Logos, Brand Recognition and Getting a Grip on Instagram’s Change

Oh Geez. Another Instagram rebrand opinion.

To set the record straight, you will not find here a soapbox-bitch-session containing pedantic ramblings about whether or not I like or dislike the new Instagram logo. If my life will be forever changed due to a company's logo or mobile layout, or if I think Instagram’s rebranding is a sign that the world is about to end. If that’s what you’re expecting, I’m sorry to disappoint you. It’s not going to happen here.

What is this big deal with logos and branding?

Great question. And to be quite honest, it depends on who you ask. If you do a Google search right now with the terms “Instagram rebrand” or “new Instagram logo,” etc., I assure you, there will a lot of bitching, moaning and peppered inside of all that, you’ll see more bitching and whining because of the bitching and moaning. There are a whole lot of people who love it and more who hate it. And then the group of people couldn’t care less than the F**Ks you give if you hear about someone losing a sock after finishing their laundry.

If you think about it, the irony is quite beautiful.

Here’s the thing…

Brand Identity and by extension, brand recognition is a much bigger deal than the majority of consumers realize. The folks who work in the creative field designing logos, branding experts, public relations professionals, advertising execs, and pretty much any other type of designer, will surely have a strong opinion about this latest “fiasco” freely being referred to as

Oh My Gawd! Did you see the new Instagram logo? It’s an abomination!

Seriously people, get a grip.

The folks who don’t work in any of the fields mentioned above may likely fall into the “Who gives a crap? My dog just farted.” crowd. And I’m cool with that. But…

I thought logos were simple clip-art, icons, and bullshit elements. Who cares?

You do. You may not realize it, but you do. Here’s why:

I am a consumer. We all are. I use the Instagram app frequently. Today, after I finished all the regular updating to apps on my phone without giving any of them a second glance, I took a photo and started the process of sharing on Instagram. Then it happened.

Wait. Um. Where… is…. Instagram?

THAT is the issue. Right there. I am absolutely 100%, not the only one who had this reaction. I say that with confidence (see above reference to the apocalyptic responses). Mine wasn't nearly as dramatic, but you get the idea.

You don't realize how much of an attachment you might have with a particular brand, how much it means to you, or even that you rely on it as much as you do… until it's gone, product formulas change, the packaging looks different, and so on. Think about that favorite box of [let's face it, they are your favorite cookies] and you have a moment of panic thinking,

Holy crap! Wait. Where are my cookies? I can't live without my cookies! That's all I even came into this damn store for in the first place and they don't make them anymore?

And then you realize they just changed the entire packaging. And you're both relieved and equally annoyed. A tweak or slight change in the packaging (and by packaging, I'm referring to even the mobile app icon display) is acceptable and often goes unnoticed. But when we notice things have changed beyond recognition, and you feel you may have to find a brand new cookie to develop a love-hate relationship with, you're no longer feeling all warm, fuzzy, and comfortable. Your brand loyalty, even for that brief moment, feels a disturbance in the force, and it's not how you want customers to think about your company.

No, I haven't lost sight of the fact that it's a photo sharing app. Many people have no clue what I'm talking about because they don't pay attention to the fine-print details or have never used Instagram. Properly Instagram feeds exhibit incredible brand identity, which creates brand awareness and brand recognition faster. Subconscious or not, it's there, and it's not going away.

What happens when an internationally recognized brand makes a drastic change?

For one thing, the majority of people typically go Nuckin' Futz! And there have been a handful of brands recently who went this route:

Let’s change shit up and never look back!

When your business has a logo (and I say that with the hopes that your company has a properly well-designed logo, but that’s a whole other story for a very different time), that logo becomes something more than just that little icon on your profile avatar. It’s more than part of your email signature, and it’s more than the “identity” at the top of your website (unless you like treasure hunts and place your logo at the bottom corner because you NEED to reinvent the wheel – everyone loves that).

Your logo in conjunction with the work your business does via any promotional medium (i.e., social media, your blog, advertising, presentations, tags on merchandise, etc), the logo becomes a recognizable “thing.” More than a thing. Something happens, and the logo takes on a whole life of its own. We all recognize brands whether we are grocery shopping, clothing shopping, or using technology.

When you see the Apple logo, alone on a blank page, you immediately know which brand is represented. Same with Nike, McDonald’s (and dare I suggest Uber – we’ll get to that in a minute). We’re talking about awareness. Recognition. Familiarity. Comfort. And for many, brand loyalty.

So what?

Rebranding no matter how big your company is should always be executed with purpose and handled with care.

  • Why are you rebranding?
  • Do you NEED or WANT to rebrand?
  • What are the pros/cons and potential blowback resulting from a rebrand?
  • Can your business afford to have any negative implications as the result of a rebrand? If so, are you prepared to deal with it?
  • Are you test marketing the new concept with your target demographic to get legitimate feedback before going public?
  • How far do you want to fantastic with the rebrand: Minor tweaks or real shit-disturbing change?
  • Does the new logo/rebrand even make any sense (cue the Uber rebrand – because I’ll just never understand what the hell that was all about, but I digress)

Remember to ask yourself repeatedly:

Why are we doing this?

