Business

Top designers react to Airbnb’s controversial new logo

Above: Airbnb's new logo

Image Credit: Airbnb

No, design pros aren’t taking Airbnb’s new logo as hard as you are.

Immediately after Airbnb unveiled its new logo mark on Wednesday, the company was hit with heavy criticism for its suggestive shape and its startling similarity to the existing logo of an 11-year-old IT automation company.

Although the great unwashed tech-industry masses appear both amused and confused by Airbnb’s curvaceous identity, we decided to give a handful of top designers from Google Ventures, Medium, and more a chance to voice their (more qualified) opinions.

If there really are sexual undertones, they’re intentional

Sacha Greif, creator of FolyoTelescope, and Sidebar: There’s been a lot of noise about the logo’s supposed sexual connotations, with designers and bloggers calling out Airbnb on it left and right.

But I’d like to think that if there really are any sexual undertones, they’re entirely intentional. After all, Airbnb’s new logo is all about “belonging.” And a mother’s womb is the ultimate symbol of a safe, warm, and welcoming place.

Of course, my armchair psychoanalysis may also be completely off the mark. But even so, the fact remains that thanks to this “controversy,” we’ve all been talking about that redesign and giving Airbnb free advertising in the process.

And it doesn’t hurt that the mark itself is visually beautiful, with pleasing curves and an elegant simplicity. So I’d say the team at Design Studio knew what they were doing after all!

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That time Apple announced the “iPad”

Daniel Burka, design partner at Google Ventures: Brands go a lot deeper than a visual identity. Airbnb has an excellent brand that relates to the sharing economy, neighborhoods, fantastic customer experiences, and fostering relationships. It’s somewhat disappointing to see some designers fixate on an individual component of the brand and lose the forest for the trees.

The hullabaloo about the Airbnb logo is reminiscent of the iPad announcement from Apple, when Twitter lit up with acerbic jokes about feminine hygiene products. Clearly that aspect of the iPad name bore little relevance on the potential success of the overall brand and product. Today, the Airbnb logo is the butt of some jokes, but I doubt the joke will last.

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Surely not the initial reaction they were hoping for

Tina Chen, designer at Medium: The new Airbnb logo is definitely very graphically compelling. It has many aspects of a great logo — strong, clean lines that read well both large and small. You can clearly see the intended symbolism: the “A” and two “B”s,  a shelter, a heart, a paperclip. It comes with a bright coral color that’s very of the moment, and not yet overly used. It’s easy to draw and memorable.

That said, the organic shape does unfortunately evoke a number of body parts, as has been quickly noted. Surely not the initial reaction they were hoping for.

With any abrupt logo or name change, people’s initial reactions tend to dull over time, and the primary association eventually becomes the product and brand. Think of the initial reaction to the name “iPad.” Now, when you hear “iPad,” people just think of the product itself. With enough resources committed to consistent marketing, this logo and Airbnb can become synonymous too, without the added associations.

A truly great logo should have all the strong points of Belo ["Belo" is Airbnb's name for the logo] without the significant baggage. Will they wish they went with a graphic that is a little less graphic? We’ll see.

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Memes and references aside, I like the new aesthetic

Renato Valdés, cofounder of Human: Airbnb has always had design in their DNA, and I think it shines through even more with the introduction of the new mark and logotype.

Memes and references aside, I like the new aesthetic. Introducing a new logo for an already successful company with significant reach and brand value is bold and often met with a lot of backlash. However, the maturity of Airbnb as a brand, and as a company looking beyond their current product offering shines through. It doesn’t happen often that a new logo makes me wonder what else they have up their sleeves. I wonder if they’ll be able to spread the Bélo in a meaningful and creative way amongst hosts and guests.

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It’s a lot more playful than I expected

Kristy Tillman, designer at IDEOI think the identity is beautiful and a lot more playful than I expected. It shows that Airbnb is growing up and setting itself up for a community-based platform. The create feature was fun to play with. I also want to give them kudos for such inclusive/diverse illustrations.

I was disappointed that the new brand didn’t retain much, if any, brand equity. There is a quirkiness factor that really embodied how radical a concept Airbnb was/is that seems to have gotten lost.

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For a deeper look at everything Airbnb launched this week, check out our coverage of Airbnb’s redesigned mobile app and site.

More information:

Founded in August 2008 and based in San Francisco, California, Airbnb is a community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique spaces around the world online or from an iPhone device. Whether the available space is a ca... read more »

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95 comments
Sam Jackson
Sam Jackson

I imagine that airbnb is happy about the "controversy." It has certainly given them a lot of press...

