What is a Snapchat Geofilter?
Snapchat is a photo and video messaging application for iOS and Android. One of the app’s features includes Snapchat geofilters: special overlays for photos and videos sent on Snapchat (or Snaps), which can only be accessed in certain locations. These overlays can be added to the user’s Snaps who is within the assigned location of the geofilter.
Since geofilters were added to Snapchat as a feature, they were all designed exclusively by the Snapchat team. In December of 2014, Snapchat geofilters were opened up to the community of Snapchat in the U.S. as submissions.
The Importance of this Geofilter
In April 2015, I decided to design a geofilter for my hometown of Hanford, California. Being that Hanford is a small town, Snapchat had not already designed a geofilter for Hanford. With this being the case, I wanted to instill a sense of pride and identity to Hanford Snapchat users through a visual geofilter to represent their town through the images they share.
These filters serve as a visual indicator to see where the Snap was taken. This is extremely important feature because Snapchat images are temporary and can only be viewed for a limited duration. A geofilter needs to convey important location context immediately so it may enhance the message of the content.
This target demographic is teens and young adults who use Snapchat in Hanford, CA, between the ages 13-23. They also are people who love sharing and communicating with their friends through pictures and videos on a regular basis. They also enjoy sharing exciting, in-the-moment shots of experiences throughout their day. These individuals are also very likely to be at the forefront of many new social media platforms, social advances, and innovative ideologies.
This posed the challenge to make the geofilter relevant to people of Hanford, CA, and compelling enough to use to share their location with their friends. Additionally, this posed the need for me to present a geofilter that borrowed aspects of popular geofilters and trending design. This was needed to make the geofilter visually appealing, socially acceptable, innovative, and progressive, in order to be relevant to the Snapchat community. Some of these aspects included: dominant lettering, vibrant colors, and flat-style illustrations.
Rules, Limitations, and Parameters
Along with the aforementioned needs and goals for this project, there were several limitations I was faced with imposed by Snapchat’s rules for submission:
- All graphics used must be 100% original.
- Don’t cover up too much of the screen.
- Make sure it’s relevant to the location and something that people will want to use.
- Select a public place, neighborhood, landmark, venue or other location where people are likely to gather and send Snaps.
- Businesses are not currently eligible for Community Geofilters. Absolutely no logos or trademarks.
- Must be a 1080 x 1920 pixel PNG file. It should also have a 149 pixel buffer on the top and bottom, to protect the important parts of the design.
The Importance of the Lettering
The constraint of the limited time to view Snaps posed a heavy need for clarity and easy identification for this geofilter. This meant that the type for this geofilter had to be legible and readable at first glance. The fact that the geofilter conveys important location context meant that I needed to embody the characteristics of Hanford within the type, as well as any accompanying design elements.
The Reason for the Lettering Choice
A sans-serif style of type was chosen as the direction for this piece, in order to immediately catch the attention of the viewer. The lettering was specifically done in the sign-painter’s style as a way to embody the small-business and small-town cultures that make up Hanford. The humanistic sans-serif, as well as the calligraphic, hand-drawn qualities of the sign-painter’s style served the goals of this project the best.
Representing Hanford through Illustration
Many Snapchat geofilters include illustrations to accompany the lettering of the city’s name. This serves as a way to increase the ease of identification of the city and to display the key parts that make the city special.
I chose to display three buildings that make Hanford unique: The Fox Theater, The Civic Auditorium, and Superior Dairy Ice Cream Parlor. These buildings sit within a several hundred feet radius of one another, right in the center of downtown Hanford. This places an emphasis on downtown Hanford since it is the county seat for Kings County. Downtown is where many events are held including, shows, performances, as well as the seasonal farmers market.
Superior Dairy Ice Cream
The illustrations of the buildings were an important part in displaying the small-business culture of Hanford. However, this illustration was also missing a huge aspect of Hanford’s culture: Agriculture. To include aspects of agriculture (such as farms, animals, or fields) in a downtown setting would throw off the harmony.
So, to form a compromise, these illustrations were placed on top of green grass to represent the agricultural foundation of Hanford. As noticed in the color palette below, green makes up the largest percentage of any single color in the design; this is intentional, as a way to compensate for the lack of agricultural illustration.
The primary color scheme consists mostly of light, earthy hues. This is used to convey the agricultural aspect as a cornerstone of Hanford’s culture. The light values of these hues presents Hanford in a positive light, and shows Hanford as a progressive, agile town – This appeals to the target audience on Snapchat, mainly consisting of a younger, more liberal demographic of the ages 13-23.
The secondary color scheme includes the warmer colors with brick red and a muted yellow. This serves to round out the subdued color scheme, and as a way to increase the color contrast and excitement. The specific choice of brick red and the muted yellow is used to increase the historical connection of Hanford’s brick-and-mortar business culture.
The Geofilter In Use
Hanford’s geofilter was submitted to Snapchat on April 12th, 2015, and it was accepted on April 16th, 2015. The following pictures are actual usage cases of this geofilter since it was published. To protect the users’ identities, parts of some of these images have been blurred.
Shortly after publishing this case study, both the LA Times and the Hanford Sentinel interviewed me about Snapchat geofilters, along with the impact mine has had:
Free Guide on Geofilters
If you’re interested in learning how to create geofilters that people love to use, you can sign up at snapchatfilterdesign.com to get a FREE guide on creating geofilters.
I’m also producing a video course covering the practical steps as well as the timeless design principles that go into creating Snapchat geofilters. As a subscriber, you’ll also be the first to know when the video course is available.