Logos, Brand Recognition and Getting a Grip

Oh Geez. Another Instagram rebrand opinion.

To set the record straight, you will not find in the following paragraphs a soapbox-bitch-session containing pedantic thoughts on whether or not I like the new Instagram logo, if my life is going to forever be changed because of the new logo and 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 gonna happen here.

What is this big deal with logos and branding?

Great question. And to be quite honest, it really depends 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 moaning because of the bitching and moaning. There’s a whole team of people who love it. More who hate it. And even more who couldn’t give any less than the F**Ks you give if you hear that someone lost a sock after doing their laundry.

If you think about it, the irony is actually 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 above mentioned fields 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 just clip art, icons or 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 apparently finished all the routine 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 certain brand, how much it actually means to you, or even that you rely on it as much as you do… until it's gone, or changed, or the formula is revamped, packaging changed, and so on. Think about that favorite box of [let's face it, they're for sure some kind of 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 totally referring to even the mobile app icon display) is acceptable and often times goes unnoticed. But when it's been changed beyond recognition, and you think you have to suddenly find a whole new cookie to have that love-hate relationship with, you're no longer feeling all warm, fuzzy and comfortable. That brand loyalty, even for that brief moment, feels a disturbance in the force and it's not how you want customers to feel about you as a company.

No, I haven't lost site of the fact that it's a photo sharing app and more than half the people out there have no clue what I'm talking about because they never pay attention to those details or have never even used Instagram. But brand identity, awareness and recognition exist in full force. 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 absolutely 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 definitely 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 (ie: 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 it’s own. We all recognize brands whether we are grocery shopping, clothing shopping or using technology.

You see the Apple logo with nothing else but a blank page and you know instantly what company it is. 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, and I don’t care how big your company is, should always be done with purpose and care:

  • Why are you rebranding?
  • Do you NEED or just 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 really go 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)

At the end of the day, repeatedly ask yourself

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 major 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 being 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.

What I find interesting is that of the millions of people bitching and complaining about the Instagram rebrand (the same exact way they bitched about the Uber, JC Penny & Gap rebrands because they were either nonsensical or a blatant copy of another hugely recognizable brand), I’m willing to put money down that not a single one of these 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 really 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 felt subconsciously, when I saw the icon. That was the original intention and purpose behind the original 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 it's 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, despite the fact that they are actually not massive changes. Mostly, I'm not a fan because that extremely colorful new app icon has literally ZERO relationship 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 such a ‘shonda' over something people were (for the most part) using a million times a minute and couldn’t have cared less to ensure the app's interface had something, ANYTHING, to differentiate themselves from everything else (including text)?

Rant over.

Really, I don't actually care that the logo is kind of crappy and the interface is dead. In the end, I will still continue to use it. Admit it, so will you. I won’t get into deep conversations about the Instagram rebrand again and it will be yesterday’s news VERY soon because let's face it, we all know Drumpf will probably make some kind of idiotic comment about a woman he barely knows and we definitely need to be ready to start the 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 major 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 the Instagram rebrand?

I'd love to  hear  your thoughts. Do you agree? Disagree?

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