This month saw the unveiling of the Instagram re-brand and a bright, vibrant new look that has largely gone down well among users and the wider general public. Like the vast majority of brands, they were seeking to stay current and relevant in a competitive market place and to keep users engaged with their products and services. Keeping a brand fresh is increasingly challenging and fast-paced in a society that demands instant gratification and constant stimulation. The emergence of so called flexi-brands is an indication of the constant evolution that brands are having to go through.
What is interesting is the debate that this particular re-brand has raised in the creative community, with many designers accusing Instagram of just going with the trend of simplification and abandoning the integrity of the brand. It has been mocked by some for its hipster aesthetic and lack of personality. The opposing view is that it is a positive update that meets the need of the modern user. Either way, the fact that they released a video explaining all of the hard work that went in to the re-design suggests that they may have not been that confident about it.
The flat, simplistic style has become the norm for many brands. The icon style is versatile and scalable, which will always attract businesses looking to roll out a brand across a wide range of touch points and media. However, critics have cited this style as being too generic and sucking the personality out of brands, even dumbing them down for a lazy audience who can’t stand the thought of any detail.
Guinness recently underwent its own identity update, with the iconic harp getting a refresh that was heralded by some as the beginning of the end for the flat, minimalist trend. However, the creators of the updated brand were quick to point out that the redesigned corporate identity was focused on authenticity and heritage, not going against a fashion. Indeed, the designers wanted to communicate the craft that the Guinness brand values preach. Of course, the heritage theme is itself a trend that many brands have tried to employ, with varying degrees of success.
So where does that leave us? Well what is vital to a brand is to be true to its values and not simply follow a trend that has been embraced by others. Whether we like it or not, brands do need to constantly evolve to meet the needs and tastes of the consumer, but not at the cost of the brand’s integrity. People will always engage with a brand that has a clear and interesting voice. Whether you go for the simple, minimalist look or not, the real question is whether your branding is extolling the values and culture of your business. People will not buy from you because you look like everyone else; they will buy from you because you stand for something and have a voice worth listening to.