7 simple steps to Instagram for the built environment

Capturing and sharing social moments, inspirations, and experiences has become an important part of how we express ourselves and connect creatively. Instagram has long since passed the one billion active monthly users, the majority under 35 years of age.  There are other compelling metrics; 500 million people use Instagram Stories daily, while 63 per cent of users log in to the platform every day. It also benefits from a balanced gender split; 52 per cent of users are female, creating an attractive proposition for architects and designers looking to speak to a diverse audience.

Instagram has become so influential it now shapes interiors, buildings and even whole neighbourhoods. Clients increasingly specify the need for buildings to have the requisite Instagram appeal to high-profile influencers, and ultimately, their dedicated followers.

You can see this influence in the public realm with installations like Cloud Gate, the reflective metal public sculpture by Indian-born British artist Sir Anish Kapoor, in Chicago – known as ‘The Bean’ which has been the backdrop of millions of selfies since it was unveiled in 2006.

Although architects have always designed their buildings to be photogenic and aesthetically interesting, Instagram has taken this to the next level. The platform itself has become a global force – driving the designers shaping the built environment. With the singular focus on visual imagery and aesthetically pleasing content, no other platform lends itself as well to the design world – or offers such a clear incentive to designers, creatives, and architects to develop designs that have real visual impact.

The ‘Eiffel Tower of New York’ Thomas Heatherwick’s Vessel, for example, is said to have been designed specifically for its photogenic appeal. Comprised of almost 2,500 steps and standing 150 feet tall, the piece’s elaborate copper balconies create the perfect backdrop for visitors looking to get the perfect shot.


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Quirky materials, reflective surfaces, and distinctive design that highlights and integrates the user experience have grown in importance. The instantaneous nature of the ‘gram means concepts are continually evolving and being replaced with the new and different; creating a hugely stimulating and fast-paced space, where architects and designers are able to find inspiration.


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Model making in the studio #architecturemodel #carmodygroarke

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Indeed, for businesses looking to communicate concepts visually, Instagram is the platform of choice. It gives architects and designers the opportunity to bring their followers with them on the design journey – showcasing the creative process and the resulting design.




The set up process is simple and intuitive – and gives companies access to all the business features.  The benefits include access to Instagram Analytics about followers and posts. Firms can also promote Instagram posts as ads; add links to Instagram Stories, and schedule and Auto Publish posts to Instagram with Later.



Firms should spend some time defining a target audience – specifying who they are trying to reach, and what they want to see. It’s also worth investing time on competitor research – who are they following and what are they posting? Setting targets and objectives and committing to a consistent posting schedule are all worthwhile endeavours, will help to monitor brand awareness through follower growth rate and post reach.



The design sector can seem full of mystique to outsiders. Instagram provides a window into the creative process. Visual snippets of daily life that will eventually inspire and influence the shape of our built environment can be popular and engaging.

With architectural icons such as Sir Norman Foster embracing the ‘gram as a vehicle to capture and share personal and professional moments, it’s a channel that appeals to establishment figures, just as much as the latest innovative practice.

Like many forms of social media, it’s also a democratising platform. As a hub for fresh ideas from all corners, there are low barriers to entry ensuring a melting pot of diverse creativity­­­­


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Working on a project

A post shared by Norman Robert Foster (@officialnormanfoster) on

Instagram is also a valuable for business leaders looking to cultivate a personal brand and showcase their unique aesthetic, tastes, and styles.

Ultimately it gives designers and architects the opportunity to have touch points with customers, clients, prospects, and stakeholders with them on the development and design journey and easily communicate their future vision.



Architects and designers are often advocates of the subtle, sleek, and understated. When it comes to Instagram, however – MORE IS MORE. In order to appeal to followers and ensure they’re getting relevant content, Instagram carefully curates the images people are shown to drive maximum engagement.

