The Instagram Sale and What This Tells Us About Design

As we all know, Instagram this week sold to Facebook for a cool $1 billion. Not bad for a 22 person company!¬†Much has been written about the sale. But among all the copy, I thought Om Malik’s article was the most insightful.

Om is right: Facebook bought Instagram partly out of fear and partly to find large scale traction on mobile. Paying $1 billion to fend of a serious competitor by a company valued at close to $100 billion may make sense in the long term. More meaningfully, however, is what Om rightly pointed out as well: People like Facebook, but love Instagram.

How did they do this? After all, Instagram is just a community of photo-takers. My answer: They created a real emotional attachment to the product itself. Beautiful photos for all. Great design. It’s the only app on my iPhone that I love and makes me feel…well, like I can actually take good pictures. It makes me feel good about myself. How many apps on your phone do that?

Square is another company that is showing the world that something as mundane as payment transactions can, with thoughtful design, have a seamless, even beautiful feel to the whole process. Everything from the website, the iPhone app, even the receipts you get, are thoughtfully constructed. I love that. It shows someone cares. It makes you want to use the product and talk about it with others. By making it beautiful, a halo-effect transforms an ordinary experience into an emotional one.

Instagram drove home for me that sometimes mundane sounding tasks can oftentimes become much more  through thoughtful design.