Because although there are many people out there who think,

Even negative publicity is good publicity so who cares. Do it!

I do not share this sentiment. Sure, stirring the pot with your customers can have a negative outcome, and I don’t know of any business who wants to even think about that, let alone deal with it.

Come on, does it really matter?

Okay so in all fairness, it doesn’t matter for some of these huge brands, and I’ll bet there are a ton of people who won’t even be able to sleep tonight because they’re so upset over the Instagram rebrand.

For example, we all know and love [gag] when big companies make significant changes, the boycott petitions come out. People get uncomfortable and change is hard to handle. The opinions, ranting, and raving is so widespread, you might even question whether or not you even know who you are anymore. I mean, what on Earth are you going to do if that color changes?

It’s friggin’ hilarious if I'm honest. I’m sure I’ll get shot for saying this but, even as a graphic designer by trade, providing services which include logo design, I have been sitting back and observing the cataclysmic reaction some of the latest rebrands receive, and it’s mind-boggling.

I find it interesting that millions of people are bitching and complaining about Instagram's rebrand. The complaiunts are in the same form as when they bitched about Uber, JC Penny & Gap rebrands. Why? Because they were usually a blatant copy of another recognizable brand or nonsensical changes. I’m willing to bet not a single one of the people who were active patrons of those brands discontinued to shop or use the services those brands offer. Sure, people were irritated and pissed off over the logo changes (why SO upset, I’ll never know) but they continued to book Uber rides, Shop at JC Penny & Gap and even forgot about why they were so annoyed in the first place.

I mean, I don't know what in the world the new Uber logo is supposed to be all about (not to mention the overly complicated and more time-consuming booking process). I can't wrap my head around that one but I also know that if I need to book an Uber, I will. End of story.

But how do you feel?

Alright fine. I lied. I'm going to throw my opinion in the ring. Sue me. It's just an opinion; and Opinions are Like…

Do I like the new Instagram logo? Meh. In 36 hours (probably less, but I'm being liberal here), I’ll get used to it and forget it was even a blip on the radar of the millions of users. I liked the old one because of that nostalgia I subconsciously felt when I saw the icon. That was the original intention and purpose behind the unique logo in the first place, so I suppose: mission accomplished. I was used to it. I was familiar with it. I knew exactly where it was on my phone and could rely on it being in its place on my phone so I barely needed to think about it when I saw the app icon. Instagram has become a household word. And they went and changed it. Sure they didn't change the purpose of the app, but they changed the feeling, even if just for a minute — big friggin' deal.

However, I too had that 15-second lapse today. That moment of confusion over the change and not sure what I was looking at thinking to myself,

Where did Instagram go?

Then, in some amazing cosmic transformation, I figured it out, got over it, tapped the NEW (and not so improved) icon and proceeded to post my photos. Still worked. Crisis averted. Ahhhh.

What about the app's new interface design?

I’m not entirely a fan of the app's new interface, even though they are actually not massive changes. Mostly, I'm not a fan because that extremely colorful new app icon has literally ZERO relationships with the actual app interface itself. No cohesive identity stream and nothing that resembles that 31-Flavors-Iced-Cream-Cone icon we now have. That’s the part I wish didn't change.

It’s as if they (tried to) modernize the logo to be all colorful, emulating all the colors we capture in our brilliantly shared photos of food, and cats, and dogs, and selfies, etc. (har har har) and forgot that color existed. Really. All traces of color, depth and personality on the app's interface are in the cyberspace graveyard. Solid white background (and I mean SOLID from top to bottom), and thin black icons. That’s it. It's almost eerie. The entire screen looks desaturated b/c even the iOS (if you're on an iPhone) has the same small, simple black icons.

Oh! Now I get it.

They were probably thinking,

Let the photos speak for themselves. That’s the point of the app.

Okay, fair enough but… really? You need to create so much drama regarding something people are (for the most part) using a million times a minute. Many of the users could not have cared less to ensure the app's interface had something, ANYTHING, to differentiate themselves from everything else (including text)?

Rant over.

I don't care that the logo is kind of crappy and the interface is dead. In the end, I will continue to use it. Admit it, so will you. I won’t enter into a deep conversational rant about the Instagram rebrand. It will be yesterday’s news soon because let's face it, we all know “Drumpf” will probably make an idiotic comment about a woman he barely knows and we need to be prepared to begin that bitching and moaning process all over again.

Don’t mistake what I’ve written here folks.

I am a designer. I always will be. I care very much about concept, branding, the principles of design and the methodology behind the way everything comes together. From that perspective, I will always have an opinion about new designs and significant mainstream changes. But don't mistake that passion for design, for a deep seeded, loathing passionate hate for an ugly rebrand. Life is too short!

I do know one thing for certain. One thing that in all the years I've been around, living and learning, there's this:

You just can’t make ALL the people happy ALL the time.

So, I guess there are THREE guarantees in life (not just death and taxes).

(and “Opinions are like assholes…”)

What do YOU think about Instagram's rebrand?

I'd love to hear your thoughts. Do you agree or disagree with the public outcry? Do you like the new Instagram logo? Do you hate it? Do you care?

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