What is it about Instagram that so deeply appeals to Millennials? I mean, there are a lot of reasons, of course, but let's be real: The design of Instagram has, from the beginning, played a big role in why we love this app so much, and that design includes the font. So what is the Instagram font? What is it about it makes us want to add 50 filters to a photo of grilled cheese? Let's take a deep dive into the typographic history of Instagram's exceedingly pleasant design scheme.
"Instagram," a portmanteau of "instant camera" and "telegram" (yes, really) was created by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger in 2010 — which simultaneously seems very long ago, but also reminds me that I went through my first year of college sans Instagram and that fact seems a little unbelievable right now. In any event, by 2012, the free mobile app had 100 million active users; by 2014, that number had burgeoned to 300 million. There are currently about 400 million active users, which places Instagram at number eight on the list of most-used social networks worldwide. Around 48 million of those users are American Millennials. That's over 50 percent of the Millennial population in the United States, We love Instagram.
When Instagram was first launched, a major component of its appeal was the ~cool vintage~ vibe. Photos were limited to a square space, reminiscent of Polaroid SX-70 and Kodak Instamatic images (two cameras most popular in the late '60s and '70s) — and the original Instagram logo font was Billabong, created by design firm Type Associates. It looks like this:
Billabong, as many of you may already know, is also the name of a long-time surf and skate brand, originally founded in Australia in the 1970s. Billabong the font, a script-style font that is, per its name, reminiscent of the 1970s and surf culture, shares this name for a reason. The other fonts in Billabong's typographic family are considered to be styles like and Brophy Script and Montauk (like the surf-based town in The Hamptons).
Yes, truly very tubular. In 2013, with its brand continually growing, Instagram paired with designer Mackey Saturday to create a unique typeface for their logo. Multiple type-centric blogs have since referred to Billabong as "sloppy" and make note of the confusion caused by its "I" that kiiiiind of looked like a "g." Here's what the old and the new font look like in comparison:
And here's what the app itself looks like today:
In their summary of the design process for Instagram, Mackey Saturday notes, "The new Logotype connects with the nostalgia that Instagram was built from, maintains the important character of the original typeface, and places the brand in a unique and prominent position both in the current and future landscape." While you can now purchase the Billabong font pack online, the Instagram font is pretty much untouchable.
Last week, Instagram launched another redesign process, this time regarding its logo. The iconic vintage rainbow camera logo has been replaced with a flatter, gradient mark that is still reminiscent of its vintage history but is, you know, more refined. More "of the moment." We've all got to grow up sometime.