Wednesday 18 May 2016 11:10 am

Instagram’s rebrand has made the app lose its charm: Why brands need to avoid the trap of over-design

The unveiling of Instagram's new logo has handed us another example of a successful digital brand that has unwittingly sacrificed its ownable assets in pursuit of "modernity".

Like Uber, which had a redesign in February, Instagram has removed what made it distinctive to fit into the environment it sits, in a bid to appeal to its young, modern audience.

And as a result, it has become generic.

Read more: Ride hailing app Uber has changed its logo and branding

There was charm, warmth and something endearing about the retro analogue image of the camera within the old Instagram logo. But now all that character has been designed out so that the brand "fits in" with the app-hungry millennial generation.

Clearly, Instagram is trying to replicate what it sees as being the qualities and design cues that this audience is looking for. But in doing so, the brand has lost its charisma, and some of its soul. And what's more, as with Uber, we don't recognise the app when we turn on our smartphones.

Brands must remember the importance of iconography and recognisable symbols: in today's fast-paced and visual world, a familiar icon and brandmark is a must for modern consumers.

Read more: Instagram reveals UK user numbers for the first time

What Instagram had with its old logo was a sense of vintage authority: the nod to the old-style camera was indicative of its look and feel as a brand, and was directly linked to what it offered consumers: the chance to change photographs into modern classics with filters and effects.

If a rebrand was needed at all, it should have been only to enhance and update this sense of vintage style, not replace it with a vibrancy that doesn’t sit well with the brand’s personality.

It's essential for brands to identify and unlock what makes them special and charismatic.

Read more: Why design is finally having its day

Whether this is a rich family history, a unique ability to offer their customers something different, or a strong social purpose, there is always something that will make your brand rise above the crowd.

It's vital that design ties into these authentic brand truths and amplifies them, making them central to the brand and its visual assets.

Design changes must be driven by genuine business needs, and deliver a solution. If a rebrand is pursued purely for the sake of it, it can lack purpose and depth and end up seeming like a vanity project, not an effective business strategy.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.