Uber, everyone’s private driver, is updating its identity after almost 7 years from its creation and not everyone is happy about it, mainly because the design was created by the Uber’s CEO and a random design team.
Uber’s branding redesign includes an updated version of its logo, a new set of app icons, bright new tailored colors and a new customized patterns, illustrations and photographies according to each country. With this change the company wants to develop a flexible image that can grow and adapt itself as the brand creates new products and attracts new users. To understand this let’s go back to the beginning and see how the company evolved and came up with this new identity.
Uber, originally named UberCab, was created in 2009 by Travis Kalanick and Garret Camp with the aim of letting people ask for luxury town cars, like BMWS and Lincolns, to move around around San Francisco, CA; however, that small business that wanted to be elegant is not what Uber is about nowadays. Uber now is in 400 cities in 65 countries and offers different services like UberX, UberCommute, and UberPool, so with that in mind, Kalanick, who is not a designer, but and engineer, decided that it was time to spice up his brand and evolve together.
For the past 3 years he worked alongside Uber design director Shalin Amin and other designers making ideas and learning the basic concepts of design like kerning and color palettes (First Mistake). By the end of 2013, they started looking for agencies for the project, but it was unsuccessful, none of the more than 6 agencies were enough for Kalanick and Admin, so they decided to stop looking for outside agencies and assemble their own design team, and there is where all began. (Second Mistake)
Design Team From left: Shalin Amin, Mirtho Prepont, Roger Oddone, Travis Kalanick (CEO), Catherine Ray and Bryant Jow.
First they started with the wordmark. Roger Oddone, a Brazilian designer from Google was the one in charge for that assignment, he came up with some 200 new fonts to replace the logotype, and then narrowed it to two: ‘a tight, blocky font and a thicker one with rounded corners’, which at the end were combined to create the new bespoke logotype.
This new wordmark solves the problem of usability and readability that the previous one has because of its weight and separation. Roger deleted the little ending curves of the “U” and “R” and gave the “E” a diagonal haircut, which I think were a great improvement. The only thing that I feel kind of weird are the curves inside the “BER”, I know the previous logo had them, but with this weight they look kind of forced, but other than that, it is fine, it is not the best or worst logo in the world, but it solves the problems and looks good.
After Roger finished the logo, Uber’s design team came up with the concept from a post Kakanick wrote (Third mistake: concept always comes first). The concept is something very difficult to understand, but is basically bringing bits and atoms together, bits being technology and atoms being the people. Watch the video below for an extended and more complicated version.
Ok, so what’s the next step after a concept? Of course! Create some random patterns… not! But that’s what they did. Uber’s new identity features a set of patterns, colors and images inspired by the architecture, textiles, fashion, and art of the 65 different regions where the service is available, which will allow Uber employees to have more autonomy in crafting messages for their own cities
This idea was developed by Catherine Ray, a 28 communication designer that found inspiration in the tile of her bathroom (lol, not kidding). I think it is really nice that they are putting that amount of detail in those little things that give an extra value to the brand, a customized background for more than 60 cities is crazy! For sure this is my favorite thing of the new identity.
Then we have the new icon, which btw was the last thing to be done. The mind behind this was a young designer named Bryant Jow, who basically, as wired.com says, just draw different geometric shapes around a bit/square (which fyi was actually the initial icon), and it kind of happened. The team realized that Uber is just not one app anymore, it is more than that so a single icon couldn’t represent it. Therefore they created two icons: one for drivers (right) and one for riders (left).
The icons are composed by 4 elements: the bit(01) which is in the center and represents the company tech, a product shape(02) that represents the atoms and identifies the product, a grid line(03) that connects the bit and the shape, and the patterns and colors(04) that could change in local markets.
So for most of the designers and people in general this icon is the biggest problem, and I think this is why. The icon, which is the first thing all users see, is supposed to be the sum of all elements and represent the brand, and it does, but with the new elements of the identity, therefore it looks literally like a new app.
I don’t have a problem with the fact they are trying to make an icon for each product, that’s fine, and even the idea of connecting the beat and atoms is cool (& hard to understand), but because it doesn’t have something to remind us about the past look it becomes harder to assimilate. Of course not all app icons have to be a letter like Facebook’s, but maybe if they had used the “U” and applied the concept to it, the redesign would have been received with less hate.
Ok, so let’s forget the previous icon and focus on this one. I think the line that links the square with the pattern is too thin for being used in small sizes, it should be a little wider to not get lost with all the lines in the background pattern, which btw I think are not working, a plain color would had been a better option for the icon, in the home screen they look great and the intro animation of the app and how the icon moves, it gets better.
In conclusion, the process was a mess! They started working without a concept, which proves that they didn’t know what they wanted to be. So at the end we have a complete new identity that hard to digest and that is trying to glue everything together, but the pieces keep falling apart.
But well… at least this is my f opinion