Date published

Jul 17, 2014

Airbnb have just launched their new brand identity, and along with that, their new logo.

And guess what?

It’s caused a bit of a stink on various social networks. On Twitter, you’ll find it’s always an outrage rather than a stink, or even a bit of a fuss.

People get very angry on this particular platform; there’s not much in between. Maybe it’s the immediacy; the ability to post before thinking.

Airbnb 1

And that often seems to be the way of logos. Or at least the commentary on new logos.

Let me set my stall out here and now; I like the new logo. So if you’re one of the zillions of haters, feel free to check-out now.

If you’re still here, check out just a tiny snippet of that online commentary.

It’s pretty tame compared to some of the vitriol out there. Aimed at the designers; aimed at Airbnb; aimed at the logo itself.

Yep, people are shouting IN CAPS, online. At a new logo.

For those who’ve never heard of Airbnb, here’s a little context. It’s an online platform that allows property owners to rent out their houses and apartments to people as an alternative to staying in a hotel, hostel or traditional B&B. And the flip side is that is allows travellers to stay in a proper home environment when they visit a place. Usually, the owner will not be staying in the same property during rental periods.

So that’s it; a very simple proposition in terms of features.

But what about the benefits? Well, in many cases, it offers cheaper accommodation than hotels, especially in the many of the world’s more fashionable cities.

But the biggest benefit, and here was the main attraction for me the last time I used Airbnb, is that it allows you to fade into the background; it takes off the shackles of checking-in and people being at your service.

It tears up the ‘tourist’ label.

The last time I booked with Airbnb, it had absolutely nothing to do with cost-saving and everything to do with wanting to be part of the reality of the place.

And here’s where the new logo comes in.

Not sure why they’ve felt the need, but Airbnb have placed a fairly detailed rationale on their main siteregarding their new logo. It includes a video, some written explanation and a call to welcome the ‘Bélo’.

Er, ‘Bélo’ is the name they’ve given the logo. Again, I’m not sure of the need for that either.

Here’s a little step-through of the rationale for the new logo as explained on their site:

It’s about…

Screen Shot 2014 07 17 at 08 53 51

It's about...

Screen Shot 2014 07 17 at 08 54 19

It's about...

Screen Shot 2014 07 17 at 08 54 37

And it's about...

Screen Shot 2014 07 17 at 08 55 16 it is...

Screen Shot 2014 07 17 at 08 55 30

Pretty simple, I’d say and a good explanation of how they got there.

And simplicity for me is key. As a creative director with a few logos in my book (yep, sorry design purists, but any self-respecting agency should employ a copywriter somewhere in the logo design process) I love a good rationale behind a logo; as long as it doesn’t come with too big an unhelpful helping of that designery-type manure you often smell with branding rationales. It did threaten to take over Airbnb’s explanation in places.

But, they just managed to avoid the over self-congrats and in terms of the logo–and designing a simple identity that simply summarises their beautifully simple proposition of giving people a sense of belonging, I think they nailed it.

You may not like the cut of its jib visually, but you cannot argue with the rationale. And for those who think the logo looks like testicles, a vagina or, as one online commentator said, a sheep’s genitalia, I think you may have been sleeping with the wrong bedfellows.

I just don’t see anything remotely naughty or anatomical; not one hint of the slightest schoolboy snigger.

And as for the other criticism being fired at Airbnb–that of plagiarism: I’m not buying that, either.

The marque itself is very simple (did I mention that simplicity works for me when it comes to branding?) so, as a simple shape, it’s going to have a few predecessors, not least this one owned by Automation Anywhere:

Automotion anywhere Airbnb

If the logo trolls look hard enough, they’ll probably be able to dig up a few more iterations of that marque elsewhere online.

But so what? I really don’t think Airbnb have plagiarised Automation Anywhere. At anytime.

At one of my previous agencies, The Black Hole, they were going through a rebrand. Their existing logo was of a circle split 50/50 down the middle, white on one side, black on the other. Worked great on business cards as you could push through the white side to create the illusion of one big hole, but online and on other collateral, the effect was lost.

For the new logo, I was pushing hard for a very simple black dot.

That was it. Nothing more than that. The whole thing suggested a black hole, it was instantly recognisable, instantly replicated and, as I mentioned in one particular heated meeting, it would appear everywhere there were words on a page. In client’s offices, on prospects’ desks.


I was wandering into the far off land of the sheer campaignability of this wonderful new simplistic logo.

The board was having none of it.

Too many others simply had circles, or some form of a circle as their identity.

A circle wasn’t saying enough.

A circle didn’t have enough stand-out.

I think they missed a trick.

I think Airbnb should stick to their guns.

They may–or may not–have done their homework.

They may not care. I don’t.

Screen Shot 2014 07 17 at 08 55 55

They’ve created a simple logo, that’s a piece of cake to replicate–because it’s easy to remember–and it’s got a cast-iron rationale behind it.

If you’re going away for a break anytime soon and want to shake off the shackles of being a tourist in place of more of a sense of belonging, you should think about giving Airbnb a try.

Ignore the logo. It really won’t kill you.

Just as it won’t kill the thousands of people reigning hatred upon it.

By way of a little context, here is Airbnb’s previous logo:

Airbnb previous logo