possible.

Now that you know how to find your color schemes, go put your newfound knowledge to work.

How do you choose color schemes for your data visualizations? Share your tips below.

free guide to data visualization

Jun

23

2016

The Science Behind Design: 8 Psychology Principles to Apply to Your Next Project

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When it comes down to it, design is all about making choices. Each color, shape, line, font, text, and graphic you use will ultimately influence the message you’re trying to get across.

I’ve often been in conversations with people who know they should get better at design, but they don’t feel they have a “natural sense” for creativity. However, I argue that learning to design well has as much to do with psychology and user behavior as it does creativity.

But learning the “psychology of design” doesn’t mean picking up a playbook that’ll tell you the right and wrong way to design something. That’s just not the way it works.

What brushing up on psychological principles (as they relate to design) will do is help you understand what goes into the creation of intuitive, intentional design experiences. 

Want to learn more? We’ll dive into a handful of psychological principles below to help you get the wheels turning.  

8 Psychological Principles That’ll Change the Way You Design

1) Mental Models

Computer scientists and UX designers think and talk a lot about mental models, because the process of designing something new — like a website layout or a new app — requires trying to uncover and act on what users might find to be intuitive.

Mental modeling is the process of mapping out what a person understands about the real world through experience and replicating those models in the design of something in the virtual space. This is all about trying to uncover your audience’s intuitive process.

Think of your computer files and folders. They’re based on the same old-school method of organizing hard files, so it’s easy for the user to understand — despite the visual looking rather different.

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For designers, understanding what mental modeling is and why it’s important comes down to simply designing with your users’ experience in mind.

Throughout your design process, do an “intuitive check.” Are your visuals moving right to left, top to bottom? Is your message clear and easy to understand, or is it unintentionally hidden?

A gut check with a friend or coworker is a great way to keep an eye on whether your mental modeling is working well in your designs.

2) The Von Restorff Effect

The Von Restorff effect is, quite simply, the idea that the oddball out is the one that gets remembered.

When designing, sometimes you want your audience’s eye to be drawn to one spot –even if there are other design elements around it. This might mean using a different color, font, size, etc.

In this example, Target Jobs, a UK-based career and job-searching tool, used this image to illustrate how one might stand out from the crowd in the job market. By placing a group of similar elements next to one different element (the red shoes), this image uses the Von Restorff effect to show how it’s the different idea that really stands out to the viewer.

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Image Credit: Target Jobs

While this example’s idea is fairly straightforward, you can also use the Von Restorff effect throughout your site pages to draw your users’ eyes to certain spots on a page.

For instance, in CTA creation, you can use the Von Restorff to create contrast on your page and draw your users’ attention, like this:

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3) Gestalt Principles

Gestalt psychology explores how elements are perceived in relation to each other visually. The gestalt principles, or gestalt laws, focus specifically on how design elements are grouped together.

  • Proximity: The idea that when objects are placed in close proximity to one another, those objects are seen as a group rather than seen individually. Although there are lots of shapes within the “U,” in the Unilever logo, the eye still recognizes those objects as a group making up the “U” figure.

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Image Credit: Unilever

  • Similarity: Objects that look similar will be perceived as one object or as a part of the same group. In the NBC logo, the similar cones are perceived as a group because they look similar to one another.

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Image Credit: NBC

  • Closure: Closure occurs when a shape is still perceived as a whole even when the object is not fully closed in reality. In the Girl Scout logo, the shapes and whitespace are used to create a perceived series of silhouettes even though only some of the shapes are actually enclosed.

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Image Credit: Girl Scouts

  • Continuity: Occurs as the eye moves naturally from one object to the other. This often happens through the creation of curved lines allowing the eye to flow with the line. In the Olympic logo, the eye can see that the objects are continuous as they link with each other, creating a grouped visual.

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Image Credit: Olympics

  • Figure & ground: When the eye notices an object as an object, it separates the object (figure) from the surrounding area (the ground). In this logo-tribute to Steve Jobs, the viewer either see the white space as the figure or the ground, depending on whether the eye looks at the apple or the silhouette of Steve Jobs.

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Image Credit: Jonathan Mak Long (via The Next Web)

4) Visceral Reactions

Have you ever come across a website, picture, or anything visual that you just instinctively loved but couldn’t necessarily explain why? You probably had a visceral reaction — the kind of reaction that just comes from the gut.

Designing for visceral reactions is essentially designing to create a positive aesthetic impression. To some extent it takes just knowing what looks pleasing to people and what doesn’t.

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Airbnb uses visceral designs to capture the beauty and exotic aesthetic of travel. Although most Airbnb’s for rental probably don’t have beachside views or colorful accommodations, Airbnb uses design to connect their audience with the excitement and possibility of traveling the world.

Designing for the visceral can be as a simple as using beautiful photography and colorful imagery to capture the attention of your audience.

5) The Psychology of Color

We often associate different colors with feelings or thoughts, so designers have done a lot of research to find out which colors humans associate with different moods.

For a more in-depth look at which colors are used for different moods, here’s a great infographic on the psychology of color. Otherwise, here’s the basic rundown:

Blue: Secure, calm, honest, trustworthy, strong, caring

Corporate businesses often use blue to convey a neutral sense of trustworthiness. Facebook’s blue color scheme, for example, helps convey to users that it’s a secure, strong social network. This helps users feel a sense of privacy and security even when sharing and displaying lots of personal information.

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Red: Energy, love, exciting, action, bold, passionate

Coca-Cola is one of the classic examples of how a company has used red in its branding to communicate how exciting and energetic it is as a product.

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Orange: Happy, sociable, friendly, affordable

At HubSpot, orange is our favorite color. And it’s no wonder why we love it so much — it communicates to our audience how happy we are to be helping our customers do better marketing.

HubSpot_Orange.png

Yellow: Logical, optimistic, forward-thinking, confidence, playful

Bzzy, an app that let’s you easily auto-reply your friends when you’re busy, uses a yellow color scheme to communicate its innovate style while still maintaining a sense of playfulness.

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Purple: Imaginative, creative, nostalgic

Kaleidoscope’s purple color scheme helps communicate the imaginative, helpful nature of its app: an app that helps you do quick and easy file comparison when you need to merge changes across different versions.

Kaleidoscope_Purple.png

Green: Growth, organic, natural, caring, fresh, earth

For companies, like Whole Foods, that want to highlight an obvious connection to nature and freshness, using green as a basis in their color scheme is a no brainer. Green helps communicate the natural, organic feeling that Whole Foods strives to tie into its branding.

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Black: Sophistication, luxury, seductive, formal, authority

Want to travel in VIP style? 212 Supercars, a luxury car rental and driver service, uses a sleek black-and-white design to communicate it’s luxurious and exclusive branding.

