This week we’ve grabbed a quick cup of tea with Instagram stars Naomi and Dan. No mean feat, they’re not used to having a second to spare. Dan is founder of webgraph, a US and UK-based design studio. Naomi also runs her own design studio from England.
Blurb: You both have a phenomenal following on Instagram. How come?
Naomi: We were there from the very start as pre-release beta testers of Instagram before the app launched in 2010. The amount we travel means we can shoot striking landscapes, situations and architecture all over the world. I guess that followers must find our subject matter fresh.
Blurb: Many Blurb users are Instagramers, too. What are your top three tips for success here?
Dan: Shoot only what makes you happy: Don’t think about what your audience wants. Gaining a big following brings giddiness (and can be quite overwhelming), but if you’re not taking photos that matter to you, there’s no point.
Naomi: I’d say that it’s all about the crop: When you’re shooting, think about what will make a great square crop. The way you crop something is very powerful. It can be the difference between a plain snapshot that anyone could take and a great image.
Dan: Oh, and capture what you love, curate what you share: It’s all about letting people see the world through your eyes – that’s what makes sharing special in the first place. But don’t share everything you shoot. (Most of our images never make it to Instagram, even if we like them).
Blurb: How did you get into the creative industry and how did you master so many of its fields?
Naomi: I never feel I’m mastering my favourite fields; I’m just loving being able to delve into them – learning and experimenting and above all enjoying each one.
Dan: I completely agree about not feeling like I’m mastering anything. There’s never really enough time, so you end up bouncing from one thing to another as long as it’s interesting.
It gets worse the older I get. Twenty years ago, I was just getting into design and typography, had been singing acappella in barbershop quartets for three years, and was becoming a full-time competitive swimmer (and I’m leaving out Boy Scouts, girls, WWII aviation, and renaissance fairs). Over time, my number of competing interests increases.
Naomi: [laughs] I’m the opposite. As soon as I hit 16, I put aside all extra curricular activities to focus on my exams, then art and design-related A-levels and university. Though I’ve tried throughout the years to pick back up dancing and the gym, my passion for the creative side of life always takes over. And I don’t mind one little bit.
Blurb: How important is it to be a ‘jack of all trades’?
Naomi: I believe there’s a place for both types of creative – those who are a fluent in a collection of disciplines (let’s call them “the Jacks”), and those who specialise in a specific area (“the Jills”).
I’ve worked with extremely talented people over the years, and they include both types – neither the Jacks or Jills are more successful, nor more respected.
Mixing Jacks and Jills creates a winning team. The problem many agencies and studios face is that they have a Jill overseeing or running a project, when what they really need is a Jack. Someone who’s wired to think about every area, not just the management itself, for instance.
Blurb: What’s the next big thing you see digital creatives needing to master?
Naomi: The freedom to design, build and publish our work in a way that lets us ‘forget’ about the 10+ devices it may be viewed on, safe in the knowledge that it will look it’s best at all times. Based on all the tricks and processes I’ve seen since the coining of the term responsive web design, I believe we’re not too far away from a solution.
Blurb: We’ve just launched enhanced ebooks, which are already being put to really interesting uses. Are there any tips you could offer designers working in the digital space for the first time?
Naomi: Start with what you know. Use whatever software you’re comfortable with, then treat type, layout, and grids just as you usually would.
Many exceedingly good graphic, brand, and print designers I’ve worked with get dizzy simply hearing the word ‘digital’, and often get blinkered by the software they believe they have to use to create for screen.
In reality, the principles of design extend across media. So the best place to start is where you are.
Blurb: Blurb turns digital and social media (including Instagram photos) content into print – mixing two disciplines that don’t often meet. As digital designers, do you still see a place for the physical?
Naomi: I love Blurb for encouraging people (no matter their online skill level) to get away from looking at their photographs or content only on a screen. We need reminders of how special tangible media can be; it will always have a secure place in our world.
Dan: Tangible output is even more important these days, where we see newspapers and magazines giving up traditional publishing in favour of virtual. I don’t care how big your screen is, it doesn’t do justice to a large format landscape photograph printed 10-feet wide on photographic paper, just as an iPad doesn’t bring out the best in a graphic print produced with a letterpress printer on handmade paper.
Ultimately, we live in a physical world.
Thanks, Naomi and Dan. This seems like an excellent opportunity for us to plug our Instagram books – beautiful 7×7 books, made with your Instagram photos. If you like what you’ve heard and seen from @naomiatkinson and @danrubin, follow them on Instagram. And you can also follow us, we’re @blurb_books.