Instagram took the world by storm. At a time when people used mobile phones to snapshot their life’s best moments – Instagram swooped in with a place to share them. Along with its accelerated success came one of the world’s most recognizable logos.
Instagram has come a long way from the photo-sharing app it started as. The Instagram logo has changed to reflect that, moving from vintage and nostalgic – to modern and bright. As the 2nd most popular app in the world, there are a few things to learn about how the iconic Instagram logo evolved.
We’ll cover the evolution of the Instagram logo, and what made it a successful app logo in the past and present. Let’s dive in!
The creation of Instagram
In 2010, you may have been standing in line for the new iPhone 4, or begging your parents to get you a phone with a 5MP camera. It was the perfect storm of accessible high-quality phone cameras, mobile apps, and social sharing.
Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, the founders of Instagram, decided to start a social app that allowed people to easily share images from their mobile phones. They wanted to invite that nostalgic feel of an instant camera. Candid, grainy, and filtered into aesthetic bliss.
But, they also wanted to create an Instagram community by adding the option to follow accounts, “love” photos, and comment.
And so, the Instagram app was born!
The evolution of the Instagram logo
Let’s cover the transition from vintage to modern and the history of why. We’ve also included quotes from their designers and creatives!
The original Instagram logo
Although short-lived, the original Instagram logo was designed by its founder Kevin Systrom and launched on iOS only.
The Instagram logo design relies solely on a logo symbol that fits into the dimensions of an app icon. But, it wasn’t long before the founders agreed that their app icon had issues with trademarks. They needed something that would resonate with their growing user base and stand out from app store competitors. And so, the first logo redesign was in the works!
2010-2011: The first logo redesign
Source: Cole Rise on Dribble
After seeing an icon design of an old Bell & Howell camera from the 1950s, Systrom commissioned its designer, Cole Rise, to create a similar logo for Instagram. It needed to stay true to its brand personality, but have longevity as the app evolved.
Rise recalls, “He (Systrom) said, ‘We can’t use our current icon because of trademark stuff, so I was wondering if we could buy an old icon you had done.’ He was referring to an icon I had designed that was inspired by a Bell & Howell camera, an 8mm camera from the ’50s.” Below is the icon in question. Looks familiar, right?
Shortly after, the first Instagram logo redesign was launched. The icon design changed drastically but kept a few key components that held onto its logo recognizability.
“I made this brand-new imaginary camera that was Bell & Howell-inspired, with elements of the old icon so it was an easier transition,” Rise said.
Try designing your own vintage logo now!
Key elements of the Instagram logo
The logo symbol
The focus was placed on the camera lens and viewfinder. The designer simplified the angles and dimensions but maintained the depth and realistic touch of the camera lens and viewfinder.
Over a few months, Rise tweaked the logo to make it even more realistic. He added an overhead light effect to illuminate the icon. Along with a leather panel, he widened and brightened the contrast of the rainbow, and added depth and detail to the camera lens.
The color palette
The logo colors were earthy brown leather and sandy beige accented by the rainbow stripe to keep that 80’s vintage color palette nostalgia. It’s a great balance between modern-day design and vintage aesthetic!
The wordmark label was shortened into an uppercase sans serif “INST” originally. But months later it was replaced with a more traditional serif font and changed to “Insta”.
This would be the beloved Instagram logo for the next five years, and it would remain even when Facebook (now Meta) purchased it for a cool $1 Billion in 2012.
2016: The iconic gradient
Few logo redesigns had the shock and awe that came the morning Instagram released its iconic gradient logo.
Instagram had evolved into a platform that was teeming with communities, creators, and new content formats like Reels and Stories. Simply put, the old logo didn’t encompass all that Instagram was about.
Most importantly, competitors like Snapchat, Vine, and TikTok were all pulling at the same user base and getting all the app store buzz. With the technological and social landscape shifting, the pressure was on for a drastic refresh of the brand identity.
The process behind the new Instagram logo
To start, the designer of Instagram’s new look, Ian Spalter, wanted to uncover the true essence of what people loved and recognized about the Instagram logo.
Using these traits as the basis of the new logo, Spalter and his team decided to “translate these elements into a more modern app icon that strikes a balance between recognition and versatility.”
Why the gradient colors?
The original Instagram logo redesign embedded the rainbow stripe details into the minds of users. Spalter took the dated 80s rainbow and tried to make it modern. But, with a touch of energy and warmth.