Multi-color: Multi-channel, positive, playful, bold, boundless

Google, the classic example of a multi-channel, playful company communicates it effectively through its use of the multi-color scheme.

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6) The Psychology of Shapes

Like colors, humans associate different shapes with certain emotions and characteristics.

Although less of a principle itself, the psychology of shapes boils down to studies that have shown which characteristics people match with certain shapes.

Circles, Ovals, and Ellipses: Positive emotional messages attached to community, friendship, love, relationships, unity, and femininity.

AT&T’s circular logo helps its brand communicate a universality feel. As a wireless network, this makes sense. The use of shape helps connect the audience with a recognizable pattern.

at_and_t__logo.png

Image Credit: AT&T

Squares and Triangles: Stability and balance, strength, professionalism, efficiency, power, and masculinity.

Microsoft and Delta both use triangles and squares in their logos. This helps establish feelings of stability and efficiency when viewing the logo, which are positive feelings to associate with brands.

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Image Credit: Microsoft

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Image Credit: Delta

Vertical Lines: Masculinity, strength, and aggression.

While the basic cloud shape of SoundCloud’s logo might communicate emotions associated with dreaming and creativity, the vertical lines create a more aggressive feel. It’s the combination of the lines and the overall cloud shape that helps communicate the duality of the creative and the strength of SoundCloud as a tool.

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Image Credit: SoundCloud

Horizontal Lines: Community, tranquility, and calm.

As a civil rights organization, the Human Rights Campaign is a great example to consider when thinking about building community and peace. And the horizontal lines/rectangles used in the logo really help to communicate both equality and tranquility. 

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Image Credit: Human Rights Campaign

7) Dual-Coding Theory

You’ve probably heard the statistic before that our brains process visual information 60,000X faster than text. Well, dual-coding theory is the idea that both visual and verbal cues can represent ideas, but using both can help the brain recall those ideas faster.

In other words, we need visual and verbal information to digest and remember information.

When designing, this means illustrating ideas as much as possible, while still using verbal messages to fully explain ideas.

In the example below, the graphic shows a visual, literal representation depicting primary, secondary, and tertiary colors. But to fully grasp the concepts, it’s necessary to pair the visual information with written (verbal) information. The dual-coding is what helps the reader truly understand the concept.

Primary_Secondary_Teriary_Colors.png

8) Cost-Benefit Analysis

Whether we consciously think it or not, every decision we make goes through a cost benefit analysis, which is simply the process of weighing the costs and the benefits of an action before we take it.

If the costs outweigh the benefits, we don’t take action.

As designers, our job is to make sure whatever we have designed has benefits that outweigh the costs. This means making our content as simple as possible for the audience while still fulfilling the goal of the content.

Think of a form submission on your landing pages. Say you want to offer your audience some top-of-the-funnel content like a template or high-level ebook.

When you strategize about getting users to fill out a form to claim this content, you have to remember to design your conversion process with your audience’ cost-benefit analysis in mind. In other words, don’t ask for more than you need. 

How do you use psychology to inform your designs? Share you thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

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Jun

14

2016

How to Run an Instagram Contest: A 10-Step Guide

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With 400 million monthly active users and more than 80 million posts per day, Instagram has established itself as an obvious platform for brands looking to expand their reach and engage with their audience.

Figuring out how to launch a successful Instagram contest, however, is much less obvious. Sure, it sounds like an effective strategy for stirring up conversation — it capitalizes on user generated content (UGC) and typically requires very little commitment for participants. But where do you start? And how can you be sure that you’re covering all the bases? Download our free introductory guide to A/B testing here. 

To help give you some direction, we put together a detailed list of steps to run through when planning an engaging Instagram contest. From setting goals to monitoring submissions, we’ve covered all of the basics below — and we’ve included some inspirational examples along the way. Check it out …

Disclaimer: This blog post includes some information on legal issues surrounding internet marketing, but legal information is not the same as legal advice — applying the law to a specific circumstance. We’ve conducted research to better ensure that our information is accurate and useful, but we insist that you talk to a lawyer if you want professional assurance that our information, and your interpretation of it, is accurate. In a nutshell, you may not rely on this information as legal advice, nor as a recommendation or endorsement of any particular legal understanding, and you should instead see this post’s info as for entertainment purposes only.

How to Run an Instagram Contest: A 10-Step Guide

1) Plan objectives and goals.

Before you dive into a contest, it’s important to plan it out first. The key to running a successful contest is to have a purpose — one that aligns with the interests and behaviors of your target audience.

Whether you’re looking to grow your brand presence on Instagram or build out your list of followers, it’s important that you set a specific goal so that you’re not left wondering whether or not you were successful in the end.

To help narrow your focus, think about the audience you’re trying to reach: What kinds of posts do they like seeing on your account? What kinds of posts do they enjoy posting on their own feeds? How do they behave on the platform? If you’re looking to drum up a lot of engagement, you should aim to center your goals and purpose around content that your audience actually wants to post and engage with.

Don’t forget to establish a time frame and budget for your contest, as determining these logistical details upfront will help you design a more effective contest.

2) Create an entry method.

Although the most effective and engaging Instagram contests are those that actually prompt your audience to post their own photos, there are number of different ways brands can create contests on Instagram. Because of this, it’s important to establish and emphasize what it takes for your audience to actually enter the contest.

Here are some ideas for how your audience might enter your contest:

  • Have your audience post a photo or a video to Instagram with a specific hashtag and a specific theme.
  • Have your audience solely follow you or do so in addition to creating a post.
  • Have your audience tag your brand in their post.
  • Have your audience Like or comment on one of your posts.

Make sure you establish what the guidelines are for entering the contest, and make that clear on your promotional materials. Maybe your contest is centered around a hashtag that doesn’t include your brand name. If you still want your brand to be tagged to gain recognition, you have to make that clear in your rules.

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3) Find the perfect hashtag.

A good hashtag is a key to any engaging Instagram contest. Without it, there’s no link between the contest and the content being generated. In other words, hashtags help create brand and/or contest recognition by serving as a mechanism for sharing and driving participation.

Trouble is, creating the perfect hashtag can be tricky. If your contest is going to have a timeframe (and it should), you want to create a hashtag that you’re not going to want to use over and over again. Not to mention, there are tons of hashtags being created each day, making it difficult to land on something unique and catchy.

