The Liberating Limitations of Instagram Stories

July 25, 2017 | by Katie Baird

It’s no secret that I am an unabashed lover of Instagram. You might even remember this post about inspiring Instagram accounts. Recently, I’ve been extra enthralled with Instagram’s Stories feature. When Stories first launched, I was irritated at what felt like a bad Snapchat ripoff. But a few key features on Instagram’s version—and the fact that people actually seem to look at my Insta-Stories—have made me a believer. Now, I want to shout my joy and obsession from the rooftops.



People use Instagram Stories to communicate with friends and followers in a bite-sized, in-the-moment way. Brands are starting to get in on the fun too. Stories are a great way for brands to connect with customers by offering a peek behind the curtain, letting people see the real faces and places that make a brand and its offerings what it is. Statistics reveal that social media influencers get more followers on instagram than on other social media websites.

One of my favorite brands on Instagram is Lush Cosmetics, who has crafted a social media strategy that always blows me away. They’re at the top of their game when it comes to Instagram Stories, always giving their customers an exclusive glimpse at how they make their products as well as sneak peeks of products and announcements.

The Creative Challenge

So in the spirit of sneak peeks, here’s a look at how I make the most of my Instagram stories. There are a lot of amazing ways you can use Instagram Stories as a marketing tool, but what I want to show you how I use it as a design tool. The examples here are collected from my personal feed, but the design lessons are applicable for everything from a personal brand to one in the Fortune 500.



It was Debbie Allen who said, “But out of limitation comes creativity.” Instead of worrying about the lack of options within Instagram Stories, embrace how the limitations can actually help you or your brand think outside the box.



I post frequently on Instagram, and I treat the stories as mini design exercises. The tools and elements you have to work with are very limited—a camera, a few filters, one typeface, a couple pen tips, a handful of pre-made stickers and a spectrum of colors. But with these rudimentary digital tools—and embracing the limitations—you can create some incredibly original and compelling designs.



I find myself making these quick and dirty mini compositions during the in-between moments: while I’m riding the train, sipping a coffee or waiting for the bus. For brands, Instagram Stories can be just as light and whimsical. Think of them as bursts from your brand’s personality. They’re the perfect opportunity to have a good time designing and not worry too much about the end result. After all, it’s going to disappear in 24 hours!



For my designs, I am a huge lover of hand-drawn typography and the Instagram pen tool is a great way to play with custom lettering. Every so often I break out a stylus for maximum control, but 98% of the time I just draw with my finger. Sometimes it does take many, many attempts to get the letters juuuust right, but that’s part of the fun. I love experimenting with how the type interacts with the photography using scale, balance, kerning and the mixture of typeface and hand-drawn elements. The possibilities are nearly endless!



Despite my friends’ mild irritation with my constant Story creation and repeatedly saying, “Hey wait, let me get that for my Story!” I don’t intend to stop anytime soon. I’m loving the satisfaction of making a fun design in just a few minutes time.



Instagram Stories force you to flex your quick decision-making muscles and help you practice being creative, quickly, which is a skill that definitely comes in handy in the agency world. You never know when a hot project may come flying in with a super short deadline!

Think of these quick little Instagram creations as your design cross-training. Next time you’re waiting at a bus stop or sipping a Saturday latte, hop onto Instagram and start creating!



Have you seen any Instagram stories that are particularly clever or inspiring? Do you ever get wacky with your stories? Let us know in the comments below!

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