Instagram have a new logo. It’s causing uproar on the inter webs. This is of course, a tiresome current strategy for attention – create something a bit rubbish and contentious to draw attention to oneself. The ensuing outpour of derision counts for free publicity (or strictly speaking, greater saturation and spread). It’s a win/win situation for a brand because either the furore dies down as people get used to any changes, or the brand reverts in full, or partially to their ‘old’ version – winning people’s digital hearts again. Facebook famously did this a few years ago when they weirded out the news feed, only to change to back (almost) as it was only days later.
So, what’s wrong with the new Instagram logo?
Well, the new logo seems to be attracting great publicity. In fact, I was unaware it had changed until someone mentioned how much they disliked it.
The old logo hinted at Polaroid’s branding. This wasn’t plagiarism, but a playful hint at the retro filters available to Instagram users. The camera itself looks a bit like a Polaroid instant print camera.
It is hard to underestimate how powerful this logo was for Instagram. That Polaroid look was instantly recognisable and the ‘expected behaviour’ of the app was described without words. It is quite a complicated logo. This is common of the beginning of the iPhone home screen icon design wave back in 2007 – icons that are punchy at home screen size, but will scale up to larger web sizes.
The new logo dramatically shuns the old look and sets out to show Instagram in an entirely different way. The new icon does not look like a retro photo app, it now looks like a function. It is now simply a camera with garish multi-coloured graduated background, which is very distinct, if devoid of meaning (perhaps it looks little like leaked light on film? – Ed).
Instagram has come a long way, and since being both out by Facebook is probably the single most important photo sharing app around in 2016. The new logo seems to be a bold attempt at communicating a new purpose – beyond it’s more humble retro camera and convenient online sharing roots (these features were fairly revolutionary because in 2007, you still needed a bit of web know-how to publish (especially photographs) online. Apps like Instagram allow online photography publication with no knowledge of the workings of the internet at all. The new logo appears to be saying ‘I am the camera’ – replacing the smartphones’ default camera app icon as the de facto choice when it comes to taking photographs. If this is the intent, then I’d say the logo works quite well. The main issue is that it looks less, well, iconic. It lo0ks pretty amateur, naive and worst of all, generic. It looks like it might have been lifted from the internet as part of a pre-made icon set. Personally, I find the camera shape a bit to ‘cute’ and childish looking. I’m of an age that remembers Polaroid instant film in common usage. The original icon was instantly recognisable as evoking that style. Maybe the new logo is deliberately excluding my age group with it’s very blandness and naive shape – to an audience too young top have seen or used a real Polaroid camera (although there is a a strong early 90s trend currently and the background perhaps at a stretch alludes to the early 90s Acid House tie dyes).
The old logo is a skeumorphic looking retro camera. It instantly evokes Polaroid cameras, even down to the borrowed rainbow colours. It states its intention as a retro camera app very well – especially on a 2007+ era iPhone home screen.
The new logo is a flattened icon outline on a smudge of colour.
The real issue with the new Instagram logo can be seen when used in monochrome. It looks utterly generic and anonymous. It becomes a random camera function icon. Admittedly, in these modern times, there is little need for a monochrome version of a logo for a digital app/tool/service,. but still, good design – good logos usually keep their visual distinction well in one or two-colour schemes. It is still a good litmus test for design communication. The logo essentially fails this test entirely.
Negative points about the new Instagram logo
- The new logo bears little visual relationship to the previous logo – it is a very large visual ‘progression’.
- The ‘Polaroid’ rainbow colours are gone in favour of the random colour smudges.
- The pictogram area looks like a function, not an application
- The new logo features background gradients, which are current trend (see iTunes 12 logo)
- The logo does not communicate as a recognisable brand device in monochrome. It is only the colour that makes it recognisable.
Positive points about the new Instagram logo
- It is still clear this is a camera/photography related app/ function