To help you come up with the best fit, consider these contest hashtag guidelines:

  • Short: Create a hashtag that sticks in people’s minds. The more readable and identifiable your hashtag is, the better it is for your contest.
  • Relevant: Make sure you’re creating a hashtag that is very clearly related back to your brand name, product, or services. If you settle on a generic, crowded hashtag such as #ThrowbackThursday, it’s likely that you’ll have a hard time figuring out who your participants actually are.
  • Memorable: Users are likely to see promotions for your contest prior to actually posting the content. This means your hashtag needs to be memorable enough for users to think about it once and remember to act sometime later. Try to make your hashtag catchy, easy to search, and easy to write. Avoid weird spellings and confusing word choices.
  • Universal: Think about your audience. Does everyone speak the same language or use similar words? If you have an international audience, make sure you’re careful about using slang words or region-specific terms that might confuse people.
  • Rare: Do a search before you choose a hashtag. Are there lots of users using your ideal hashtag for some other purposes? If so, you may want to head back to the drawing board.

An example of an effective, engaging hashtag:

Earlier this year, Mint.com, an online personal budgeting and financial management company, hosted their #MyMintMoment contest.

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The contest was well-designed for a number of reasons, one of which is its hashtag. The hashtag — #MyMintMoment — is simple, short, memorable, and easy to understand. It stayed on-brand and had a clear theme.

The goal of the contest was to get users to post about the things they were saving for. Participants posted pictures of tattoos, vacations, weddings, children, cars — you name it.

Mint_Moments_Instagram.png

This is a great example of an effective hashtag, but it’s also a great example of how UGC can be used to drive marketing decisions. Think about it: Mint asked participants to share posts about things they were saving for. Sounds like an easy way to gain insight surrounding the unique motives and interests that fuel the usage of their service, doesn’t it?

4) Clearly define a theme.

Because most Instagram contests are UGC-based, it’s important to pick a theme so your users know what kinds of pictures and videos to post.

Ideally, you want to a pick a theme that aligns with your market, product, or services. But you can also take advantage of holidays, seasons, and events that align with your product or brand.

An example of an effective theme:

Last summer, D Magazine, a city and lifestyle magazine based in Dallas, used the Texas summer heat to create an effective #StayCoolDallas contest. The contest encouraged participants to submit photos of ways to stay cool in the Dallas heat. Submissions included everything from cold drinks at favorite bars and restaurants to fun summer activities.

D_Magazine_Theme_Instagram.png

This contest and hashtag worked particularly well because of the double meaning of the word “cool” — which ultimately left room for participants to get creative with their interpretations. This is a great example of how to make engagement super easy.

While the hashtag wasn’t totally brand-specific, the theme was very much in line with their brand and passion for all things Dallas. And as a result of the contest, they were left with a ton of new material to get ideas for their next issue.

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5) Decide how winners will be chosen.

Part of a well-designed contest is informing your participants of how the winner will be chosen. Most contests are determined based on one of two ways: a vote or a jury. Let’s explore how each option works …

Voting:

A great way to boost the virality of your contest is to have participants compete for the most Likes. If the prize is valuable enough, your participants will likely share their posts with their friends across channels in order to get as many Likes as possible.

This strategy helps maximize your audience’s reach. At the same time, it can be detrimental to your contest, as you run into issues with folks using Like bots” to gain artificial Likes. To avoid any complications here, you’ll want to put forth very specific rules that address the use of these types of workarounds.

Jury:

For the sake of quality and overall fairness, the jury method is the clear winner. With the jury method, you select a group of experts to decide upon a winner, rather than relying on a voting system.

There are pros and cons to votes or juries, but no matter the way you choose, make sure to clearly state your method so your users know what they’re vying for. Many brands choose to have a mixed-method approach and use a combination of voting and jury to determine the winner.

6) Choose an appropriate award.

When determining what the award for you contest should be, you need to consider your target audience, your budgetary constraints, and how aggressive your goals are.

Remember that by asking your audience to participate in the contest, you’re asking them to take action on something. As with any effort like this, you’ll need the value of the prize to outweigh the cost and energy required to enter the contest. While people might gloss over an opportunity to win a free t-shirt, it’s likely that they’d be willing to jump through a few hoops for something like a free trip.

While your prize should match the entry action, it should also align with the interests of your target audience. Ask yourself: What might my target audience like to have? Your list of answers for this — budget not considered — might be huge. Sure, everyone wants that free trip we mentioned earlier, but that’s not the point. The goal is to find a prize that’s both valuable and relevant to your brand.

Gift cards, free services, coupons, giveaways, and product goodie bags are all common prizes that brands use for contests, but we’re always in favor of getting creative, too.

Example of a creative contest prize:

One of our favorite examples of contest prizes was Sperry’s Photo Real Design Contest. Sperry encouraged users to post “epic photos” that represented an “odyssey.”

Participants then submitted photos of all kinds of things — nature shots, colorful art, real people, etc. — to be judged based on creativity and the number of Likes it received.

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The winner that was chosen received a unique pair of Sperry shoes featuring their photo. Talk about a creative prize, right? Not to mention, it served as a great example of how brands can use contests to inspire real product ideas.

7) Create terms & conditions.

Don’t forget that when you create a competition with a prize, you must follow legal guidelines. The laws that will apply to you depend on where you’re based and who you allow to enter your contest, so you should consult your lawyer for help drafting your terms and conditions. Creating a terms & conditions page is a must.

Here are some common terms people include:

  • The name and contact details of the promoting brand
  • The dates of the contest
  • The rules of who can enter (such as age and employee restrictions)
  • The guidelines for how people enter
  • The guidelines for how a winner is chosen
  • The date and way winners will be announced
  • The date and way the winner will be informed
  • The time period the winner has to respond and claim their prize
  • The specific of the prize (including number of prizes, description of prizes, and any caveats)
  • The details of how the prize will be delivered
  • Acknowledge that the promotion isn’t sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Instagram or any other social media used throughout the contest.

Note: Check out Instagram’s Promotion guidelines and make sure to comply with their rules.

8) Promote like crazy.

Now that you’ve got a solid plan in place, it’s time to promote the heck out of your contest.

Where’s the best place to start spreading the word? The possibilities are seemingly endless, but here are a few ideas to inspire your promotion efforts:

  • Your blog. Write a post on your site detailing the contest, and use it as a launch point for your contest’s landing page.

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  • Social media. What better place to launch a social media contest than on social media? Direct your existing followers to the contest by including a shortened link in your bio and referencing that link in your promotional posts.

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  • Email. Extend the invitation to participate to your email subscribers by sending over a quick and friendly email to announce the offer.

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9) Monitor submissions.

Monitoring both your promotional efforts and the level of participation during your contest is essential for meeting your goals and creating a plan to follow up on your contest.