When a new post receives a high level of engagement, Instagram’s algorithm recognises that it’s been well received, the post is then amplified to a wider audience and recommended to Instagram users. It will also be included in a top posts section of key architecture-related hashtags and users with interest in the topic will receive a recommendation.

The nature of the platform means that users that post regularly have a higher chance of their images being amplified. Although a practice may have a huge following, not all followers will see each image posted, so it’s vital to be posting beautiful, impactful images which will resonate with key target audiences on a daily basis.

This helps to build follower loyalty and ensures that your image has a higher chance of being amplified by the platform.

Inspiration is everywhere, and it is worth exploring other sectors to explore how they use the channel. Users like ALDI have taken curation to the next level, utilising a collage effect, to showcase their products in truly maximalist style.

However, accounts can also be carefully curated and regularly updated to ensure the content shown is always fresh, current, and appropriate to whatever projects the brand is currently working on.

An approach favoured by many younger users, who tend to have a heightened awareness of security and privacy on the platform, is to edit the selection of images shown. This results in a much sleeker and minimal profile, with one grid of photos available.



Curating images for the ‘gram can be a daunting prospect, particularly for design field professionals who can be fixated on choosing the ‘perfect’ photo. However, it’s important to be open-minded. Allow a level of spontaneity and freedom into the process.

Instagram is channel that offers significant artistic freedom, as it blurs the boundaries between promotion and art – meaning a huge variety of aesthetically pleasing content is appropriate and will work well.


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Material study

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Images don’t need to sit within specific parameters or only be examples of current development projects. Instagram offers a level of artistic freedom that few other platforms allow, and users who think big and choose to share images that encompass various facets of their professional or personal lives, tend to experience high levels of engagement.

Although carefully curated, Sir Norman Foster’s Instagram, for example, is a vibrant collection of images which offer glimpses of everything from his holidays abroad – relaxing in a pool on a giant rainbow unicorn, to photos of him collaborating with design legends including Serpentine curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, and working on major projects like the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum renovation.


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Time for the unicorn .

A post shared by Norman Robert Foster (@officialnormanfoster) on

As a visually-led platform, Instagram offers the opportunity to curate and share current moments and future visions, inspirations, and snap shots.

Identifying a company persona and ‘voice’ and staying true to that particular ethos or approach will help to provide a clear and strategic framework to guide the content chosen for publication, rather than posing numerous specific restrictions on what can and can’t be posted.

This will create a platform that is unaffected, responsive and natural – boosting authenticity, which will in turn help to drive genuine engagement.



Instagram is an opportunity to tell a compelling story and convey a vision in a snap shot.

It’s worth thinking creatively and looking for project images which show new details or offer a new perspective. A close up of a period railing or a beautiful colour mix are just as compelling – if not more so, than a traditional hero shot of a gorgeous new building.


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Firing is Wiring

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Interesting shapes, tones, and colourways can help to make abstract images pop, while photos which showcase the practice’s personality in a natural, authentic way offer a window into what a team and practice are really all about.


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The line of domesticity intersecting the Redness of red

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Images can be re-posted over time, not all followers will see each image, so it’s definitely worth re-posting and re-sharing great content, provided there is enough of a gap between postings.



Authenticity is the kernel that sits at the heart of all successful content, and Instagram is no different. In fact, the channel has experienced a dramatic shift away from staged, artificial images – with a huge focus now on content that is candid and imperfect.

Tapping into the Japanese concept of Kitsugi, which shows the beauty in imperfections, this focus on authenticity and naturalness is important to get it right on Instagram, particularly as interest and engagement with platforms featuring airbrushed influencers in impossibly perfect locations begins to wane.

The most successful design accounts have a clear style and aesthetic, which sets them apart and which their followers and fans recognise and respond to.


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Model making

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Cultivating and curating content which has a genuine connection to the firm and choosing images which have a clear aesthetic link, helps to ensure channels are a real reflection of its design focus – creating a clear visual link between its ambitions and inspiration. If you need help developing your social strategy, get in touch below.

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