Uber was likely expecting a little more love from the world when it unveiled its new logo and visual identity system on Tuesday. Instead, the car service that has been no stranger to controversy since its debut in 2009 has received a heaping serving of derision at its new branding.
Uber changing its app logo to this. Dropping what must be the most recognisable U on the planet. Madness? pic.twitter.com/rtBcg1UNpz
— Dave Lee (@DaveLeeBBC) February 2, 2016
— BI Tech (@SAI) February 2, 2016
The only thing I can't see in the logo is what I need to see "U" for Uber. https://t.co/U2yzlhO7rN
— Om Malik (@om) February 2, 2016
— Frank Pallotta (@frankpallotta) February 2, 2016
Business Insider observes that the word “ugly” was used plenty of times to describe the new logo and visual identity, now updated on its app, websites and social icons, and compares its look to that of the Death Star in Star Wars.
Uber defends its new city-centric localized branding to replace its black logo (at right) by arguing that the central square of the new logo, which it calls “the bit,” will remain the same but the rest of it, particularly the background, will change depending on the region and context.
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was personally involved with the design, which The Verge says “shows.” “One of the big changes over the years is that Uber no longer moves just people; we’re now moving food, goods, and soon maybe much more,” Kalanick wrote in a blog post outlining the new branding.
“With the potential for many apps with many app icons, we needed one approach that connected them all. So we came back to our story of bits and atoms. You’ll see that both rider and driver icons have the bit at the center, and then the local colors and patterns in the background. This is a framework that will also make it easy to develop different icons for new products over time.”
— Uber (@Uber) February 2, 2016
— Uber (@Uber) February 2, 2016
Kalanick spent the last three years working with design director Shalim Amin and about a dozen other people creating the new look. “I didn’t know any of this stuff,” Kalanick told The Verge. “I just knew it was important, and so I wanted it to be good.”
— Anastasia (@tweetstasia) February 2, 2016
According to Wired‘s inside look at the rebrand, Uber’s redesign is launching with 65 country-specific color- and pattern-palettes and five global ones, such as the process described to come up with Uber Nigeria’s local branding:
The designers mocked up mood boards for individual cities, regions and countries, piecing together images representing architecture, textiles, fashion, and art, among other things… ‘We shared it with driver partners, friends, aunties—everyone—just asking, if you were to describe a symbol of Nigeria, what would it be?’ … “The result is a set of colors that are specific to each city. Atawodi says the office will be able to use them “to create the materials we want to create.”
Uber’s logo colors (metallic black and silver) also proved inflexible for uses such as holidays and localization, so in the redesign the team aimed to soften its image a bit. After all, the company has been a bit brash (and in hot water with local governments) at times.
Wired point out that Kalanick wasn’t just involved but seriously integrated into the process. “Kalanick became engrossed, evaluating pixels and colors according to what he euphemistically calls his ‘unique’ set of preferences,” Wired writer Jessi Hempel observed. Shalim told Kalanick that he’d given up on figuring out his boss’s “personal preference.”
It turns out the team didn’t have to choose a single color since the background now changes depending on each Uber’s location, with localization as it becomes a truly global brand a necessary step in its evolution.
As Kalanick told Wired, the whole three-year process was all about self-exploration. “‘The warmth, the colors, those things,’ he told Hempel. “That happens, when you start to know who you are.”