Make sure to determine what metrics you’d like to use and how you’ll keep track of them. Here are some metrics to consider using:

  • Number of submissions – Total number of posts submitted in compliance with your terms and conditions.
  • Likes per submission – Helps you keep track of potential winners if your contest is decided by vote.
  • Number of participants – If users can submit more than one submission, how many unique participants contributed to your contest?
  • Top participants – Who shared the most content during your campaign? Keeping track of this helps you better engage with your biggest fans.
  • Total Likes – Measures the total number of Likes on all submissions in your contest.
  • Total reach – Captures the number of followers of your participants at the time of submission. Meant to show you the potential reach of your campaign.
  • Follower growth during contest – Measure how much your following increased during the contest’s time period.

If your current audience is relatively small, and you don’t expect more than 30 submissions to your contest, you may decide to monitor your contest manually. To do this, assign someone the task of keeping track of submissions each day. At the end of the contest, someone will have to go through each submission and measure and write down the results from each submission.

If you’re monitoring your contest manually, try using a tool like Tagboard or Google Alerts to keep track of when your hashtag is being mentioned online, making it easier to track submissions. (HubSpot customers: You can set up a custom Stream in your Social Monitoring tool to keep tabs on a specific hashtag. Learn more here.)

If you’re expecting well over 30 submissions, however, you can imagine how difficult monitoring your submissions might be. If that’s the case, you may want to explore an Instagram-specific tool such as Iconosquare.

10) Follow up accordingly.

Once the contest is over, you can’t forget to follow up on the rules you set in the first place. Keep your terms and conditions in mind when reviewing the submissions to ensure that you’re being 100% fair in your evaluation.

Again, this is why establishing your terms and conditions early on is so important, as it will provide you with an documented plan for selecting, contacting, and awarding the winner.

Once you’ve selected and notified the winner, don’t forget to make the announcement publicly. Here’s an example of how to do so from D Magazine‘s #StayCoolDallas contest:

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Ready to Run a Contest?

Now that you know everything it takes to run a successful, engaging Instagram contest, go put your knowledge to work for your brand.

Not only will you end up engaging and expanding your audience, but you’ll also end up with great new content you can use to inspire future content and contests.

What tips do you have for running a successful Instagram contest? Share them in the comments below.

how to use instagram for business

Jun

13

2016

Are You Left-Brained or Right-Brained? [Flowchart]

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You’ve probably heard people refer to themselves as “left-brained” or “right-brained” as a way to explain their dominating analytical or creative skills.

But where do those terms come from?

In the 1960s, Psychologist Roger Sperry and his colleagues conducted experimental split-brain surgeries on epileptic patients. By cutting the structure that holds the two hemispheres of the brain together, they noticed they could reduce the seizures epileptic patients were experiencing. What’s more, post-surgery cognitive testing revealed that the two sides of the brain were actually capable of functioning independently.

This discovery sparked the theory of lateralization of brain function, leading to research on which parts of the brain control different skills. The outcome? Much of the research suggests that the left side of our brain is responsible for language and logic, while the right side control spatial and visual capabilities.

When it comes to categorizing ourselves as “left-brained” or “right-brained,” it would be naive to suggest that we can reduce the complexities of both our brains and personalities to fit the mold of one hemisphere.

Although, it is true that many people’s personalities take on more dominant strengths in one area or the other — even if they’re capable of both. And understanding the dominant areas of your personality can help you better understand your strengths and weaknesses — allowing you to be more successful at owning certain tasks and trying to improve on others.

That’s why we’ve put together the following flowchart. Simply follow the questions through to determine where you land. But remember: Our brains aren’t as clear-cut as this theory suggests, so don’t sell yourself short based on the results.



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<p><strong>Please include attribution to blog.hubspot.com with this graphic.</strong><br /><br /><a href=’http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/left-brained-or-right-brained’><img src=’http://cdn2.hubspot.net/hubfs/53/right-left-brained-flowchart.png’ alt=’Are You Left-Brained or Right-Brained?’ width=’669px’ border=’0′ /></a></p>

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Jun

6

2016

17 Data Visualization Tools & Resources You Should Bookmark

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Whether you’re writing a blog post, putting together a presentation, or working on a full-length report, using data in your content marketing strategy is a must.

Using data helps enhance your arguments by make your writing more compelling. It gives your readers context. And it helps provide support for your claims. Download this free guide and learn to design enticing charts and graphs that are easy to understand.

That being said, if you’re not a data scientist yourself, it can be difficult to know where to look for data and how to best present that data once you’ve got it.

To help, we put together the following list of resources. Below you’ll find the tools you need to source credible data and create some stunning visualizations. Check ’em out.

17 Data Visualization Resources You Should Bookmark

Resources for Uncovering Credible Data

When looking for data, it’s important to find numbers that not only look good, but are also credible and reliable.

The following resources will point you in the direction of some credible sources to get you started, but don’t forget to fact-check everything you come across. Always ask yourself: Is this data original, reliable, current, and comprehensive? (To brush up on what makes data compelling and accurate check out this post.)

1) Statista

Price: Free version available. A Premium version is available for $49/month.

Statista is a portal of statistics, studies, and forecasts focused on market research and opinion polling. Meant for businesses and academics, Statista makes it easy to find reliable market data based on industry, topic, or country.

One of the best features of Statista is its easy to navigate interface and its automatic visualization features. You can easily download statistics and charts you find to PDF, .PNG, or Office files to customize and use them accordingly.

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2) Google Trends

Price: Free.

Ever find yourself looking for data about popular topics, online trends, and current events? If you haven’t already discovered it, Google Trends will be your new favorite resource.

Google Trends gives you data on what people are searching for, how trends change over time, and how search interest differs by area, region, country, and so on. It’s easy to search for specific trends or simply browse current trending topics.

The best part about Google Trends? It’s completely free — and super easy to navigate.

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3) Zanran

Price: Free.

Google is great when you’re looking for lots of broad information, but when you’re trying to find specific charts or data points, you might try using Zanran.

Zanran is a search engine designed specifically for finding tables, charts, and graphs online. Keep in mind that Zanran works by first examining images found online, not text. In other words, it’ll only pull up information found on actual tables, graphs, and charts. This gets you to raw, original data fast — but you might find it lacking if you’re looking for short and sweet interpreted facts and figures.

 

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4) Pew Research Center

Price: Free.

The Pew Research Center, one of the leading think tanks in the U.S., publishes tons of information and data on public opinion, social issues, and demographics in the U.S. and worldwide.

It’s an amazing resource for finding credible data on topics like politics, the media, internet and tech, social trends, and so on. Bookmark this page when you want to search for specific data, but don’t forget to follow them on social media. This is a great way to stay up to date on current trends and continually generate content ideas.

