Yesterday, Instagram announced it had updated its visual identity by introducing an updated icon and simplifying their app design. We thought we would throw our tuppence into the online conversation, and share our thoughts on what they’ve done…
1. Our initial feeling is that Instagram have lost some of their identity with the introduction of their new icon. The original brown icon, if not beautiful, was pretty distinct.
2. The coloured gradient on the new icon looks similar in style to several native Apple apps (see image below). When the gradient is coupled with a simple white icon it takes on a familiar style. Maybe this was part of the brief – make Instagram fit in and feel familiar to users. But if that was the case, the new icon doesn’t fit in with native Android icons. Designers regularly use the gradient to represent technology, it’s a trend. It does work, it fits well, feels warm and fun. The flip side of this popularity, is that the gradient is not particularly ‘ownable’ in the crowded app sector – so using one as part of an icon will not make it feel unique. When we talk about ownership of an identity, think how o2 owned the blue gradient in the naughties, they looked different to all their competitors. Another good example of owning a visual style is Macmillan, who use of the colour green and their unique hand written typeface, you could remove their logo from a piece of communications, but people would still know who that was for.
3. Instagram have applied their new design across their family of digital products. This works well and helps to visually unify the family of apps.
4. The new simplified icon will reproduce well at small sizes. The detail and texture in the previous retro-camera icon did get lost when it was used in confined spaces (for example when used small in the footer of a website). The new logo improves on this.
5. The new icon feels like it would appeal to a younger audience. After a bit of digging, we found that 41% of Instagram users are 16—24 years old, so this would back this design choice up.
6. The original logo references traditional analogue cameras such as the Polaroid with its rainbow stripes. But most younger users have probably never experienced this technology, so Instagram may have felt the app icon wasn’t relevant to this demographic. The new icon may be an attempt to counter that issue and better reflect their community.
7. The original logo also had a slightly faded appearance which visually reflected the filters available within the app. Will we now see the introduction of bright gradient filters?
8. Instagram say that the new icon is “inspired by the previous app icon” but you’d struggle to understand this without watching the brand launch animation. This is more of a visual revolution, than an evolution of the previous design. There’s a definite disconnect between the old and new.
9. As noted by Sean Rees (@sean_rees) yesterday, the new icon doesn’t fit particularly well with retro logotype (see below). We can only assume that this will be updated too, or that they will drop the logotype all together. But it seems strange not to tackle and introduce the two at the same time.
10. With the loss of the retro camera icon, are we watching the final death of skeuomorphism (designing things to resemble their real-world counterparts)?
Apparently, the design team worked on this project for 9 months, so a lot of thought has obviously gone into this project. We haven’t seen the brief, so it’s impossible to judge how this project responds to the what Instagram require – that’s the danger of judging design work on face value. But we do hope that by writing this post, it helps to raise some of the challenges and considerations inherent in a project of this type. As Adrian Carroll (@ac_seventhree) points out, “Instagram has 400+ million users, most of those people tap the icon everyday, it’s a global brand with no competitors. They won’t lose any market share over this”, an enviable position to be in.