Instagram unveiled a massive design overhaul (on May 11, 2016). For the brand—who has utilized the same logo and app icon since unveiling in 2010—it’s a massive shift.
The most obvious and apparent change came with the redesigned icon and app design.
The Full App Suite Feels the Wave of Change
The entire app suite—including Layout, Boomerang and Hyperlapse—also received a consistent push to go with the new look of Instagram.
The App User Experience Look and Feel
The app operates as it always has. Scroll downwards, double-tap to “heart” photos, make comments, creep on your old high school crush, etc. The design look and feel, however, has also been rethought in the rebrand.
If you’re a frequent user, you’ll immediately notice the difference—the app is now absent of any color. Replacing the Instagram blue, which topped the banner of the app and links, is a black, white and gray scheme. Notifications are the only splash of color, alerting you to the dotings of your loyal followers with a vibrant red.
Design Talk: Skeuomorphic to Flat
The biggest shift with the Instagram icon redesign is a move from skeuomorphism to flat design.
Simply put, skeumorphism is a design style where what’s designed is meant to resemble realism.
Flat design, on the other hand, is trending and taking the world by storm. It’s a more minimalistic concept. Flat gives the illusion of three dimensions by utilizing drop shadows, textures and/or flat colors.
The below graphic presents a great representation of each side with the key identifiers.
The Philosophy Driving the Rebrand
According to several sources, Instagram has been contemplating the rebrand for quite some time now.
The driving force behind the rebrand was that of concern. Their concern was that their app looked dated and was “beginning to fell, well … Not Reflective of the community,” said Ian Spalter, head of design at Instagram in a post on Medium.
Carrying on the Legacy with the Rainbow
“Inspired by the previous app icon, the new one represents a simpler camera and the rainbow lives on in gradient form,” Instagram said on Wednesday.
More specifically how they came to that conclusion after experimenting with various designs:
“Since these early ‘flattening’ explorations lacked the visual weight of the original, we turned our focus to figuring out exactly what people loved about the classic icon and how we could carry that over,” said Spalter. “Anecdotally, we knew that people loved the rainbow and the camera lens was a key visual element. As a part of our process, we also asked people at the company to draw the Instagram icon from memory in 5 seconds. Almost all of them drew the rainbow, lens, and viewfinder.”
Also something interesting I noticed is that the gradient seems to reflect many sunset photos captured and shared on the app.
Creating One Visual Identity
It was no secret that the Instagram app suite was inconsistent visually. By redesigning, they could reel in the entire app suite under one look and feel.
Why They Removed Color from the Inside-App Experience
“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,” said Spalter. “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.”
Bottom line—they want the only color from within the app to come from the photos of their users. This puts an increased emphasis on those photos, and in my view (regardless of whether you love it or hate it), is a formal celebration of the end-user in a big way.
Reactions … In Short: the World Lost Its Mind
Much like when Spotify unveiled a new brand color (quite a significant hue difference) and when Uber showcased a new icon, the world is losing its mind.
Here’s a run-down of what some media sources have to say:
- “The redesign suggest the company felt its interface was getting in the way of that content. Instagram figures that a flatter, whiter, and less cluttered interface will only serve to enhance your (and advertiser’s) photos and videos.” —Liz Stinson, WIRED
- “It may well go down as one of the biggest design fails of the year … Unfortunately, while it may render better in some environments, it’s a very forgettable image that will get lost on people’s phones amid the thousands of other similarly uninspired designs of most tech apps. It’s a bit baffling how this is considered an improvement—indeed, why they felt there was a need to ‘modernize’ at all.” —Timm Nudd, creative editor at Adweek
- “Overall, we all knew this day would come at that no icon would ever match the short-range nostalgia that the old icon evokes resulting in instant rejection of the new one but, from all the 2015 – 16 design standards, this is as good as it gets with a simple, friendly, gradienty icon. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to see what other people are doing that I’m not.” —UnderConsideration // Brand New
- “Instagram’s Polaroid-y logo was always too on-the-nose and overly ironic for the world’s biggest photo and video sharing app, and I think the change came at just the right moment. You keep doing you, Instagram, and I’ll keep wasting hours of my day scrolling past identical top-down shots of pizza.” —Josh Scherer, Los Angeles Magazine
Reviews from media sources are pretty mixed from what I could uncover. Everyone else, however, seems to be decided on one side, which can be summed up in one Michael Scott GIF.
At least, that’s what I can gather from deep diving in discussion threads and social media.