Instagram new logo: Head of design explains how app chose new icon – and why you might hate it

People always hate new things, especially if they are somewhere as personal as on your phone’s home screen – but Instagram might have gone too far this time

Andrew Griffin
Thursday 12 May 2016 09:51 BST
A New Look for Instagram

It might be the most controversial tiny square of the year. Instagram has changed its logo – and it seems that nobody is happy.

The company has launched a re-design of its app alongside a new, sunset-themed logo. Many found the new design when they opened up their phone and saw the new image sitting there, delivered to them through automatic software updates.

Straight away, users erupted in anger. One of the ways that it was announced was in a post by Kevin System, the CEO and founder of Instagram, who shared a video showing the old logo changing into the new one – that post was greeted by more than a thousand comments, almost all of which were outraged.

“The new logo looks really bad, and I hate the white in app,” wrote one user. The post was flooded with comments using the hashtags #changeitback and #old insta, which also became popular across the entire site.

But there are parts of a post by Ian Spalter, Instagram’s head of design, that hints at why exactly people are so mad about the change. Writing about the decisions that went into changing the app icon away from the a “rendered camera” and into an image that could be more flexible and blown up at size, Mr Spalter said that the company “had to figure out how to give the new mark more character while also removing what was unnecessary”.

He continued: “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.”

It seems to be that tension – and the loss of connection to the “history and soul of Instagram” – that has made people so angry. Many people love the old Instagram logo, so much that people bake cakes shaped like it and use it for important parts of their own design, and the new logo doesn’t appear to keep enough of a connection to that previous one.

Critics around the web agreed.

“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,” wrote John Gruber, a technology journalist who regularly writes on design choices. Gruber noted that the company had stuck with the realistic picture of a camera long after most people had embraced "flat" design, which meant that any change was probably going to cause big problems.

Mr Gruber pointed to other pieces including an Adweek posted titled “Instagram’s new logo is a travesty. Can we change it back? Please?” and a tweet by design critic Eli Schiff who said it was an “abomination”.

Many pointed out that the initial shock of a new logo doesn’t matter much.

“Remember that with logos there is: 1) how you first feel about it, 2) How it settles in, and 3) How it ages,” wrote Twitter’s vice president for design in a post on the service. “And the first is the least important if you are talking about a redesign,” he wrote, while pointing out that doing well on all three points would be the aim.

And the company was apparently entirely ready for the kind of vitriol that have met the new logo. Fast Company interviewed Instagram’s head of design, Ian Spalter, who said that he had been preparing for that anger.

“Maybe I’ll take a vacation,” he told the magazine. “In a bunker.”

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