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5) SocialMention

Price: Free.

Similar in function to Google Trends, SocialMention is a search and analysis tool that allows you to monitor user-generated content trends online. If you’ve ever wanted to monitor what people are saying about your brand, SocialMention is a great tool. (HubSpot customers: You can also do this in Social Inbox. Check out this resource for more information.)

The real strength of SocialMention lies in its analysis feature. Simply type in any keyword (like your brand name), and SocialMention tells you the strength (likelihood of being discussed), sentiment (ratio of positive to negative mentions), passion (likelihood of repeat mentions), and reach (measure of influence of unique authors) of that keyword.

Gathering this kind of data about your brand can be useful internally, or you can use it to find data for social-related content.

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6) Think with Google

Price: Free.

It’s not secret that Google has a lot of insights and information to share. Luckily, Google put together a free tool for marketers to find the latest data surrounding current trends.

This is a great tool for browsing, and I highly recommend subscribing to it. Since it’s made specifically with marketers in mind, it does a great job of keeping you up-to-date on the latest information you need to know. 

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7) HubSpot Research

Price: Free.

Another great resource for free marketing, sales, and business data is our very own HubSpot Research. HubSpot Research is the place where we publish new and original reports, statistics, charts, and thought leadership ideas.

If you’re looking for specific stats or charts, it’s super easy to browse by category or use search terms to find the data you’re looking for. And if there are certain topics you want to hear more about, we’ll send you an email when we publish a new report or new data piece about it.

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Tools for Creating Data Visualizations

Now that you know where to find credible data, it’s time to start thinking about how you’re going to display that data in a way that works for your audience.

At its core, data visualization is the process of turning basic facts and figures into a digestible image —  whether it’s a chart, graph, timeline, map, infographic, or other type of visual. 

While understanding the theory behind data visualization is one thing, you also need the tools and resources to make digital data visualization possible. Below we’ve collected 10 powerful tools for you to browse, bookmark, or download to make designing data visuals even easier for your business.

8) Excel

Price: Packages start at $8.25/month per user (as a part of Office Suite Package).

Chances are, you might already have access to Excel at home or work through the Microsoft Office suite. Microsoft Excel is a classic tool used to both analyze and visualize data. Whether you’re doing the analyzing yourself, or just trying to repurpose data into a visual, Excel is an insanely powerful tool that you can use to create all kinds of graphs, charts, and tables.

Excel can seem like a bit of a beast to figure out at first, so if you’re interested in learning to use Excel, check out these resources here and here.

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9) Infogr.am

Price: Free for Basic. Paid packages fall into three categories: Pro $19/month, Business $67/month, and Enterprise $350/month.

Infographics are a great way to interpret your data by turning it into something that tells a visual, memorable story.

If you have little to no design experience, Infogr.am is a great tool for you. It offers different infographic templates and tools for customizing your infographic. You can use charts, graphs, maps, images, and icons to really spice up your data and make it visually appealing.

(For more infographic help, check out our free infographic templates.)

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10 & 11) Photoshop & Illustrator

Price: Pricing models start at $19.99/month for a single app.

If you’re more experienced with data visualization or design, using Adobe products can be a great way to create more elaborate, creative data visualizations. Both Photoshop and Illustrator allow you to create charts and graphs, and they’re both great tools if you want to create longer form infographics.

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12) Tableau

Price: Perpetual licenses are offered at two price points: $999 (Personal) & $1,999 (Professional).

If you’re looking for some really sophisticated data visualization capabilities, Tableau is the king of data visualization software. By connecting with other data tools like Excel, Tableau makes transforming your raw data into stunning visuals really easy. 

Note: Tableau is not the kind of software you would use for designing visuals every now and then. It’s a powerful, expensive tool meant for organizations that are working with lots of raw, big data all the time. Still, if you’re looking for a step up from Excel’s visualization capabilities, Tableau is definitely a tool you should check out.

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13) ZingChart

Price: One-time fees range from $199 (Website) to $9,999 (Enterprise).

Ever wanted to create animated graphics and charts, but weren’t really sure where to start? ZingChart might be the tool for you.

Using JavaScript, ZingChart gives you a full library of different types of charts, graphs, and maps that you can animate and use to create awesome visuals for your website and blog posts.

The best part about ZingChart is its flexible and adaptable capabilities. All of their charts have responsive design, ensuring that your charts will look great on any screen.

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14) Timeline JS

Price: Free.

One type of data visual that often gets overlooked are timelines. Timelines are a great way to display your data by looking at changes or events over time.

While you could design a timeline on various graphic design platforms such as Illustrator, this free tool makes it easy to create slideshow-based timelines to embed on your website or blog.

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15 & 16) Google Charts or Google Sheets

Price: Free.

If you’re looking for a tool like ZingChart that lets you embed graphs and charts onto a web page, check out Google Charts.

Google Charts is an API tool that lets you create custom charts for embedding. These charts can be animated, but they have a similar look and feel to the .png charts you can create on Google Sheets (Google Drive’s version of Excel).

If you like the look and feel of Google’s charts, but you really just need to create graphics for a .jpeg or .png file (to upload or embed in a document) you can also use Google Sheets to create graphs and charts much like you would use Excel.

Google_Charts.png

17) Piktochart

Price: Free lifetime account. Paid options are offered at two levels: Lite $15/month & Pro $29/month.

A similar tool to Infogr.am, Piktochart makes it easy for you to create and customize infographics within its templates. This tool is meant for users with little design experience who want to create awesome infographics.

Note: If you’re going to be using one of these two tools often, try using them in combination with one another. This gives you access to more templates that you can use to vary your content.

PiktoChart-3.png

What are your favorite data visualization resources? Share them with us in the comments. 

free guide to data visualization

May

31

2016

11 Useful Photoshop Tutorials That’ll Help You Work Faster

Photoshop-Tutorials-to-Speed-Up-Work.jpg

There’s no doubt that Photoshop is an incredibly powerful tool for marketers. Photoshop has thousands of features, tools, settings, and shortcuts that have drastically changed and shaped graphic design and photo editing over the last few decades.

With the sophistication of today’s design capabilities, however, comes the hassle of learning and staying up-to-date on Photoshop’s features.

Whether you’re a Photoshop wiz, a self-taught intermediate designer, or someone just starting out, there will always be more tricks and hacks to learn.

Luckily, we’ve compiled a list of 11 video tutorials for Photoshoppers at various levels to speed up your workflow. Some videos are better suited for beginners, while other videos are tailored towards people with more experience. So take a look, find the tutorials that are best suited for you, and use them to learn some helpful new tips and tricks.

