Instagram’s New Look

Ian Spalter, head of design at Instagram:

The question then became, how far do we go? If you abstract too much, the glyph doesn’t feel tied to the history and soul of Instagram. If you make it too literal, it’s hard to justify changing from what we currently have.

After a lot of refinement, we landed on a glyph that still suggests a camera, but also sets the groundwork for years to come.

Instagram seems like a “measure twice, cut once” sort of company. Deliberative, almost to a fault. Even if you disagree with the direction in which they’ve taken their brand today, do not think for a second that they did this on a whim. They stuck with the old skeuomorphic camera icon for years after everyone else went flat. Now they’ve gone with something very different, and very abstract. I like the idea, but I’m not sure I care for the rainbow gradient they arrived at. The combination of a white device against a colorful gradient background reminds me quite a bit of some iPod ads from a decade ago. The colors they chose don’t look connected to the colors of the old icon’s rainbow. In short, it looks and feels like an altogether new brand for Instagram, not an update or refresh of their old brand — and I’m not convinced that was the right move. Even something as simple as keeping the “leather” on the top half of the camera, as proposed here by Ian Storm Taylor, would have preserved more of the original brand.

The changes within the app, I definitely like. Spalter describes the changes thusly:

While the icon is a colorful doorway into the Instagram app, once inside the app, we believe the color should come directly from the community’s photos and videos. We stripped the color and noise from surfaces where people’s content should take center stage, and boosted color on other surfaces like sign up flows and home screens.

As with the icon, it’s a polarizing change. It’s severely black and white. Given that we spend more time in the app rather than looking at its home screen icon, I’m a little surprised they didn’t go with one of the black-and-white icon designs they considered, to make the icon match the UI.

Some reactions from around the web:

  • Founder Kevin Systrom’s post announcing the new look has over 700 comments. To my eyes, most of them are negative. But that’s always the case with radical icon changes. Some people will genuinely dislike any new icon; it’s the change itself they dislike — the loss of something familiar. If you allowed users to vote on it, no popular app would ever get a new icon.

  • Tim Nudd, writing for Adweek: “Instagram’s New Logo Is a Travesty. Can We Change It Back? Please?”.

  • Eli Schiff: “This is an abomination.”

  • Great tweet from Michael Bierut, back in September:

    Most people comment on logo launches as if they’re judging a diving competition when they should be judging a swimming competition

  • Mike Davidson:

    Remember that with logos there is: 1) How you first feel about it, 2) How it settles in, and 3) How it ages.

    (And the first is the least important if you are talking about a redesign.)

  • Armin Vit, writing at Brand New, has an astute take (as usual):

    I doubt anyone will be making cakes and cookies in the shape of the new Instagram logo and that’s the biggest problem the new logo faces: it’s not the old logo. The ensuing shitstorm on the internet today will be epic. About 75% of the negative reaction will be simply to the fact that it has changed and the other 25% will be to the not-quite-fact that there is a generic aesthetic to the new icon where it could be a “camera” icon for the upcoming smart microwave from Apple or whatever other user interface you would imagine. This is not to say it’s a bad-looking icon, no… as far as camera icons go, this is quite lovely and has the minimal amount of elements necessary to be recognized as a camera BUT not the minimal amount of elements necessary to be recognized as Instagram.

  • From Fast Company’s interview with Ian Spalter:

    One of the biggest questions now is how users will react. Spalter, when asked if he’s ready for the vitriol that can attend the redesign of such a familiar icon, laughs “Maybe I’ll take a vacation,” he says. “In a bunker.”