Lettings website Airbnb launched a new brand identity today, created by London agency DesignStudio. The new look sees the brand’s blue and white word marque replaced with, apparently, a universal “symbol of belonging”…
In 2007, Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky launched Airbnb after renting out mattresses in their San Francisco apartment during a design conference. Today, it’s worth $10 billion, hosts listings in 34,000 cities and claims to have helped house more than 15 million guests.
The brand’s identity has gone through several evolutions – its blue and white word marque has been shortened, flattened and changed from sans to italic script – but so far, it has remained fairly unremarkable. As graphic design lead Andrew Schapiro explains, it was created without a real understanding of what Airbnb was about.
Around a year ago, the company recruited London agency DesignStudio to help redefine Airbnb’s ethos and create a new visual identity “that would last for years to come”. The new look launched today and as well as a new colour palette and bespoke typeface, it features a dramatically different logo.
Airbnb says the symbol represents a sense of belonging, which reflects its new message, ‘belong anywhere.’ As the graphics below illustrate, it’s, we are told, inspired by the idea of people, love, places and the ‘A’ in Airbnb.
Two versions of the marque have been designed – one, known as Belo, which is reserved for official communications, and a looser ‘community marque’ which internet users can share and customise. The brand has also launched an interactive tool, Create, which allows users to create unique illustrations using the marque.
DesignStudio’s James Greenfield says the concept was inspired by German designer Kurt Wiedeman’s theory that a great logo “is ‘something you can draw in the sand with your toe’”. It was created with help from semiotics agency Sign Salad, which researched whether the marque had any undesirable connotations in key markets such as Asia and South America.
As Greenfield points out, creating a universal symbol is a tough challenge – “it needed to be something simple and beautiful, but there are books full of symbols that already exist…we also needed something that would work on a bag as well as a billboard,” he explains.
The identity will be applied to a new website and mobile app (below) and used in ad campaigns and communications. The brand’s signature shade of blue has been replaced with a deep red, which Greenfield says better represents a sense of love and emotion, and Design Studio has developed a secondary palette featuring bold shades of purple and teal, named after and inspired by streets in cities around the world.
DesignStudio has also art directed a brand film, and worked with Airbnb’s art director to create photography and illustration guidelines and an image library.
It’s an impressive piece of work from DesignStudio: as well as developing the image library and photography principles, they’ve designed a rather lovely brand book and online guidelines that will be updated regularly, allowing teams in global offices to produce creative in-house.
Inviting internet users to customise the new Airbnb logo will undoubtedly lead to some misuse (some have already likened it to a pair of buttocks, or testicles), but the company says it’s happy for people to do what they like with it, and allowing people to create and share their own versions is a great way to generate some added publicity for the rebrand.