Alexandra Lange
Architecture & design critic

Instagram's Endangered Ephemera

While most design objects need to shrink to fit onto the screen of your phone, postage stamps do not—nor do clothing labels, matchbooks, or machine badges. With car insignia, there is slight shrinkage; the same with vintage packaging. But a detail that you might have overlooked on an old object stands out when presented in the tight frame of Instagram. The offset, overlapping greens on a box of Greenbrier menthol mild pipe tobacco, for instance, or the forever-chic modernist trees on the Four Seasons’s long box of pink-tipped matches, created by Emil Anonucci.

These examples of tiny graphic-design ephemera are brought to our full attention in obsessive, single-serving Instagram accounts. This is not the Instagram of artistically arranged purse contents or filtered selfies but one that more closely resembles the olden days of Tumblr, when people, archives, and institutions realized that they could add their humble masterpieces into the digital image river that people look at every day.