Defending Instagram’s New Logo – Yes, that’s right

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As the saying goes – only two certainties in life; death and taxes.  So it was with Instagram, as the highly iconic, if not, sub-generation call-to-arms, logo gets a ‘controversial’ revamp.

The response to the new logo has been audibly negative, if not outright dismissive.   However, from a brand perspective it is defendable, and may actually be a strategically astute move.

Here’s our semiotic take on the biggest thing to unsettle the internet since Drake shaved his beard .. or was that first, need to check my Instagram.

The original logo as iconic, but visually verbose, sticking-out in weirdly un-symmetrical ways – a kind of celebrated ugliness if you like.   For an upstart, virally app, the chunkiness of Instagram signalled a form of rebellious individualism, a daring move that meant there was more to life than Facebook.  It stood out on a mobile interface, as particularly retro and daring to ‘step outside the lines of app-ism’.

However, fast-forward to 2016, Instagram is not just a photo-based app, it is a full social phenomena and experience – a driver and accumulator of cultural change, trends and movements.

Now re-read that last sentence, then picture the old logo … and that gives me ‘an in’ to discuss why the new logo was a strategically smart move.

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The old and the new

So enough with the player hating, what’s good about the new logo? 

  • It takes the visual reference point away from the ‘act of photography’ to the ‘possibility of experience’  – semiotically speaking, it has moved from descriptive visual messaging (an actual camera), to abstract visual messaging (suggestion of a sunrise or energy source).  The key effect, is the brand experience is far more ‘open’ to consumers, in line with the new reality of Instagram, a result of its very success.
  • It is an update on the original, not a replacement – semiotically speaking, key visual equities has remained in the new logo, specifically; the iconography of a click-camera, represented by the white lines in the design.
  • The new logo represents the possibility of different contexts – semiotically speaking, the old logo represents a retro image of click-photography, the rustic (aka dull) browns signify a particularly temporality, or instance in time.  The new logo has deliberately chosen a colour palette that does not ‘anchor’ in any particular time, era or movement – it is essentially post-modern, the reality of the eclectic and democratic way that Instagram is used by its users.

So in the long run, my sense is that the new logo will become as equally synonymous with the brand as the original.   If this leads to brand abandonment it will be surprising, akin to Bieber fans deserting Justin because he dyed his hair blond.

To gain clarity on branding challenges, often it is necessary to use some ‘geek power’.  In China, semiotics and wider cultural approaches are arguably even more applicable than other markets, as brands have not yet fully leveraged the power of visual and cultural meaning in this market.

About Author

Jerry Clode

Jerry Clode is Head of Digital & Social Insight at Resonance. He leads Resonance SMART, providing leading-edge research, strategy and naming for brands in China using bespoke methodologies. Jerry also produces Resonance's popular China Social Branding Report, a bi-weekly publication covering modern marketing methods of the world's top brands.

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