On Wednesday, a new icon and interface for the hugely popular app Instagram was unveiled. Its previous app icon was a classic and one you could easily see hanging on the wall in the 'tech start-up hall of fame'. The design was very much of its time; embodying a detailed skeuomorphic style – which although dated – still holds a place in my heart. Much like how the previous icon fitted nicely into Apple’s skeuomorphic interface, it now does the same, adopting a flatter design that falls in line with the preferred digital design style. However the result is an icon that lacks the distinction of its predecessor.
Whereas the previous icon had personality, detail and distinction, it conveyed what the app was about: access to vintage style filters to mimic a traditional camera. This was all achieved on such a small canvas - a great design example.
The new icon is simpler and uses a vibrant gradient background, which is perfectly fine, though you could argue it isn’t discernible amongst the hundreds of other apps out there. However, I'm aware that Instagram is no longer just a photography app, it's a social media platform. So, I can understand the need to modernise the icon and interface to make it scalable and position it as such. On the subject of the interface, gone are the heavy blue bars in favour of a clean black and white design that does a great job of putting emphasis on photography - a win for advertisers and users alike. In fact, this is my favourite update to the app. It’s also worth noting that Instagram’s ‘sister apps’ Boomerang, Layout and Hyperlapse have all received an update too, aligning them with the core app which makes sense and creates a nice house of brands for them.
It’s interesting to ask: how significant a change is the new icon? New users will see this as Instagram with no knowledge of its previous look, whereas current users will get over their nostalgia and eventually familiarise themselves with the new look. In fact, I hadn't noticed the icon had changed at all as my muscle memory kicked in and my thumb went straight to the app on my iPhone. It wasn't until I saw the interface that I noticed something had changed. In addition, this is Instagram we’re talking about, not a start-up trying to gain traction in the saturated app market. A lot of digital start-ups differentiate themselves by what they offer. For instance, Uber and Facebook both have fantastic products, they could have the ugliest logo and interface in the world I will continue to use them. Instagram aren’t much different, their brand is deeper than their aesthetics, the user experience and interaction counts for so much and since that’s not changed I don’t foresee their user base changing either.
Overall, this was an inevitability and its design fits nicely with the current style, with the interface being a good step forward. However, I think it lacks the distinction of its predecessor and falls rather blandly in line with multiple other apps, even dissimilar ones, on the market. Although, such is its ubiquity we will eventually get used to it and its unlikely to cause any real harm to the brand. Now excuse me, my breakfast won’t photograph itself.