11 Useful Photoshop Tutorials That’ll Speed Up Your Workflow

1) 10 Things Beginner’s Want to Know How to Do (Adobe Photoshop)

Time: 46 min

Many of you likely recognize the value of Photoshop and other design software skills, but when it comes to self-teaching a new skill like Photoshop, it’s hard to know where to begin. Luckily, this 46-minute tutorial is a great way to get started.

Created by the Adobe Photoshop team, this tutorial feels more like a free webinar class: You have a friendly teacher who shows you the basics of how Photoshop works with Adobe Bridge, and then shows you ten basic techniques to get you going.

Tips in this video include removing blemishes in photos, working with Photoshop’s layers, cropping, editing image colors, removing parts of an image, and more.

2) Design Tools and Workflow Tips (Adobe Photoshop)

Time: 7 min

There’s no better teacher than the maker, right? This second tutorial, hosted on Adobe’s Helpx site, gives quick basic tips for a better workflow. If you’re a self-taught designer, I highly recommend this video for a simple brush up. 

The teacher starts out by taking you through quick grids and explaining how to maximize efficiency in your workspace. Then, he gives you helpful tips on placing elements (smart objects, linked files, etc.) and using clipping masks.

The best part of the tutorial is the way it quickly and visually touches on how Photoshop interacts with other Adobe products such as Typekit and Illustrator. The teacher quickly produces a magazine page on the screen by showing you different elements of Illustrator and Photoshop, making it easy to follow and easy to generate design ideas from.

[Watch the Video Here]

Photoshop-workflow-video.png

3) Top 10 Photoshop Keyboard Shortcuts (Graphics Geeks)

Time: 3 min

Part of speeding up your process is simply knowing and using the multitude of keyboard shortcuts available for the Photoshop software. 

Luckily, Graphic Geeks put together this handy tutorial featuring their top 10 photo editing shortcuts in action. It covers toggling through layer blending modes, creating inverted masks, using clipping layers, transforming layers, resizing brushes, zooming in and out, previewing soft selections, duplicating layers, fading brush strokes, and sampling colors directly on the canvas.

Want even more tips and tricks? Check out this blog post for a list of 66 Photoshop keyboard shortcuts.

4) How to Use the Crop Tool (Lynda.com)

Time: 5 min

There are plenty of ways to crop images on Photoshop, and if you compare your cropping method to someone else’s, you might realize they do it differently than you do. Part of this is because Photoshop’s crop tools have changed throughout its different versions.

If you want to learn how to use the latest crop tool (as of Adobe CC) — which allows you to hide cropped pixels instead of permanently deleting them — this tutorial walks you through it.

This tutorial serves as part of a series by Lynda.com — an excellent resource for extended Photoshop lessons.

5) How to Use the Undo/Redo Tool, Steps, and History (Sterling Teaches)

Time: 5 min

If you’ve worked with Photoshop much at all, you’ve probably already realized that the undo/redo features don’t quite work the same way as they do in programs like Word, Illustrator, or InDesign. Instead, Photoshop’s undo/redo feature automatically sets to only undo one step. To go back through multiple steps, you have to use the history panel, and even the history panel is limited in the number of steps it remembers.

Photoshop is capable, however, of going back through older steps — it just doesn’t always seem like it at first. This tutorial walks you through how to use Photoshop’s undo/redo tools, and how to set up your history panel to remember more steps than it does automatically.

6) How to Use the Rotate View Tool (Creative Bloq) 

Time: 2 min

Ever been working on an image that you just wish you could flip upside down like you could a sheet of paper? If you didn’t know already, with Photoshop, you can!

This two-minute tool tutorial by Creative Bloq walks you through this simple tool and shows you how to use it practice.

Don’t forget to browse through other videos on Creative Bloq’s “Two-Minute Tool” series to quickly increase your capabilities with tools you may not have used previously! Creative Bloq keeps their tutorial videos clear, quick, and straight to the point so you don’t have to waste time searching for the information you want to know.

7) How to Sharpen Images (Kelvin Designs)

Time: 16 min

As a photo editing and graphic design tool, it makes sense that Photoshop has hundreds of ways to sharpen, edit, change, and manipulate the look and feel of images. But it also means you may not know the best way to edit an image while maintaining the best quality. 

This mid-length tutorial by Kelvin Designs takes you through the basics of sharpening images and why some ways are better than others. Your teacher will also give you tips on maintaining the quality of the images while explaining which tools work better for certain types of images.

As an added bonus, Kelvin Designs linked the source files used in the video for you to download and follow along on your own computer. If you’re more of a hands-on learner, this might be a great tutorial for you.

8) How to Use Step & Repeat Patterns (Photoshop Tutorials by Phlearn)

Time: 15 min

For many graphic designers, creating and using patterns is a fairly frequent task. While there are multiple ways to create patterns — one of which is by hand — Photoshop actually has a simplified trick for making pattern building much easier than measuring, copying, pasting, and repeating over and over again.

In this video, the teacher — Aaron Nace — takes you through the basics of building patterns. Nace has tons of tutorials for Photoshop and Lightroom, so make sure to check them out.

(Pro tip: This video has a pretty long introduction, so skip to 1:37 if you want to cut to the chase.)

9) How to Create and Batch an Action (Photoshop Tutorials by Phlearn)

Time: 8 min

Ever wish you could just record a series of steps in Photoshop and apply those steps to a bunch of different files? Like cropping images to a certain size or a building a customer filter to use on lots of images? As it turns out, with Photoshop’s Action tool, you can.

In the second Phlearn tutorial featured in this post, Nace how to batch edit photos using the Action tool. What I love about this tutorial is that he gives you ideas for other ways to use the Action tool even as he uses it primarily to set a custom filter for a group of wedding photos.

10) How to Create a Custom Brush (Larry Lourcey)

Time: 5 min

There are numerous times when designers have to place a watermark, logo, or some other standardized feature on images repeatedly throughout their work. While placing the image into the document as a layer works just fine, it’s helpful to have those features already loaded into your workspace.

That’s where creating custom brushes for things like logos and watermarks is a super handy way to speed up your workflow. In this tutorial, Larry Loucey from PhotoEducationOnline.com teaches you how to create custom brushes so you can load logos, watermarks, etc. into your workspace.

Doing this allows you to easily transform and place your logos/watermarks from your brushes panel onto your designs without having to search through your computer files each time.

11) How to Create and Use Masks (Tutvid)

Time: 3 min

Layer masks tend to play a big role in many graphic design processes. Essentially, a layer mask allows you to apply something — a color, shape, etc. — to a specific part of an image, rather than the entire thing.

In this speedy tutorial, Tutvid.com dives into not only what masking is, but how to do it quickly. He uses the example of a car to show how a mask can be used to manipulate the car’s color from red to green.