He said, “Reimagining the rainbow, we looked at more minimal options, but ultimately we needed more warmth and energy to complement the glyph.”
As the gradient grew into a graphic design trend, they chose to use a gradient of yellow, orange, hot pink, and purple.
It was the perfect way to hold a “retro” look but bring it into the modern world. It’s Lavalamp-esque!
The Instagram glyph
Having found the basic elements that made the new Instagram logo design recognizable, Slater said he landed on a glyph that still suggests a camera, but also sets the groundwork for years to come.
This reductionist approach yielded a flat icon and a rounded shape or “squircle” that’s more flexible and scalable than the original. Plus, it was easy to place on anything! It could be easily used in Instagram posts, print, marketing ads, invoices, a business card, and more.
Instagram logo criticism
The beloved Instagram logo came under scrutiny when it emerged as a flat icon on a bed of fluorescent gradients in 2016. Most users hated it and couldn’t recognize the retro camera icon they were so used to.
The flat logo design was a trend started by the Apple logo and it was so vastly different from the original, people were in shock. Few people voiced a positive reaction to such a sudden and drastic change to an app used daily by over a billion people.
A Times technology reporter Mike Isacc stated “This will all blow over, just like it always does with Facebook and Twitter,” he said. “Instagram has hit critical mass. You may think neon is ugly, but I guarantee you’ll still be back using the app again tomorrow.”
And it did! Do you even recall the last time you thought about the old Instagram logo?
2022: The 3D gradient
By 2022, Instagram was a 12-year-old institution that was quickly looking old and tired to its younger (and more socially active) users. It was falling behind in downloads and video editing capability, and sinking behind the negative press swarming Facebook (now Meta).
To garner attention, Instagram released a new visual identity. Namely a blinding upgrade to the gradient and a new Instagram Sans font to accompany the minimal app layout.
In a press release, Instagram stated “We worked with 3D digital artist and motion designer Rose Pilkington. Rose created a digital light that can be customized depending on the application, where the gradient is unique every time it’s used.”
Interactive and animated brand experiences are a branding trend that highlights a more dynamic user experience. We suspect Instagram wanted to create a more-eye catching app icon that re-highlights the app’s “Stories” and “Reels” features.
Lessons from the Iconic Instagram logo evolution
Instagram has had a powerful logo evolution over time. As an iconic app logo – it’s important to remember the following as takeaways:
- Mobile-first logos prioritize standing out from competitors
- Color needs to be used intentionally to communicate the product industry and identity
- Wordmarks aren’t great choices for apps that aren’t established. They’re hard to read in small sizes!
- Monograms and logo symbols dominate the app logo industry due to their legibility in small sizes
- Logo symbols or imagery is more powerful than words for app logos – use an image to convey a thousand words!
Frequently asked questions
Why did Instagram change its logo?
Instagram had evolved into more than a photo editing and sharing platform. It was teeming with communities, creators, and new content formats like Reels and Stories. Simply put, the old logo didn’t encompass all that Instagram was about.
When was the Instagram logo first introduced?
The first Instagram logo made its appearance in 2010. It was only available on iOS at the time and had to be redesigned because it resembled a Polaroid instant camera too much.
Who designed the Instagram logo?
The first new Instagram logo redesign in 2010 was designed by graphic designer Cole Rise. The 2016 gradient Instagram logo redesign was designed by Ian Spalter and the Instagram creative team.
How has the Instagram logo changed over time?
The Instagram logo has evolved from a vintage camera logo icon that eludes to instant photos, grainy Polaroid filters, and retro aesthetic to a modern and creative platform that supports video and photography. It also holds communities of creators, shops, and endless inspiration.
Can you use the Instagram logo?
Yes! You can download the Instagram brand colors, glyph, and logo from the Instagram brand guidelines page. Be sure to follow the rules of logo use outlined in their brand identity.
How do I get an Instagram logo?
You can get an Instagram logo by following these steps:
If you’re looking to add the Instagram logo icon to your business card or invoices, you can download the full Instagram logo pack on the Instagram brand assets page.
What is the concept of the Instagram logo?
The Instagram logo concept is an instant camera. Over time, the Instagram logo has evolved from a realistic-looking instant camera logo icon, into a glyph logo symbol that still holds the identifiable features of a camera and the recognizability as the Instagram icon.
How do you copy the symbol on Instagram?
You can copy the symbol on Instagram by downloading it from the brand assets page.