Instagram icons get a makeover

This year has already been one of big changes at Instagram, and today that has become more visible, as the company reveals a dramatically different icon and design for the photo- and video-sharing app.

The updates, said Instagram head of design Ian Spalter, simply reflect the more broad ways in which people use Instagram and its family of apps, Layout, Boomerang and Hyperlapse, which also get new looks in the makeover. The Instagram logo, he said — the most recent of which was the brand’s third iteration — had begun to feel not reflective of the community. “Frankly,” he said. “We thought we could make it better.”

When Instagram users update the app today, they will see not only a new icon but a simpler interface within the app that was reimagined to give more focus to the content. Company founder Kevin Systrom designed the first two Instagram logos, while the third, which gets booted today, was in play for the longest.

Although this is the most immediately noticeable change to Instagram, it also is implementing updates that will have a more significant impact on marketers.

On Tuesday, Instagram opened up “dynamic ads” to all of its advertisers, after a testing period. The dynamic ad formats have already been available on Facebook and are a way for brands that advertise on Instagram to customize the ads that users see. Dynamic ads mean that when a mobile user visits a web site or app, then later visits Instagram, they will be shown products in an ad related to that search. The dynamic ads can be a standard link ad or multiproduct carousel ad.

Marketers who already use dynamic ads on Facebook will be familiar with the process, which allows them to upload an entire product catalog (up to two million items), then either elect to target certain products to specific audiences or let Facebook and Instagram automatically deliver the most relevant products to people, based on actions on websites and apps, demographic profile and activity on Facebook. Users might see the last items seen, the top-selling items from a category or items similar to ones that they are browsing.

According to Facebook, more than 2.5 billion products have been uploaded onto Facebook and 440 million people have viewed products in dynamic ads on Facebook in the last three months.

While Instagram’s numbers pale in comparison, it hopes to catch up. In April’s earnings call with investors, Facebook chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg said Instagram is growing, with more than 400 million active users and more than 200,000 businesses advertising on Instagram every month. That’s compared to Facebook’s three million active advertisers.

Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg called Facebook and Instagram “the two most important mobile ad platforms out there.” “We have this very broad reach on both platforms,” she said, “plus the ability to target very specifically.”

Both platforms have seen more users share and watch video content, and they’re encouraging marketers to follow suit. As of February, Sandberg shared, the time people spend watching videos on Instagram increased by more than 40 percent over the preceding six months. In March, Instagram expanded the length of video shares to 60 minutes, from 15 seconds.

“This,” she said, “presents a big opportunity for marketers.”

Already, media brands have jumped on this trend by creating video portraits specifically for Instagram — an evolution of last year’s portrait studios from events like the Oscars after party, in the case of Vanity Fair. Recent examples include Esquire at Sundance, Vanity Fair’s studio at the White House Correspondents Dinner after party, and Vogue at the Met Gala.

Finally, Instagram has begun testing changes to its news feed, called Feed Ranking, that would move away from an exact chronological display to prioritizing the posts that users are most likely to want to see. This, Zuckerberg said, is an effort to make Instagram’s user experience more engaging, adding that the increasing amount of content shared on Instagram meant that users miss about 70 percent of what’s in their feed.

Overall, Spalter said the evolution of Instagram has been “inspiring.” “Our hope is that people will see this app icon as a new creative spark — something to have fun with and make their own. We’re excited for where this will take us.”