If you haven’t already given masking a try, definitely check out this tutorial. 

What other Photoshop skills do you want to learn? Share them with us below.

download 195+ free design templates

Aug

12

2015

Color Theory 101: How to Choose the Right Colors for Your Designs

When you’re sifting through your News Feed, what tends to catch your attention? More likely than not, it’s YouTube videos, pictures, animated GIFs, and other visual content, right?

This isn’t to say text-based content isn’t important. After all, you’re reading this post right now.

But what this does mean is that creating visuals such as infographics, charts, graphs, animated GIFs, and other shareable images will do wonders for catching your readers’ attention and enhancing your text-based content. 

I know what you might be thinking: “I don’t know how to design awesome visuals. I’m not creative.”

Hi. I’m Bethany, and I will be the first to tell you that I’m not naturally artistic. And yet, I’m doing data visualization at HubSpot, where I spend most of my days creating infographics and other visuals for blog posts.

So, while I wouldn’t say I’m naturally artistic, I have learned how to create compelling visual content. And so can you.

While there are many tools out there to help even the most inartistic of us to create compelling visuals, some parts of graphic design take a little more background knowledge.

Take picking the right colors, for instance. It’s something that might seem easy at first, but when you’re staring down a color wheel, you’re going to wish you had some information on what you’re looking at. 

Well, consider this your introductory course to color theory. Read on to learn about the terms, tools, and tips you should know to pick the best colors for your designs.

Color Theory 101

Let’s first go back to high school art class to discuss the basics of color.

Remember hearing about primary, secondary, and tertiary colors? Good. They’re pretty important if you want to understand, well, everything else about color.

Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Colors

The primary colors are red, yellow, and blue. Think about them as if you were using paints — these are colors that cannot be created by combining two other colors.

Secondary colors, on the other hand, are the three (green, purple, orange) colors that are formed by combining the primary colors. 

Tertiary colors are created when you mix a primary color with secondary color. 

From here, color gets a little more complicated. And if you want to learn how the experts choose color in their design, you’ve got to first understand all the other components of color.

All the Colors in Between

Okay, great. So now you know what the “main” colors are, but you and I both know that choosing color, especially on a computer, has much more of a range than 12 basic colors.

That’s because you can create brighter, lighter, softer, and darker colors by mixing white, black, and gray with the original colors. You also end up with different terms for these types of colors:

Hue: Hue is pretty much synonymous to what we actually mean when we said the word “color.” All of the primary and secondary colors, for instance, are “hues.”types_of_colors.png

Shade: You may recognize the term “shade” because it’s used quite often to refer to light and dark versions of the same hue. But actually, a shade is technically the color that you get when you add black to any given hue. The various “shades” just refer to how much black you’re adding.

Tint: A tint is the opposite of a shade, but people don’t often distinguish between a color’s shade and a color’s tint. You get a different tint when you add white to a color. So, a color can have a range of both shades and tints.

Tone (or Saturation): You can also add both white and black to a color to create a tone. Tone and saturation essentially mean the same thing, but most people will use saturation if they’re talking about colors being created for digital images. Tone will be used more often for painting.

Adding and Subtracting Color

If you’ve ever played around with color on any computer program, you’ve probably seen a module that listed RGB or CMYK colors with some numbers next to the letters.

Ever wondered what those letters mean?

CMYK

CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Key (Black). Those also happen to be the colors listed on your ink cartridges for your printer. That’s no coincidence.

CMYK is the subtractive color model. It’s called that because you have to subtract colors to get to white. That means the opposite is true — the more colors you add, the closer you get to black. Confusing, right?

Think about printing a piece of paper. 

When you first put a sheet in the printer, you’re typically printing on a white piece of paper. By adding color, you’re blocking the white wavelengths from getting through.

Then, let’s say you were to put that printed piece of paper back in the printer, and print something on it again. You’ll notice the areas that have been printed on twice tend to colors closer to black.

I find it easier to think about CMYK in terms of its corresponding numbers. CMYK works on a scale of 0 to 100. If C=100, M=100, Y=100, and K=100, you end up with a black color. But, if all four colors equal 0, you end up with true white. 

RGB 

RGB color models, on the other hand, are designed for electronic displays, including computers.

RGB stands for Red, Green, Blue, and is based on the additive color model of light waves. This means, the more color you add, the closer you get towards white.

For computers, RGB is created using scales from 0 to 255. So, black would be R=0, G=0, and B=0. White would be R=255, G=255, and B=255. 

When you’re creating color on a computer, your color module will usually list both RGB and CMYK numbers. In practice you can use either one to find colors, and the other color model will adjust accordingly.

However, many web programs will only give you the RGB values or a HEX code (the code assigned to color for CSS and HTML). So, if you’re designing digital images, RGB is probably your best bet for choosing colors. 

Creating Color Schemes

Now that we’ve got all of the basics out of the way, let’s talk about how to actually use this newfound knowledge.

You’ve probably noticed before that some colors look great together and others … just don’t. The colors we choose can help enhance a design, or it can take away from a design.

When you’re figuring out how to design a graphic, it’s important to remember that how we perceive colors depends on the context in which we see it.

Color context refers to how we perceive colors as they contrast with another color.

Look at the pairs of circles in the example below to see what I mean. 

The middle of each of the circles is the same size, shape, and color. The only thing that changes is the background color. Yet, the middle circles appear softer or brighter depending on the contrasting color behind it. You may even notice movement or depth changes just based on one color change.

This is because the way in which we use two colors together changes how we perceive it. So when you’re choosing colors for your graphic designs, think about how much contrast you want throughout the design. 

For instance, if you were creating a simple bar chart, would you want a dark background with dark bars? Probably not. You’d most likely want to create a contrast between your bars and the background itself since you want your viewers to focus on the bars, not the background.

Choosing colors with high contrast, however, isn’t always as hard as choosing colors that look good together.

For me, this is where choosing color is trickiest. I could spend hours choosing colors for an infographic simply because it takes awhile to get a feel for what looks best together. 

In reality, though, I usually don’t have hours to spend just choosing colors. (And that’d probably be a waste of time even if I did have a few hours.)

Luckily, there are logical rules for how to create color schemes that work together.

Analogous Color Schemes

Analogous color schemes are formed by pairing one main color with the two colors directly next to it on the color wheel. You can also add two additional colors (which are found next to the two outside colors) if you want to use a five-color scheme instead of just three colors.

Analogous structures do not create themes with high contrasting colors, so they’re typically used to create a softer, less contrasting design. For example, you could use an analogous structure to create a color scheme with autumn or spring colors. 

