Just this week, Uber unveiled a global rebranding that not only strayed a bit from its recognizable logotype, but also introduced a rather detached set of app icons. Can’t say that we suffered from extreme design envy over the previous Uber logotype, but it was fine. While their new logotype seems like a step in the right direction (thicker letterforms and tighter composition for maximum readability), the highbrow concept behind the app icons and larger identity seems rather misguided, and will surely be lost on most. Yes, Uber’s official statement references “bits and atoms” (“The unique aspect of Uber is that we exist in the physical world. When you push a button on your phone, a car moves across the city and appears where you are. We exist in the place where bits and atoms come together. That is Uber. We are not just technology but technology that moves cities and their citizens.”) In theory, the thought process behind the concept, which is customized identities for specific markets that aim to draw colors and patterns from “art, architecture, tradition, old and new fashion, textiles, the environment”, is a thoughtful one. But from a branding perspective, it seems to dilute the impact of the Uber brand as a whole. And that doesn’t even address that larger concern that the icon itself is not identifiable in any way as Uber. Though we had issues with the previous icon employing a dissimilar “U” letterform from the Uber logotype, at least it was just that, a letter U. This icon, or rather set of icons – one for riders, another for divers – make no effort to resemble the new Uber logotype in any way. Why abandon the “U”? Our view is not the basis of some pretentious design theory, but simple human nature. In our estimation, the biggest stumble here was not hiring branding experts for the task. We are not knocking in-house designers… they are often immensely talented with an invaluable familiarity and investment in a given brand. But this was surely not a 12+ months-long task meant to be spearheaded by a non-designer CEO. There are experts in the field who do this sort of thing, we are among them. We hear the cry among our peers: “Help us help you!” Sure, the presentation of Uber’s new identity is slick, but the principals behind the design concept as a whole indicate a lack of design leadership. An unfortunate case of just looking pretty, but not meeting a brand’s true potential.
Visuals via Uber