Keeping Up with the Cool Kids

Last week, Instagram launched a new logo. I usually stay away from commenting on large re-brands, because like the rest of the internet, I have my opinions on them, but I tend to be a little sympathetic towards the designers who work on the brands because for the most part, people are resistant to any change when it comes to a brand they care about. So they rant and post hilarious gifs and memes galore (which I’ll admit, amuse me tremendously) and then they forget all about it and move on with their lives, because well, we all have things to do, and let’s face it, a logo we don’t like is not going to stop us from enjoying free stuff.


So, like I always do when a large re-brand comes along, I read through opinion pieces and ponder them all a little (or a lot, depending on where on the scale of outrage, Gap to Airbnb, the new logo falls) But this time, a lot of what people had to say about the change, struck a chord with me. A Forbes article said, “Instagram’s icon stopped looking like it belonged on the Internet years ago.” and there’s definitely some truth to that. It also said “As a icon change the new one caters to the current web aesthetic” which I completely agree with. But therein lies the problem. It looks like everything. Yes, it now fits in with the cool kids- It’s totally in style, what with its clean white lines and bright gradient. It conforms. It fits. It’s invisible.

And for designers, this is a tough one to crack- How do you make your logo stand out, yet fit in. When iOS 7 launched with its flat design and gradients galore, the world followed. Out with skeuomorphism, in with rainbow gradients and clean lines. And now everything looks the same.

In 2013, I was working on project for an Indian e-commerce brand. They wanted a new identity- contemporary, minimal, that communicated their vast product offering and spoke about shopping and endless possibilities. One of the concepts I worked on, was a version of this:

Anya Rangaswami_Shopping Cart Icon-01

The feedback from the other designers on the team was clear, and i couldn’t argue it- The aesthetic looked too ‘iOS’ The gradient, the form- It was all too familiar. In 2015, the same brand was looking to launch an e-wallet, something along the lines of Paytm. One of the concepts I worked on, looked something like this:

Anya Rangaswami_Walltet Icon-01

The very next day, an iOS upgrade released and Passbook became Wallet. I didn’t even wait for peer feedback before moving on from my initial concepts.

The point I’m trying to make is this- When working on logos, specifically for apps on mobile devices, the pressure to ‘fit in’ in immense. I know a lot of designers who go through the same internal battle- Do I dare look different? Or should I worry more about fitting in? We all know our app icons will share screen space with hundreds more and no one wants to be weird new kid.

So we push ourselves to be new and different and ultimately wind up with something safe.

Which is why I was a little disappointed with the Instagram re-brand (and I speak of just the logo here). Surely, they can dare to do things differently. Their previous logo was rooted in the history of the brand and what inspired it, and while I agree that sometimes logos must evolve to keep up with the product and keep up with audiences, I wonder whether this could have been done differently. I don’t buy into the argument that millennials don’t care for the nostalgia or the ‘vintage’ feel Instagram was originally all about as justification for the new logo. I loved how something analog inspired something digital which in turn inspired something physical. I love how many more Polaroids and Instax and Lomography cameras I’ve seen in the last few years. Instagram inspired an equal love for the digital and analog when it came to photography. The new logo, to me, inspires nothing.


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