I like to use this color scheme to create warmer (red, oranges, and yellows) or cooler (purples, blues, and greens) color palettes like the one below. There isn’t a high contrast between these colors, but don’t they just look nice together?

I’d probably use this palette to design an image rather than an infographic or bar chart as I would want all of the elements in the image to blend together nicely.

Monochromatic Color Schemes

Using a monochromatic schemes allows you create a color scheme based on various shades and tints of one hue. Although it lacks color contrast, it often ends up looking very clean and polished. It also allows you to easily change the darkness and lightness of your colors.

I like to use monochromatic color schemes for charts and graphs, but only when creating high contrast isn’t necessary. However, monochromatic schemes don’t tend to “pop,” so if you’re looking for a color scheme that’s bright and attention grabbing, this one isn’t your best bet. 

Triadic Color Schemes

Triadic color schemes offer high contrasting color schemes while retaining the same tone. Triadic color schemes are created by choosing three colors that are equally placed in lines around the color wheel.

Triad color schemes are great if you want contrast, but they can also seem overpowering if all of your colors are chosen on the same point in a line around the color wheel. 

To subdue some of your colors in a triadic scheme, you can choose one dominant color and use the others sparingly, or simply subdue the other two colors by choosing a softer tint.

The triadic color scheme looks great in graphics like bar or pie charts because it offers the contrast you need to create comparisons. 

However, if I were using this color scheme to create an infographic, I’d be more likely to choose one color as the background color, such as the yellow or light green, and a darker contrasting color as the dominant color. I then might use the other three colors as accents throughout. By changing up the intensity of the colors in the design, I can highlight important points and takeaways.

Complementary Color Schemes

You may have guessed it, but a complementary color scheme is based on the use of two colors directly across from each other on the color wheel and relevant tints of those colors.

The complementary color scheme provides the greatest amount of color contrast. Because of this, you should be careful about how you use the complementary colors in a scheme. It’s best to use one color predominantly and use the second color as accents in your design.

The complementary color scheme is also great for charts and graphs. High contrast helps you highlight important points and takeaways.

However, if I were to use these colors in an infographic, I’d probably need to use a much lighter color for the actual background. Can you imagine choosing one of the oranges as a background with blues as accents and text? That’d probably be too overpowering and difficult to read.

Split Complementary Color Schemes

A split complementary scheme includes one dominant color and the two colors directly adjacent to the dominant color’s complement. This created more nuanced color palette than complementary color scheme while still retaining the benefits of contrasting colors.

The split complementary color scheme can be difficult to balance well because unlike analogous or monochromatic color schemes, the colors used all provide contrast (similar to the complementary scheme). 

I can imagine using the following split complementary color scheme in a variety of ways. I could use this in an chart or graph because it gives me the contrast I need and the colors remain visually appealing. 

I could also imagine using these colors in an infographic, although I’d play around with the colors a bit more to see which pairs look best together. 

The positive and negative aspect of the split complementary color model is that you can use any two colors in the scheme and get great contrast … but that also means it can also be tricky to find the right balance between the colors. As a result, you may end up playing around with this one a bit more to find the right combination of contrast.

No matter which color scheme you choose, try and keep in mind what your graphic needs. If you need to create contrast, then choose a color scheme that gives you that. On the other hand, if you just need to find the best “versions” of certain colors, then play around with the monochromatic color scheme to find the perfect shades and tints. 

I’ve found that simply understanding how color schemes are built goes a long way for helping me choose the right color scheme. If I just think: “What is the goal of this graphic?” I can start to determine how much (or how little) contrast I need.

Remember, if you build a color scheme with five colors, that doesn’t mean you have to use all five. Sometimes just choosing two colors from a color scheme looks much better than cramming all five colors together in one graphic.

Color Tools

There’s been a lot of theory and practical information for actually understanding which colors go best together and why. But when it comes down to the actual task of choosing colors while you’re designing, it’s always a great idea to have tools to help you actually do the work quickly and easily. 

Luckily, there are a number of tools to help you find and choose colors for your designs. 

Adobe Color

One of my favorite color tools to use while I’m designing anything — whether it’s an infographic or just a pie chart — is Adobe Color (previously Adobe Kuler).

This free online tool allows you to quickly build color schemes based on the color structures that were explained earlier in this post. Once you’ve chosen the colors in the scheme you’d like, you can copy and paste the HEX or RGB codes into whatever program you’re using.

It also features hundreds of premade color schemes for you to explore and use in your own designs. If you’re an Adobe user, you can easily save your themes to your account.  

Illustrator Color Guide

I spend a lot of time in Adobe Illustrator, and one of my most-used features is the color guide. The color guide allows you to choose one color, and it will automatically generate a five-color scheme for you. It will also give you a range of tints and shades for each color in the scheme.

If you switch your main color, the color guide will switch the corresponding colors in that scheme. So if you’ve chosen a complementary color scheme with main color of blue, once you switch your main color to red, the complementary color will also switch from orange to green.

Like Adobe Color, the color guide has a number of preset modes to choose the kind of color scheme you want. This helps you pick the right color scheme style within the program you’re already using. 

After you’ve created the color scheme that you want, you can save that scheme in the “Color Themes” module for you to use throughout your project or in the future.

Preset Color Guides

If you’re not an Adobe user, you’ve probably used Microsoft Office products at least once. All of the Office products have preset colors that you can use and play around with to create color schemes. PowerPoint also has number of color scheme presets that you can use to draw inspiration for your designs.

Where the color schemes are located in PowerPoint will depend on which version you use, but once you find the color “themes” of your document, you can open up the preferences and locate the RGB and HEX codes for the colors used. 

You can then copy and paste those codes to be used in whatever program you’re using to do your design work. 

From Theory to Practice

There’s a lot of theory in this post, I know. But when it comes to choosing colors, understanding the theory behind color can do wonders for how you actually use color.  

But before I send you off to create amazing images to improve you blog and social posts, let me give you a few extra tips for choosing colors:

  • Don’t stick with presets. Almost every program you use will automatically give you preset colors. Get past the presets and explore color on your own. Don’t let the program decide how you use color in your design.
  • Start with one color you like. Every time I design something, I start with one color and build the color scheme from there. If you try and start with more than one color, you’ll have a harder time finding harmony between your colors. 
  • Save your color schemes. If you find a color scheme you like, it’ll probably be useful to you later. I wouldn’t suggest using the same color scheme for every chart or graphic you create, but you can always use different schemes in different ways later on. 
  • Practice makes perfect. The more you play with color and practice design, the better you get. No one creates their masterpiece the first time around. 

What other tips would you recommend for choosing colors? Let us know in the comments.

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