May 17, 2017
Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or somehow have a life outside of the internet), you’ve probably heard that Instagram updated their app icon logo for the first time since launching in 2010. In a similar vein to Uber’s recent redesign, Instagram’s new direction has polarized the internet, causing the petty backlash only the web-denizens are capable of, including an assortment of memes and petitions to change it back.
Is it possible the internet overreacted to the change? Of course! So what’s a non-inflammatory reaction to the logo from a design perspective? Read on, my friend.
All in all, I actually like the new logo. It's definitely a huge departure, and of course the internet is up in arms about anything different, but that's always a reaction with an identity change — people don't like having to 'learn' a new thing. There are a few legitimate criticisms, the most logical one being that it looks fairly generic, like it could be any number of 3rd party apps. But design doesn't happen in a bubble, and Instagram, being the social juggernaut that it is, won't really have a problem pushing this identity.
Will anyone jump ship because of the new logo? Probably an inconsequential amount, if any. In a few months, people will say such-and-such 3rd party app looks like the Instagram logo, not the other way around. But it is definitely part of the growing pains of a new brand - there's no doubting that the old logo was iconic and it will take people a bit to get used to the change.
You could also argue that it blends into the default iOS apps, but I personally don't see that as too bad a thing, and the new icon is still a bit more restrained than Apple’s stock apps. Regardless, it’s better than that fake leather texture sticking out like a sore thumb. My apologies, though, to anyone else who was forced to rearrange their apps because the new logo clashed with their app color scheme.
Now for the positives. The skeuomorphic icon had to go eventually - it's just plain out of style (so 2010). It’s also difficult to scale to small sizes because of the detail, requiring the existence of the now-defunct glyph which dilutes the identifying elements of the brand.
Previous Instagram Glyph
As a side note, it’s interesting that the design team opted not to use this glyph as the basis for the new logo, as I always thought it was a decent flat version of the full icon. But there's just something about the rounded corners of the new icon that feels really unique and Instagrammy the more I look at it, especially in the desktop version. It’s quite pleasing and friendly.
One of the other great things is the unification of the sister apps’ branding. I'm sure I wasn't the only one surprised that those 3 random apps were Instagram’s. It will now be much easier to pick out these apps as distinctly “Instagram” in an increasingly-crowded app storefront.
When you think about Instagram's evolution, the change actually makes sense. When they first launched it was mostly about the retro filters, hence the Polaroid-style icon. But now it's a full fledged social platform with a diverse audience, especially artists, photographers, filmmakers, etc, and the overall brand update reflects this community more accurately.
All in all I think they could have gotten the new icon a bit closer to the previous shape (the square flash and the contrasted top/bottom of the camera body were two fairly iconic elements that they could’ve preserved), but I still like the new one, and it’s grown on me every day since launch. They also might have gone with a bit more retro-colored gradient as opposed to the popular 'bright' palette to retain that element of their old brand.
So there you have it. The new icon could have been more refined, but it's also not that bad, and is a decent evolution of the Instagram brand.
Let’s make America gradient again*
*Gradients only where appropriate please
- Mike Brophy
Mike is the former Creative Director at Veracity Media