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It’s an epidemic, with its own PSA and everything.

Symptoms include displays rotated 90°, a disregard for the 16:9 frame, and an unshakeable, straight-up approach to life.

The good news: widespread phenomena can be fun! (cc: the Dancing Plague of 1518…minus, you know, the deaths.) Besides, when Instagram inevitably overtakes the megaplex, us creatives will have to bow to the tyranny of the upright.

In fact, the coup is already well underway. Social media has embraced vertical, much to their own benefit: these video ads have up to nine times more completed views than horizontal video ads. And because vertical video allows a seamless, uninterrupted user experience—from Snapchat to YouTube—it’s here to stay.

So, for argument’s sake, let’s (metaphorically) toss 100 years of widescreen worship out the window and consider a few design principles for this brave new vertically shot world:


Negative space is an underutilized aspect of framing. Space that’s purposely left empty directs our audience’s attention to the intended subject. Clutter is not king. (Hence, this concise paragraph).


Overly attached to those horizontal frames? Why not stack them three or four times on top of each other? Subjects within that frame can even interact with one another! The repetition of similar shapes can open the door to a whole new world—or fresh nightmares, depending on how you feel about literal wiener dogs.


Words are obviously an important component of social media. So why not zazz up your perpendicular pics with some buttery calligraphy? Your audience and in-house graphic designers will love it (they’ve been itching to bust out that new Apple Pencil for something other than the coloring book app).

So, if you’re being forced to slide out of your 16:9, horizontally formatted, self-imposed quarantine and succumb to Vertical Video Syndrome, at least do so with style.

Like a certain Michelangelo we know who also dealt with unorthodox size specifications whilst painting the Sistine Chapel (italics added for shaming).

Have an up-and-up weekend, everybody!

-Your straight-up, straightforward friends at Brokaw

And because vertical video allows a seamless, uninterrupted user experience—from Snapchat to YouTube—it’s here to stay.

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