Instagram released a major app update earlier this week for iPhone and Android that brought some user interface changes as well as a major icon design change. Unsurprisingly, Instagram fans freaked out when they saw the logo change. That’s certainly understandable; after so many years of pressing that tiny skeuomorphic image of a Polaroid camera, the new logo is jarring to say the least.
Instagram probably expected the backlash, but the company wants you to know this change didn’t happen overnight. It took more than nine months of work to come up with the new logo design, Instagram told FastCoDesign, explaining that the change was needed.
“It’s a lot closer to the cameras that people use these days,” Instagram’s new head of design Ian Spalter revealed.
Before starting actual work on the icon, the design team asked the entire company to draw the old logo from memory in 10 seconds or less. “That gave us a sense of what was burned in,” Spalter said.
The camera lens, the rounded shape of the icon, and the little black viewfinder in the top right corner are the design elements that most people seemed to remember. In a way, the new logo is just an adaptation of the old one, a transition from an image that associates photo-taking with a regular camera to one that acknowledges the smartphone has become the primary photo-taking device. That’s why in the new logo, the viewfinder’s place is taken by a white dot that symbolizes a phone’s flash.
The rainbow gradient used in the logo was derived from the rainbow found in the old logo, on top of the “Insta” wording.
Instagram’s design team went through a variety of different concepts, as seen in the video above, before choosing a final option. After months of design work, the company then did qualitative research to see how people would react to the new icon.
“The most difficult part was once you decide to move on from a beloved icon, how far do you go?” Spalter said. “A lot of the process was figuring what to keep and let go. Are you evolving far enough or not enough, so that you’ll just end up revisiting it in a year?”
But Spalter did expect powerful reactions from fans. “Maybe I’ll take a vacation,” he said when asked if he’s ready for the backlash. “In a bunker.”
The team also had to make sure that the design change would work across platforms, not just on mobile, and that the new design language also fit Instagram’s other properties, including Boomerang, Hyperlapse and Layout.
The user interface changes that concern the iOS and Android apps were meant to make the app feel more at home on those platforms. Rather than giving Instagram a unique design, designers created buttons and action screens that fit either iPhone or Android.