Instagram story highlights have become much more than a repository for your best stories.

Instagram highlights give more longevity to your Instagram stories that you worked so hard on (and the precious memories you don't want to lose). Plus, they have become a kind of badge menu for your profile.

Arielle Vey's Instagram profile
Image source: Instagram

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 highlight 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.

In this article, you'll learn:

  • 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

Let's change that by looking at how to update your highlight covers with some fab highlight cover icons of your own.

Jumpstart your creative ideas with Linearity Curve and Linearity Move

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.

Superga's Instagram profile
Image Source: Instagram

What’s 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’s 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.

Did you know? The prototype of Instagram was called Burbn, because Kevin loves fine bourbons and whiskeys.

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.

However, photo-sharing mobile apps weren't common around that time, leading 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
  • 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 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 with 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. Many businesses 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. 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.

Instagram Ads will only work 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 of the posts 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 or animated visuals 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 branded 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.

Are you excited about creating your own Instagram aesthetic? Let's look into stories and how to set up your custom highlight covers.

Ready to create brand assets that pack a punch?

Visit our Academy for free social media marketing design courses.

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 at 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.

Bring motion in-house

Animate marketing assets in seconds with Linearity Move.

Get started
Linearity Linearity

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:

Linearity's Instagram profile
Image source: Instagram

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 CURVE 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.

The first step to creating a highlight cover is sketching it using basic shapes. You can sketch on paper or use a drawing app. Once you have a sketch, you can use our vector editing software, Linearity Curve, to create a clean and scalable vector graphic.

You can use different tools in our software, such as the Shape Builder Tool and the Pen Tool, to create the specific shapes you need. You can also use a grid to help you maintain consistency.

Jumpstart your ideas with Linearity Curve

Take your designs to the next level.

Once you're happy with your designs, export them as JPG or PNG and upload them to your phone so they’ll appear in your image gallery.

2. Create a new Highlight

Creating a Highlight is not the same as posting a story.

Click the profile picture

On the Instagram mobile app, tap on your Profile pic in the bottom-right corner.

Click add highlight

Next, tap on story highlight, the + in the top right-hand corner, or the + New icon directly underneath the Edit Profile button. If you have an Instagram Business account, there will be a few more buttons.

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 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.

Click add cover

Change this on Android or iPhone by tapping on the cover image or the tiny "Edit Cover" text directly underneath it.

Click gallery

At the bottom of the screen, a few options will appear. Tap on the image gallery icon and choose the design you uploaded earlier.

You can drag the image in place, but it should be perfectly aligned if you used our sizing guide to design the highlight cover.

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?


click edit highlight

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.

click edit cover

Click "Edit Cover" or 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.

Laura Murillo's Instagram profile
Image source: Instagram

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.

Eva Flores's Instagram profile
Image source: Instagram

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.

Best Vacation's Instagram profile
Image source: Instagram

4. Watercolor highlight covers

Watercolor swatches could be a good option if you love using pastel colors in your designs and posts but want to keep your highlight covers minimal.

Anastasia's Instagram profile
Image source: Instagram

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.

Charity Water's Instagram page
Image source: Instagram

6. Vector illustration highlight covers

From highly realistic illustrations to simple cartoons, you can create vector drawings for your story highlight covers to capture your followers’ imaginations.

Linearity's Instagram profile
Image source: Instagram

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.

Chewy's Instagram profile
Image source: Instagram

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’ll add cover titles to all of them, so the cover images can convey different themes if you want them to.

Refinery29's Instagram profile
Image source: Instagram

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.

Dressbarn's Instagram profile
Image source: Instagram

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.

Semrush's Instagram profile
Image source: Instagram

Recap and next steps

Social media and its design aspects can get very technical and daunting, especially because it constantly changes.

Instagram is one platform 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.

You must dig deep and know your audience well to decide whether Instagram is the right place for your business.

If you realize that Instagram will help grow your business, 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.

As always, we love seeing any artwork and designs created using Linearity Curve. So, if you've designed some stunning highlight covers, share them with us on the Linearity Community and social media.

Jumpstart your ideas with Linearity Curve

Take your designs to the next level.