How to Be Your Own Social Media Art Director

Do you want your professional social media to excel? Then take on the role of a social media art director to create a smooth content production process that yields results.

Social media design
May 17, 2024

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Having a strong social media marketing strategy in place also means a well-thought-out art direction for all the visual assets you plan to share. Here’s how to become your own social media art director and create one.

Ok, so we all know social media is huge. Over half the world’s population is currently using at least one social media channel. More and more people are using these platforms to browse (54%) and buy products (76%), so it’s more important than ever to make every post count.

In this article, we’re sharing some design tips and guidelines on how to create art direction for social media marketing.


What is art direction for social media?

Have you ever wondered how some of the best brands on social media seem to have inexhaustible resources for creating content? How is it that for years (and in some cases even a couple of decades) they manage to produce fresh ideas and new types of content?

The answer is social media art direction.

Simply put, this means creating a long-term design strategy for your professional social media. Social media direction defines your brand’s current visual identity in your social media brand guide. But, it also outlines the direction in which your want to move in the future (e.g. creating a community, producing viral content, etc.)

A social media art director is much more than a designer with many years of experience. Art directors combine creativity, vision and leadership. They are both social media managers and creative directors that ensure that the graphics help your marketing goals. This person can go beyond a creative brief to provide insight and ideas on creating the best visual content for a specific purpose.

How to create an art direction for social media

Whether you’re a social media art director yourself, or simply need some pointers to make sure your design team knows how to execute your vision to achieve optimal results on social media, here are the steps you need to follow in order to create your social media design strategy.

Setting the tone and intentions

Every piece of graphic design has a certain use, which is easy enough to define (flyers, blog post covers, logo, etc.). But the more complex part is defining its intention.

For social media design, the intention is often related to the objective of the campaign (raising awareness, boosting engagement or driving traffic to the website). For example, if you want your visuals to share information, you’re going to need visuals that include text that’s easily digestible and catches the viewer's attention. For promoting a product, you’ll need eye-catching graphics that showcase the product itself in the best possible light.

Setting the tone for social media marketing is closely linked to building a brand identity since this also requires you to decide on a brand voice and tone. However, these might vary slightly depending on the campaign and social media channel; e.g. for a promotional discount, the tone will be more persuasive and salesy, while a brand awareness campaign requires a more neutral, conversational tone. Ads on LinkedIn can use technical jargon and have a more formal tone, while Instagram is often more playful and casual.

For example, compare these two posts from JetBlue. The first is a LinkedIn ad with a crisp professional design and a simple value proposition: 20% off on your business trip. It’s perfectly geared towards the intended audience on this channel.

jetblue social 1.jpg

The second is this fun Instagram post telling a sweet story of how the company managed to retrieve a toy that had been lost on one of their flights. The digital art director knew what they were doing here with a genuine, unfiltered photo and heartwarming back story that’s bound to boost the engagement rates!

jetblue social 2.jpg

Concept and brainstorming

It’s the job of the art director to provide a concept to the designer. After you’ve got an initial concept in place, the design team needs to present it to the other members of the creative team such as digital marketers and copywriters.

This is where you can identify any oversights or issues, which will allow the art director to make any necessary changes and tweaks before proceeding with the creation of visuals. 

If your creative team members have a hard time coming up with something good, you should go back to your goals and target audience and try to figure out what sort of visual communication they expect. It’s also always a good idea to create a mood board with any visuals you like, and especially digital media or social graphics that make great use of copy as well as visuals.

Follow relevant trends, and pass on the rest

While a basic understanding of social media is a highly valuable skill for any designer, it’s not the designer’s day-to-day job to follow up on trends for every social media platform.

A necessary part of creating art direction is providing examples of relevant and trendy content with a similar intention/purpose/aesthetic. The key here is to think beyond your own industry and find ways to incorporate the most relevant trends into your designs.

A good example is this great ad from the bin manufacturer Vipp. This clever ad appeared shortly after Joe Biden was pronounced the next US president. It’s witty, not pretentious and ties the actual product (bins) with the copy and design perfectly.


On the other hand of the spectrum is this Pepsi advertisement that gained notoriety due to its insensitive approach to a popular topic. Black Lives Matter is a serious political movement that deals with serious issues of racial injustice and inequality in the US. So how did Pepsi “support” their cause? By showing Kendal Jenner sharing a can of Pepsi with the police force and seemingly “making everything better”.

Social listening should be a priority for your social media direction. Don’t just use your social networks to post content. Instead, keep track of the conversations going and see what other people are sharing as well. It’s alright to join in and provide your two cents, especially if you have valuable insights to offer.

Provide the technical guidelines

This is one of the most challenging aspects of creating graphics for social media since the specs such as image sizes or video duration or aspect ratios often change. It’s the art directors responsibility to know all of these specifications and provide clear guidelines for the graphic designer who creates a visual.

Here are some useful articles on social media specs you might want to read up on:

banner size graphic 2.png

Why do you need social media marketing art direction?

As a small business owner, you might consider taking the role of the social media art director yourself. 

You first need to get a good grasp of basic design principles (remember most social media art directors are usually experienced designers). Next, spend some time researching trends and your competitors' social media marketing. Finally, don’t forget to create a detailed social media brand guide with all the information about your brand’s social media design (colors, fonts, marketing personas, etc.).

Does it sound like a lot of work? It most certainly is. However, there are a few strong reasons why a social media art direction can be a valuable asset for your business.

It’s easier to achieve your business goals

Setting up clear goals and KPIs is vital for a successful social media campaign. But it can be difficult to measure just how helpful or effective design is in helping you achieve these goals. Art direction provides a goal for your design. Instead of just saying “we need social media posts that raise brand awareness”, art direction provides an answer to how you do that.

It’s easier to balance trends and branding

Being out of date is perhaps the biggest social media crime you can commit. That said, it’s equally important to decide which trends are relevant to you, and which you’re better off passing, as they might alienate your target customers. An art director will help create a framework that allows you to stay consistent and true to your brand values and still incorporate trendy designs that will attract attention on social media.

It provides a bridge between different stakeholders

It takes a village to run a social media marketing campaign. From business owners to marketers, to designers, community managers and even analysts for large campaigns. Since design is a necessary part of your content strategy this also means a lot of people have a vested interest in it.

Art direction takes into account the different concerns and interests and an ideal balance between stakeholders. For example, a brand manager will want designs to represent the brand adequately, while the customers will also want something that addresses their concerns rather than just promoting a business.

Having lived and studied in London and Berlin, I'm back in native Serbia, working remotely and writing short stories and plays in my free time. With previous experience in the nonprofit sector, I'm currently writing about the universal language of good graphic design. I make mix CDs and my playlists are almost exclusively 1960s.

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