Instagram shocked the world on Wednesday with a complete redesign of its app icon.
The change was surprising to many because Instagram’s icon has stayed frozen in time for more than five years. While most app icons became sleek, modern versions of their former selves following the launch of the redesigned iOS 7, Instagram’s icon remained unabashedly nostalgic — a throwback to the analogue cameras of old.
Instagram’s new design and icon took the app’s team of designers nine months to complete, according to Fast Company. They drew out the original icon by memory to boil down its main attributes and tested hundreds of possible icon designs.
That’s an impressive amount of effort for an icon redesign. What’s even more impressive is that the original Instagram icon — one of the most famous app icons ever created — was designed by just one guy in 45 minutes.
The guy is Cole Rise, a professional photographer and designer. Rise told Tech Insider about how an unexpected phone call from Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom resulted in him quickly designing the icon for one of the most popular apps on earth.
In the fall of 2010, Rise got a phone call from Systrom. The two were friends at the time. The first version of Instagram had been available on the iPhone for two weeks, and Apple had decided to feature it on the home page of the App Store.
The only problem was the icon, which at the time looked like this:
The icon had been designed by Systrom, but it looked too similar to an existing camera from Polaroid. Systrom needed something that was unique. Rise was an early beta tester of Instagram, and Systrom came across an icon he had designed on Dribble that was based on an old Bell & Howell camera from the 1940s.
It looked like this:
Systrom liked it, and he asked Rise to modify the icon before sending the app’s assets to Apple. The only catch was that Apple needed the assets in an hour or else Instagram wouldn’t be featured, which was the main way apps could get exposure early on.
Rise, who was one of Instagram’s first beta testers, wanted to help. “I said maybe I could rework it for you. He said, ‘You have an hour.'”
In less than an hour, Rise had made this:
The Bell & Howell camera had two lenses, so Rise turned one of them into a viewfinder. He also decided to slap a rainbow on the left side of the camera with the “INST” abbreviation.
“I called him back in 45 minutes and he was like, ‘Dude, yes thank you.”” Rise remembered.
The app was featured by Apple with Rise’s icon, and he worked with Systrom’s small team over the next six months to refine the icon into what stuck for years:
Rise went on to serve as a design consultant for Instagram and make several of the app’s filters, including the appropriately named “Rise.”
So what does Rise think of the new logo now?
“I’m really happy they finally did it,” he said. “Change is hard for people. It’s hard to drastically shift a visual language when people are used to another thing. It takes a lot of guts to do it… It’s hallowed ground.”
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