Ryan M Bertoldi
Ryan M Bertoldi

Its only "controversial" if you're half-retarded and stare at it longer than 10 seconds...maybe we should show it to Bevis and Butthead and see what they say ( ahahaha...he said LONGer)

Dennis Lastochkin
Dennis Lastochkin

If you ever wanted to build an online marketplace like Airbnb.com in your own specific category? Check out structureddomains.com

Jozias Dawson
Jozias Dawson

As a 'professional' designer, I really love the new logo. It's almost brilliant when you break down the components.

Tommy Luginbill
Tommy Luginbill

What am I missing here? Can someone explain why this is so "controversial"?

Anthony Hesse
Anthony Hesse

Then they're obviously NOT the best designers.

Sorin N. Puşcău
Sorin N. Puşcău

they have to justify the high cost of coming up with such..hideous...publicity:) there is no bad publicity:)

Payam Ghiami
Payam Ghiami

Liked the old one much more. It was classic! As classic coke. This is too generic. As a future investor, please bring the old logo back. It will be good for PR and for what the company stands for. Sometimes simple says it all.

Babak Bagherzadeh
Babak Bagherzadeh

I really hate it, you made so many changes in the interface presentation which are cool, but changing the logo was a bad idea, its like ASS, even no respect to blue theme that you had.

Joel Kuznetsky
Joel Kuznetsky

It's a mix of boobs, vagina, and a butt. Def the worst logo out of all companies on that revenue bracket. Seriously.......#airbnb you need to redo this

Derek Ong
Derek Ong

What I can see very clearly is a symbol of love/heart turned upside down..maybe the owner feels that the world has changed a lot and he decides to express himself that way...I don't see any reason for this stupid controversy. Sorry..and Thank You

Amy Nichols
Amy Nichols

Kind of hate it. It reminds me of the heart, paper clip or a clothespin. I miss the slightly disco blue logo. I like it.

Vincent Turner
Vincent Turner

Today, for some reason, was the first day I actively went and looked at hotels as well as airbnb for an upcoming work trip ...  I think the redesign here is actually a distraction from the potential that airbnb is looking to recapture some of its former vitality and youthful exuberance. When you reset the bar, in time you do so for yourself also. 

RH Hidalgo
RH Hidalgo

i think sky blue is a better color for them. went to their office and the place reminded me of santorini..

Tom Thomson
Tom Thomson

I'd guess it was a design "contest"... AKA free

Mobile Strategist Inc.
Mobile Strategist Inc.

I don't know what all the "sexual" fuss is about. I don't see it. However the resemblance to the other company logo is too close. If that's the best an agency or creative can up with then good riddance.

Simon Grünenwald
Simon Grünenwald

Old one was way more "belonging" this one looks like the logo of some weirded cult

M Toews
M Toews

As a long time AirBnB landlord, it was always fine online - lots of people found us. But when I *told* people in a conversation that we "rented thru AirBnB", they would say, "Huh? What's AirBnB - an airline?", or some such question. The name was not intuitive, really -- a stretch. I think they wanted their brand to be weird; used that angle to be memorable. 

Once this small (but hilarious) Friday afternoon internet hub-bub subsides, I think AirBnB will continue unimpeded, a brand that does well despite a not-great name or logo. Also, the old logo was no bargain either, imo.

For me, the more 3-D looking the new logo (see attached), the less it promotes the unintended visual consequences.

Funniest pranks I have seen today - "Having sex in other people's houses" tagline or Peter's chin.

P.S. - Great company to work with.  And P.S. does NOT stand for "phallically speaking".

Alastair Grant
Alastair Grant

I liked the original one better...why lose all that brand recognition... but git viral marketing if they now switch it back

Christopher Jackson
Christopher Jackson

Lol controversial. It's a marketing ploy. Omg so controversial, everyone has to have a strong opinion. WHO CARES!

Bilal Ahmed
Bilal Ahmed

 Well Airbnb is wining the game after all these critics and lots of media attention and has been going good with this strategy by providing a nice cover to this design fault.... thats what we call working with smart people.

Liz McLellan
Liz McLellan

It's an amazing morphing sex part which becomes whatever sex part the individual viewer fancies... don't believe...read the comments.

skwilder Wilder
skwilder Wilder

Who is making the decisions there. Very sexual logo. They did this intentionally

Jurgen Flick
Jurgen Flick

Bla bla bla designers bla bla opinions bla bla... It is a great product who cares about logos. Logos went out in the ninetees