What Instagram’s New Brand Identity Tells Us About 2023 Graphic Design Trends.

In May of 2022, Instagram deployed significant updates to their creator tools, including improvements to Reels, Lives, and several other features that make it easier for creators to interact with their audiences. They also unveiled an entirely new brand identity that expanded upon their iconic 2016 logo refresh. This huge project (arguably the most significant rebrand of 2022) flew mostly under the radar due to Instagram’s other product updates. However, it exposed several design trends that we will definitely be seeing more of in 2023.

The two iconic Instagram logos side-by-side
The two iconic Instagram logos side-by-side


The last 5 years have seen the popularization of minimal, [cm_tooltip_parse]brutalist designs[/cm_tooltip_parse] from the minds of Peter Savile, among others. With an emphasis on legibility and contrast, these designs have been accused of being too simplistic and devoid of individuality. In fact, many people (mainly in social media) have dubbed this phenomenon: “[cm_tooltip_parse]Blanding[/cm_tooltip_parse].”

The “Blanding” Catastrophe of 2019. Source: Twitter
The “Blanding” Catastrophe of 2019. Source: Twitter

However, the folks over at Instagram seem to be switching it up. Upon entering the new Instagram brand site, visitors are immediately confronted with bold imagery, the Instagram logo, and a uniquely curved arrow that points downward. This arrow is one of many icons included in their new typographic package: Instagram Sans.

Instagram Sans is not what you might expect. Far from its clean-cut predecessor, Proxima Nova, it emphasizes curved glyphs and inconsistent kerning. While the designs of the last decade may be defined by words such as “unobtrusive,” and “elegant,” it seems as if Instagram is ushering in an era of “quirky,” “unexpected,” and “symbolic.” In other words, Instagram Sans is signifying the end of the “blanding” era.

An Endlessly Surprising Typeface. Source: Instagram
An Endlessly Surprising Typeface. Source: Instagram

Though the typography itself presents a fascinating exploration, Instagram Sans is much more than just a new typeface: it represents the resurgence of [cm_tooltip_parse]neo-expressionism[/cm_tooltip_parse] in modern design. The team at Instagram wrote that “Instagram Sans is a contemporary remix of grotesque and geometric styles. The type is designed with accessibility and global scripts at the core, able to express a range of styles in any language.” The most important sentiment to note is that Instagram Sans has “remixed” older geometric fonts to achieve a new, slightly funky style. Though this approach is certainly cutting-edge, it is not necessarily new.

In the late 1970s, the art world witnessed a similar reaction to the minimalist movement: neo-expressionism. This phenomenon featured highly stylized painting, and is often described as being “violently emotional.” Standing in opposition to conceptual simplicity, neo-expressionism aimed to be subjective and highly textural.

Sound familiar? I thought so too.

In 2018, the online creative magazine “It’s Nice That” published an article featuring then-art student Kenneth Vanoverbeke. The title was particularly relevant to the conversation at hand: “Expressionism but in Typography.” In this piece, Vanoverbeke expressed how his inspiration stemmed from the romantic period of art history. Specifically, he remarked that “We don’t see this very much in contemporary design, but typography can be so much more than a letter on a page meant to be read. I want typography to be a form of art — abstract shapes inspired by the image that is next to them.” 

It seems as if Vanoverbeke’s perspective on typography may be bleeding into the mainstream media, and even in the design choices of big tech. I, for one, am excited to see what outlandish designs may result from this pivot. It could get crazy, and I am excited about it.

Instagram’s 2022 Brand Identity Package

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