This is a summary and analysis of the brand redesign for Airbnb that was released in July of 2014.
Design Studio began the re-branding process for Airbnb a year earlier in July 2013. The design process was extensive and to accomplish it, the studio hired to handle the design actually lived at the Airbnb offices in several locations to “become part of Airbnb” in order to understand how to create a design for them.
This effort resulted in a very unique and simple mark that follows well many of the design principles we studied last week. The following are my notes and critique of the strengths and weaknesses of the design.
The logo is a simple, unique shape that contains a visual language that reflects the Airbnb core principles of people, places, love, and the name “Airbnb” represented by the letter “A”. It is a symmetric design that is clearly visible and recognizable in extremely small icon sizes.
The text of the mark is a Swiss-style open typeface that aligns with the angled sides of the mark to fit in visual harmony with the logo. The colors are white on a soft, faded magenta. The colors are bold but feminine which fit Airbnb’s value of love. The logo also is rounded into the shape of an inverted heart for this reason.
The logo is efficient, simple, and unique. It is a great mark.
On the social media landscape, I found a varied set of combination of the logo mark with vacation destination and travel photography. The strongest design was on Twitter, with a nice, large banner photo. Airbnb does do a good job of utilizing photography in their social media branding. The photos are colorful and the messages posted are sensitive to include all people and places. There is an effort to utilize the zeitgeist to promote their brand. Facebook has by far the most followers at 11 million and YouTube the least at 94k subscribers. Instagram has a healthy number of images shared and 2.7 million followers.
The redesign was not received well by some in the community and unfortunately, there has been a movement of memes poking fun at the logo. Some of these memes have been very crude which has worked against the ideals of Airbnb. It’s not unusual for re-branding to be received with mixed reviews at first, but these memes became a movement and the images produced persist even years later.
Another problem was the near exact similarity to a logo owned by Automation Anywhere. Both companies insist it was mere coincidence that the logos are basically the same design. Automation Anywhere has since re-designed their logo and it’s no longer an issue. Once you see the similarity between the two, however, you cannot help but wonder about plagiarism.
Honest coincidences do exist but they are rare, so folks are left to wonder. At the very least, this is a case of Airbnb and Design Studio not being aware enough of current logo marks, since these two companies were aware of each other before Airbnb launched their re-design process and came up with the very similar logo. Legally, it sounds like the copyright issues are resolved.
The weaknesses in the social media branding are that Facebook for all its users has only the logo visible for the brand and not even a banner image as is shown on the Twitter page. I think this is a lost opportunity and creates some disjointed feel between all the channels.
The composition of the logo is symmetric. The initial design featured all lower case type which enhanced the symmetric arrangement. The logo is a simple heavy line with color providing adequate contrast. The logo with type supports a “not half” composition. Also given the triangular shape, the law of thirds is reflected in the logo shapes.
The social media success of the brand can be measured in shares of content featured in the social media campaign.
The Airbnb logo re-design is a success as a graphic and logo design project is concerned. The simplicity and nice way of enveloping several concepts into such a simple shape is a coup as a result. Even in light of the unfortunate reaction of some on the internet, I think the overall results of the project are a great success. The “alternative interpretations” have all been things that I had not considered upon first look, and I feel that the Airbnb market will likely not see those interpretations either until they are pointed out. Possible alternative interpretations are something that designers should be aware of and this case is a learning experience to be sure.