Here's what’s REALLY wrong with the new Airbnb identity
August 18, 2014 ‐ 0 comments

You’ve probably read the many opinions being written about Airbnb’s new logo, and you’re probably aware that, to much of the blogosphere, the logo looks like some sort of mammalian genitalia.

Much of the blogosphere is wrong, and may well consist of prepubescent boys.

The new Airbnb identity is decent design, if not necessarily timeless. The graphic is a simple and innocuous mark, and we think it stands a chance of becoming a recognized symbol for hospitality in the age of the sharing economy—like the Google map pin has become a universal symbol for location, or Facebook’s Like icon for social media engagement.

And while a little abstract, the idea behind the mark, the idea that Airbnb is about “belonging” is a nice emotional touchstone to continue to grow the brand around. (For the record, we do think that naming the mark the “Bélo” is way over the top.)

All that being said, there is something very wrong with the identity: the process behind it.

According to Fast Company, the identity is the result of “a year-long brand study.” 

A $%!^@*& YEAR?! 

Furthermore, DesignStudio, the London firm behind the work:

• Set up shop at Airbnb’s San Francisco headquarters
• Built an Airbnb listing in their London studio
• Had four employees to stay with 18 different hosts in 13 cities
• Created a film to document their experiences
• Interviewed 120 people at Airbnb’s offices
• Maintained a daily blog throughout the process

This is simply absurd. Yes, rebranding a company of Airbnb’s size is a big project but it shouldn’t take a year to design and implement a new identity for an organization with a minimal offline presence.

And it doesn’t require having a team from another continent come onsite and blog its every move. 

We understand the need to build consensus within complex organizations, but it strikes us that Airbnb is more of a command and control culture. We also get the value of partnership between agencies and clients, but having designers on-site seems symptomatic either of micromanagement tendencies or a bloated self-image (how could anyone possibly capture our incredibly awesomely unique brand unless they sat in our offices for a year!?). 

Software businesses needn’t be so frivolous. The average strategy and identity development exercise should take 3-4 months, and a good implementation can be phased to ensure there’s no lost momentum.

But if you’re like Airbnb and you’ve got time and money to burn, please give us a call. We’ll create an amazing identity, and we’ll do it in just 10 months and with only 115 interviews.

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