A Designer's Perspective on the New Instagram Brand

19th, 2016
Keyhole - Content Marketing - Joe Dudeck
Joe Dudeck
President + Founder
Categories: Branding
19th, 2016
Keyhole - Content Marketing - Joe Dudeck
Joe Dudeck
President + Founder
Categories: Branding

On May 12th, Instagram pushed out a new multi-colored logo to its users—choosing quite a departure from its original retro camera design. The new look sparked a passionate response by Instagram followers, mostly dissatisfied with the change.

Here’s just a sampling of responses I saw on Instagram’s own promoted post:

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Change for the sake of change doesn’t bring about anything.

I don’t like it!! I like the retro feel of it before you had to go CHANGE IT!!

I hate the new logo. You must change it back or at least give me the option of using the recently departed icon on my iPhone screen. I can’t look at this hideous new icon much longer.


These reactions made me curious what a brand creator might actually think. So I asked one!

A Designer's Perspective on the new Instagram Brand

Meg Cook owns and operates Meg Cook Creative, an Indianapolis-based design shop offering all art-related elements of branding, such as naming, brand identity, ad design, print collateral, website design, social media, and book design. Years ago, she created the branding for my other business—Joetography—a mark I dig so much that I branded myself with it! (True story.)

Below, Meg share’s her thoughts on Instagram’s new brand:

When I saw the Instagram rebrand I was shocked.

Contrary to what you may expect from a designer, the shock had far less to do with the new logo being good or bad and everything to do with elimination of an icon that I interacted with almost every day. For me, the initial shock stemmed from change and the grief that comes with losing something that represents meaningful content. The brown, retro camera is like the weird cover of your favorite journal.

However, if you consider the visual evolution of Instagram’s peers—Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat—it’s surprising that a branding update hadn’t happened sooner.

Grading the Original Brand Design

When we really look at the old logo and consider all its traits and characteristics, it didn’t necessarily follow best practices.

It was very detailed, which made it difficult to render at small sizes. I’m pretty sure it contained all the colors. It’s very dimensional—contrary to the flat design trend that we’ve been immersed in for some time. You could argue the logo felt a bit amateur. Something we’d expect to see in the early days of a start up. Certainly not the logo for a leader in social media.

Evaluating Instagram’s New Branding

“The only thing in life that’s constant is change.”… Yeah, yeah. Fine. Bring on the change. In stark contrast to the old, the new logo is very simple. It’s a dramatic change from the very detailed original logo. Regardless how we feel about the old logo, the new simple design is strong. It’s about as minimal an icon you can make, while still being recognizable as a camera.

Perhaps the biggest change was the gradient and colors. This doesn’t really feel like a natural evolution from the first color palette. But it is bright and playful—which could be argued is more inline with their brand, their audience, and the photography that is displayed through their platform.

The Backlash of a Brand Launch

As with any major rebrand (e.g., Gap, AirBnB, Wendy’s), there’s a fair number of folks who think Instagram’s new direction is a disaster. I don’t think this is as much a reflection of the new design being good or bad, as it is a reaction to the large departure from the original logo.

The Instagram brand has become a part of our daily lives, like Coca-Cola or NBC. When people interact with a brand multiple times a day, they create associations, memories, and even meanings. For a brand, this is a great thing. It means users feel represented by the logo.

However, in brand overhauls like this one, it can create some backlash. If you feel like you have a stake in something and then it is turned upside down without your approval, you’ll probably be upset. But with time and use there will be new familiarity, attachments, and associations with the new logo.

Closing Thoughts on Instagram’s New Brand

Instagram’s experience wasn’t all that uncommon. If you’re a business considering or about to launch a new brand, there’s a few things to learn from Instagram’s experience:

  1. Change is good (but sometimes feels really uncomfortable).
  2. Instagram took a risk, and that’s admirable.
  3. Success won’t be determined by people’s knee-jerk responses to change, but rather by the branding experience they have over time and familiarity.


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