Uber rebrand review

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Design and branding experts weigh in on company's controversial new look

Uber unveiled a radical rebranding last week, replacing its black-and-white U logo with a colorful geometric shape. The logo varies depending on whether the app is used by a driver or passenger and from country to country. In the US, for example, it is teal; in China, red.

The logo was widely panned on social media last week, with complaints that the company discarded a distinctive brand identity for a convoluted graphic meant to represent "the place where bits and atoms come together." Here, branding and design experts weigh in on the new design.

Brian Collins, CCO, Collins
I find it tough to criticize the good designers at Uber. No one can question the passion of their team, or CEO Travis Kalanick, to create something great they all believed in. But it wasn't their intent that created this outcome. Instead, it appears to be the singular, in-house design process they chose. 

As more companies build in-house creative teams (some insanely great ones, too), the healthy objectivity provided by trusted outside creative partners can be lost. When a creative person's career and entire paycheck depends on keeping just one ambitious CEO happy, it's hard to respond with a hearty "NO" to the CEO's many requests, regardless of how important saying "no" might be. Second-guessing can become the creative team's mantra. Fear pushes out bravery. Creativity quickly follows.

Uber will thrive. So will Kalanick. I just wish he had grabbed a beer with one of the many other good, but independent, designers in San Francisco and asked, "Well, what do you think?" The conversation may not have changed his mind, but he would have received an agnostic earful.

Susan Cantor, President, Red Peak Branding
We have been following the social commentary and have found consumers baffled by the change, so much so that they had trouble finding the app on their phone. The failure here is not only that they've replaced their iconic "U," but also that the new logo does not in any way communicate more diversity of services, which was the company's goal. 

Luis Silva Dias, EVP, CCO International, FCB
A logo is good if it tells a story and tells it in a relevant way. Within all the corporate identity’s mechanics, not only does it carry a company's values and beliefs but it gives its audiences an opportunity to share them and express them—to recognize themselves in it.

Not sure how the new Uber brand is going to perform in the immediate future, but it feels that there was an intention to go beyond just establishing the company's identity — and recognize the main reason for the company's success: their enormous communities of clients and their very committed communities of drivers. The new visual alphabet seeks to present Uber to both as a clear, single-minded, functional benefit. Although there are certain elements of naiveness and, for one, I would almost always argue in favor of evolution over revolution, I like that the new logo is now very much about the client and the client's life.

Geoff Cook, Founding Partner, Base Design 
Whether you agree with Uber's conceptual starting point (referencing bits & atoms) or not, and whether you appreciate their new identity (represented largely by the logo mark and color patterns) or not, it is quite clear that Uber was very thoughtful about how they went about their rebrand.

They are aware that their business is moving beyond the vertical of transportation and moreover expanding globally, requiring a system that is comprehensive and flexible.

What is more telling however, of the era we live in, have been the denouncements of how Uber treats its drivers: as underpaid contractors and not valued employees. The company is certainly not the first to exploit its workers, and yet, just as Uber was thoughtful about its rebrand, we as thoughtful consumers realize that the branding cannot resolve what are fundamentally brand issues.

Paul Munkholm, Director of Strategy, Kettle
If you look at the best logos in the app store and for startups, they are abstract, modern and progressive. They don't limit themselves to a letter. By ditching the "U," Uber is telling the world that it has earned a strong enough brand recognition and market penetration to move on to the next phase. The redesign also puts the user at the center of the mark, nicely communicating that Uber's focus will always be on the riders. It’s no longer about the "U," it’s about you."


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