How to Design Your Own Instagram Highlight Covers
Instagram Story Highlights have become much more than a repository for your best stories.
Not only do they give more longevity to your Instagram Stories that you worked so hard on (and the precious memories you don't want to lose), Instagram Highlights have become a kind of badge menu for your profile.
Many people use Instagram as their sole platform for building a community, marketing themselves and their businesses, and running ecommerce shops.
Story Highlights are a way for a new visitor to your profile to get to know you and see what you're all about.
But the varying Highlights Covers can often break the flow of your beautifully curated Instagram page and create the sense that you need a strong brand or topic of expertise.
Let's change that by looking at how to update your Highlights Covers with some fab highlight cover icons of your own.
Finding Your Instagram Aesthetic
First things first, let's talk about your goals and values.
Are you a people-first brand looking to improve your customers' lives with light-hearted entertainment, or are you a more serious brand wanting to use data to position yourself as the top choice in your industry?
It comes down to what you wish to achieve and how your aesthetic showcases these goals and values.
What Is an Aesthetic?
Aesthetics is a study area in philosophy and fine arts concerned with ideas of perfection and beauty.
Recently, "aesthetic" has begun being used in social media to talk about the overall look of your social account, especially on Instagram.
An aesthetic Instagram means having a uniform look across your profile to make it beautiful.
Now, don't worry; beauty standards have changed, and there are no one-size-fits-all aesthetics that you need to reach for. Aesthetics on Instagram is very personalized – it's how you make your profile authentically beautiful on your terms.
To find your aesthetic, let's look at what Instagram is all about and whether it's the right platform for your brand in the first place.
What is Instagram For?
The Instagram mobile app was launched in 2010 and gained so much success in two years that Facebook (now Meta) bought it from its creator Kevin Systrom for $1 billion in 2012.
Initially, the idea of Instagram was to share your travel itinerary and photos with the world. Smartphones had pretty sophisticated cameras by 2010 and could be used to take beautiful, in-the-moment images that could instantly be shared with others.
Photo-sharing mobile apps weren't common around that time, though, which led to Instagram earning thousands of users overnight. There was obviously a big gap in the social media market.
Fast-forward to today, Instagram has become a full-fledged visual media-sharing platform for anyone to use, featuring powerful tools for:
- editing and sharing videos
- enhancing photos
- creating interactive Stories
- posting TikTok-esque Reels
- advertising your products, and
- running an online shop straight from your profile.
Who Uses Instagram?
Instagram is a mobile-first application, meaning its target audience is mobile users, and all the features are created for them.
There is a web app version of Instagram to help with discoverability on search engines, but if you want to share pics and post videos, you need to get the mobile app.
Considering its roots as a photo-sharing app for everyday travelers, it only makes sense that most Instagrammers are normal people going about their day-to-day and sharing their life stories in pictures.
Why is this so special?
Because it's opened up a new way for brands to reach their customers in a personalized manner.
Consider the rise in influencers and "momfluencers" on Instagram – they're everyday people who have a knack for creating engaging content and building communities around specific topics.
It's easier to trust someone you can relate to and who replies to your comments in their feed, right?
Is Instagram the Right Platform For Your Business?
So, back to your goals and vision.
Many everyday mobile users use Instagram, but does this mean your business needs to be on Instagram, too? Will it help you reach your business goals?
The answer can be yes. And no, or maybe.
Let me explain. There are many businesses that create accounts on Instagram and then proceed to post the most boring scheduled content on earth. Do you know what we mean? A feed with posts that use identical layouts and designs, only talking about their features and products, lacking engagement with their target audience (who may or may not be on Instagram) on every front.
This is not what Instagram is about.
So, if you're not much of a creator (a person who makes interesting, entertaining content on social media), or there's no one on your team with the knack or bandwidth to run your Instagram account, it's probably not the right fit for you.
But does this mean you shouldn't have an Instagram account at all?
Maybe. In many ways, it's better to have some presence than none.
If you already have customers who love your product or service, or you tend to host events where you have one-on-one interactions with customers, they might want to share their positive experiences with your brand on Instagram.
No account? No mentions.
This means you'll miss out on one-click-away potential customers who enjoyed the content and wondered where the creator got those cute earrings from. So, if you have no internal resources to run your Instagram account, you can consider outsourcing your social media management.
And then, of course, there are Instagram Ads. You can create and schedule ads from your Facebook account and target specific audience segments on Instagram. This is beneficial if you understand your Ideal Customer Persona (ICP) and know their habits on Instagram.
