Five Lessons to Learn from Instagram’s Redesign


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Whenever a leading app or technology company makes the smallest change to their product, the internet gets angry.

When a complete redesign takes place, there’s an all-out Twitterstorm.

None of us like it when something familiar (and often comforting) changes with no warning, so these backlashes are understandable, if slightly disproportionate!

Recently, Instagram’s redesign was unveiled. Take a look at the new icon:

The new icon was accompanied by a complete overhaul of the app’s UI. The app is now devoid of almost all colour – apart from the photos – and is clean, minimalist and black and white. It certainly keeps the attention focused on the photos.

While the UI change was reasonably well received, reception for the new logo and icon have been almost exclusively negative. Here’s a snapshot of Twitter’s reaction:

In a blog post on Medium, Head of Design at Instagram Ian Spalter explained the rationale behind the change.

Regardless of whether you like the new icon, there are many lessons we can learn from Instagram’s redesign.

  1. Testing is key. A/B testing was carried out to see how user behaviour changed as a result of the sleeker UI and switch to white from blue. Clearly the feedback was positive, else the redesign wouldn’t have gone ahead! The response to the UI change has been far less hostile than the backlash from the logo change.
  2. Brand recognition should be the first ‘test’ of redesigns. The design team asked users to draw the old Instagram logo from memory. Design elements commonly recalled were the rainbow, the lens and the viewfinder. The designers ensured that these elements were present in the final design. However, it’s worth noting that the old rainbow is only present in the new gradient – hardly an obvious comparison, and it’s the gradient that’s come under the most criticism.
  3. Don’t misread your brand. Some critics of the logo have said that the new design strays too far from the brand’s roots. The retro-inspired icon of old has been dismantled and replaced with something that’s modern and minimalist – arguably the opposite of what the previous logo stood for.
  4. Minimalist = boring? Again, some have claimed that the new logo has lost its ‘soul’. It now no longer stands out from other app icons, and merely follows current icon design trends.
  5. The backlash probably doesn’t matter. You’ll get used to the logo change. It’s not going to stop your business from using Instagram. The new logo may not be a masterpiece, but does it matter to Instagram? Probably not.

Will Instagram listen to customer feedback?

It’s difficult to see Instagram backing down from any redesign, no matter how unpopular. After all, the backlash will dissipate and social media users will find something else to be outraged about. Every time you tap on that Instagram icon over the next couple of weeks, you may be slightly annoyed by the new design, but over time, you’ll stop caring.

After all, the app looks better than ever on the inside, and a logo alone won’t cause Instagram’s 400 million active users to tap the ‘uninstall’ button.

Remember Uber’s even more controversial icon change back in February? Almost everyone hated it. But the new icon’s still there. And we still use Uber.

Of course, it helps that these apps haven’t just reached critical mass – they’ve become integral parts of our culture. In some ways, these apps are in a position to dictate to customers – not the other way around.

The Instagram icon change may be loathed, but as long as the app still works effectively, and all our customers, friends and colleagues continue to use it – why on earth would businesses stop using it?

Anna Roberts
Anna Roberts has been a writer for nearly two decades and started taking it seriously during her time at university. She's worked as an online journalist and an agency copywriter, and is now Head of Content at a UK software startup. You'll find more of her writing on employee engagement, HR and business growth over at the RotaCloud blog. Anna is also a keen home baker, environmentalist, and bookworm.


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