04 June 2016

Instagroan

I'd avoided Instagram for a time, mostly for the sake of efficiency. Between Twitter and Flickr, my photo sharing platform needs were covered. There's also the hipster part of me who turned up his nose as Instagram's whole "we make vintage/experimental photos easy" modus operandi, presenting themselves as a digital version of Lomography. As someone who owns a Holga 120S and has developed his fair share of film, I felt a little disgusted at the pushbutton setup of Instagram. Over time, this bias cooled down to a tolerable indifference, though I still never bothered signing up.
Recently, though, after downloading Nintendo's Miitomo app, I ended up giving in and expanding my Facebook account into the virtual Lomo service. My impression: yeah, it's all right, I guess.

Going back to the "Lomo App" image, it is somewhat comforting that Instagram has admittedly never tried to offer themselves as a replacement to gimmicky film cameras like Holgas or old Polaroids (that was more the work of some of its fans, for which no one can really be blamed), but rather a tribute to the medium, one that embraces the flaws of vintage/amateur photography and, much like Lomography, markets those flaws as features. Light leaks and poor color and double exposures are considered technical shortcomings that would have been the bane of any pro's career, but to artists and people less discerning of their photos' presentation, it's character. It's rough and unrefined, yet authentic and honest. This nostalgia even extended to their logo, a brown-and-cream-colored box camera complete with rainbow sticker. Right away, from that logo, you knew you weren't getting some high-end "unleash your phone's true potential" sort of app. You were getting a virtual version of that old Polaroid or Instamatic you or your folks had growing up, and that's okay.

So, what the Hell happened?

A few months ago, Instagram changed out the off-white bakelite logo for something that not only looks like the lazy byproduct of someone trying out the gradient tool in a drawing program, but also completely deprives the app of any sort of identity. I think it's a mistake for your app to be partly cut out or translucent in any way. App tiles always look their best when they look like plaques or badges or buttons. The old logo was especially cute because it looked like a physical object. Specifically, it resembled an old instant camera from around the late 60s to early 70s, the kind where you had to wait a few seconds before peeling away a bit of sticky tissue paper away from your photo. The new logo looks like nothing. It doesn't resemble a real camera, and doesn't evoke any particular time period. The magenta and yellow gradient has an early 90s vibe to it, but the die-cut, simplified outline is distinctly of this decade (which, bear in mind, we've only got four years left in). It simply reeks of pandering and compromise. It plays it safe and tries to be liked by everyone at the expense of its personality.
What I suggest is that if we use the original logo as a baseline, why not simply push forward ten years? Sure, some of us might be sick of the 80s retro love heralded by Adam Sandler's Wedding Singer and the more recent Far Cry spin-off Blood Dragon, but maybe Instagram is the one place no one would mind it. Hell, they might even embrace it.

Bring on the chrome, Tron graphics, and neon cursive.

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