However, Instagram Ads will only work for you if you have an active and engaging profile. Instagram's algorithm is notoriously tricky to dupe, and you'll find yourself spending money without seeing any actual results.
The long and short of it is: don't join Instagram only for running ads. You need to be laser-focused on creating great content and gaining engaged followers.
How to Translate Your Brand to Instagram
So, if you've concluded that Instagram is not a good fit for your brand, feel free to leave this page.
If you're sure now more than ever that Instagram is the right place to showcase your brand, build a community, and find new customers – read on!
To translate your brand to Instagram, you need to know what each feature is for and how to make it uniquely you.
- Feed posts are for sharing photos and video content. You can add multiple media files to each post, use hashtags to make them more discoverable, and tag people and locations. Posts live in a grid on your profile, so it's a good idea to plan 6 - 9 posts and ensure the graphic designs look great together. Most importantly, your photos need to be of high quality.
- Stories are for sharing candid updates and interactions with your followers. With these, you can be creative and add interactive elements to engage your digital audiences, such as polls and upvotes. Remember that your Story Highlights need to have coherent themes, but we'll cover this in depth later in this article.
- Reels are for uploading and sharing videos with a wider audience. Reels tend to be a bit more choreographed and post-produced. Adding music from the Instagram Library is an important aspect, and the main goal is to get your Reels trending (having more people watch and like them). This can lead new potential customers to your profile. Pro tip: don't make your Reels overly branded or promotional – think of how you can add value to the viewer and lead them to your profile for more content.
- Instagram Shopping is for promoting and selling products on Instagram. This is a fantastic feature for online shops that sell physical products, so if this applies to your company, you might want to consider using this feature. You can also sell digital products and services on your Instagram Shop.
Hopefully, you're now feeling excited about creating your own Instagram aesthetic – let's look into Stories and how to set up your custom Highlight Covers!
How Do Instagram Stories Work?
It's always good to define and describe something you're familiar with to internalize what you know – and perhaps learn something new! Let's take a quick look into Stories before we deep-dive into Instagram Highlights.
The Instagram Stories feature was introduced in 2016 as a way to share all the moments of your day in slideshow format without committing them to your feed (and “IDK, might delete later”).
When you open the Instagram Stories tool in the app, you can now take up to 60 seconds of footage or add photos to your Story. You can add multiple Stories at any time of day, up to 100 per day.
The only rule is that after 24 hours, they expire and disappear from your Stories.
You can doodle on them, add animated GIFs, stickers, and text, tag other accounts (who will be notified when you share your story), and a bunch of other cool stuff to make it fun and entertaining.
To create a coherent aesthetic for your Instagram account, you must carry your branding through every Post, Video, Story, and Reel.
Instagram Highlights are, of course, no exception!
How to Make an Instagram Highlight Cover
Do you know what's really cool about Instagram Highlights?
All those stories you posted that disappeared after 24 hours are still available for you to see in your Stories Archive (for your eyes only), and you can select the ones you'd like to highlight for future visitors to enjoy.
Check out the Highlight Covers on our own Instagram account:
Below, we've put together a step-by-step guide to creating your custom Story Highlight Covers.
1. Design Your Highlight Covers
The optimal size for an Instagram Highlight is 110 x 110 pixels. You can find the sizing in our Instagram Highlight Cover template (with a free downloadable Vectornator file).
Remember earlier it was mentioned that all the elements on your Instagram profile must look good together to get an aesthetic look?
When designing your Highlight Covers from scratch, it's a good idea to decide beforehand what topics or themes you want to highlight and design them altogether.
Once you're happy with your designs, export them as JPG or PNG and upload them to your phone so that they will appear in your image gallery.
2. Create a New Highlight
Creating a Highlight is not the same as posting a Story.
On the Instagram mobile app, tap on your Profile pic in the bottom-right corner.
Next, tap on Story Highlight or the + New icon directly underneath the Edit Profile button. There will be a few more buttons if you have an Instagram Business account.
3. Make a Selection
Choose the Stories from your Archive that you'd like to add to this new Highlight by tapping on all the Stories to be included.
If you're done selecting, tap Next in the top-right corner.
4. Give It a Name
Now, you can give your Highlight a name to let viewers know what those Stories are about.
Planning your Highlight Titles beforehand is a good idea to carry through your aesthetic.
Ensure they're not too long because they'll get cut off. Whereas you can add up to 15 characters, we recommend you use ten or fewer.
5. Add Your Custom Cover
Instagram will automatically choose the first Story as the Cover image.
Change this on Android by tapping on the Cover image or the tiny Edit Cover text directly underneath it.
You'll see a few options appear at the bottom of the screen. Tap on the image gallery icon and choose the design you uploaded earlier.
You can drag the image in place, but if you used our sizing guide when you designed the Highlight Cover, it should be perfectly aligned.
Tap the arrow in the top-right corner to continue, and tap Done. Tap Done again to add your new Highlight.
How to Update Your Instagram Highlight Covers
You've made your new designs; now, how do you go back and update them on existing Highlights in your Profile?
On your Instagram Profile, long press on one of the Highlight Covers that you'd like to update, and then choose to Edit Highlight.
This will show you the selection of Stories included in the Highlight, along with the current Title and Cover.
Tap on the Cover image and scroll to the far left of the options at the bottom of the screen until you see the image gallery icon.
Select that and repeat Step 5 above.
Once you've selected your new Cover design, tap Done in the top-right corner and tap Done again to save your changes.
Repeat these steps for all the Highlight Covers you want to update with your new Cover designs.
Instagram Highlight Covers Ideas
Now that you know everything about Instagram Story Highlights, we thought it would be cool to check out some awesome designs for your Highlights Cover inspo!
1. Photographic Color Scheme Highlight Covers
Do you or your brand follow through with a particular color scheme in your Instagram Posts and Stories? Adding Highlight Covers that follow the same color scheme will look great and add interest to your Profile with textures and photos.
2. Nature Highlight Covers
Nature-inspired Instagram accounts will do well to create beautiful Covers that illustrate natural forms and colors. Pay attention to the illustration style to ensure it fits in with the rest of your brand.
3. Tropical Holiday Highlight Covers
Running a travelog? If you're sharing travel stories and photos of your journeys worldwide and want to create that holiday vibe, then Cover photo icons will help you do just that.
4. Watercolor Highlight Covers
If you love using pastel colors in your designs and posts but want to keep your Highlight Covers minimal, then watercolor swatches could be a good option.
5. Doodle Highlight Covers
Want to keep it fun and minimal? Draw some simple doodles that show what your Highlights are about. It will also add a personal touch to your designs.
6. Vector Illustration Highlight Covers
Ever heard of rotoscoping? It's when you trace an image to make a highly realistic illustration. You can do this with vector drawings and create stunning yet simple cartoons of yourself.
7. Abstract Highlight Covers
Highlight Covers can also be decorative and colorful. You can use abstract shapes and bold colors to create unique and beautiful Highlight Covers that complement your aesthetic.
8. Psychedelic Highlight Covers
Retro is trending hard. If that's your vibe, you can create colorful, trippy illustrations to decorate your Instagram Profile. Remember that you're going to add Cover Titles to all of them, so the Cover images can convey different themes if you want them to.
9. Text Highlight Covers
If you're opting for something super minimal that won't distract from your Posts, try adding a basic background color overlaid with text. You can experiment with color combinations or keep it striking with black and white.
10. Flat Icon Highlight Covers
To get a more corporate or webby look, try using flat icon illustrations that show different phases of a project or that fall in line with your corporate identity. This is a good option for businesses that are running Instagram accounts and want to put forward a more professional look. Flat icons can also be playful, so you can choose your style to get the balance you want.
Recap and Next Steps
Social media can get very technical and daunting, especially because it constantly changes.
Instagram is one of the platforms that strives to be as simple and intuitive as possible to keep its users on top of their game.
You can use your account to market your products, build a community of followers and ambassadors, and even run ads and sell online.
It's important that you dig deep and know your audience well, so you can decide whether Instagram is the right place for your business.
If you realize that Instagram will help grow your business, then consider how your branding will reflect on your profile. That's why Highlight Covers are such a valuable asset, contributing to your overall account aesthetic.
In this article, you've learned:
- How to find your Instagram aesthetic
- How Instagram came about and the different features it has to offer
- Who uses Instagram and making sure it's the right platform for your business
- How Instagram Stories work and how to create Highlights
- How to update your current Highlight Covers with new designs
- 10 inspirational ideas for your new Highlight Covers
That's a lot to take in! You're a bonafide Instagram Highlights expert now.
Don't forget that you can use our Instagram size guide, which you can download for free to design perfect Instagram Stories and Highlights (and other cool ideas).
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