Airbnb nailed it!

How Airbnb nailed it! A naughty and nice rebrand.

Maybe I’m late to the party, but I only noticed Airbnb’s rebranding at the beginning of my weeklong vacation early last week. Staying at a friends cottage, I wondered what other places were available in my area on their mobile app. On noticing a completely different logo, my initial reaction was quite pleasant and surprisingly benign of any sexual connotation.

My partner however saw a vagina. Straight up.

Now it’s easy to have your perceptions influenced, but I thought I’d do a little more digging into the whole story, after my vacation. As I write this, only a week later, I’m having a few chuckles over the backlash they’ve gotten by the supposed ‘design community’.

Good or bad, if you dig a little further into the design process you may begin to appreciate the work, the decisions and the sacrifices needed to ultimately rebrand a juggernaut such as Airbnb. It ain’t easy. Some designers did weigh in on the new identity, and I think they have some awesome ideas behind it all. I applaud their effort to stick to constructive critiques.

I am interested in seeing what ideas and concepts ended up in the garbage. You get a hint at some of it on DesignStudios website as they discuss the process. It’s pretty cool.

The people at DesignStudio. Image from DesignStudio
“DesignStudio became an extension of our team. They worked out of our offices and partnered seamlessly with our internal design teams for months, not only to build our new brand but to see it through across our digital products and many other touch points.”
— Andrew Schapiro — Head of Brand Creative, Airbnb

I’ve been through this process many times myself. Even though I hung up the communication design hat, focusing mostly on experience design. I have worked with some amazingly talented designers, art directors and creative directors that have all pooled their talent into a project and produced some beautiful and award winning work.

With Airbnb’s new identity developed, its story behind the Bélo introduced to the team, the real excitement must have began when teams were finally able to start leveraging these elements into the Airbnb ethos.

Airbnb rebrand

Mobile and Web

I think they’ve done a stellar job of simplifying the UI and adding more focus to the experience in general.

The mobile app for iOS appears to have some minor updates. Of course the visual design is brought inline, but I do notice remnants of the old app in some interactions like the navigation menu, and access to filters when in “Discovery”. But you clearly get the idea they’re putting more focus on the rich imagery needed to sell a place. It has been one of the many things that have set Airbnb apart from a run-of-the-mill travel agency.

Airbnb mobile UI design

Some thought has been put into the organization of website content, making it much easier and faster to get to your booking. Works well for those looking, and for those hosting. One noticeable difference to me, is the emphasis on iconography, which looks good but may not work or translate well to global audiences. It’s a tricky thing when introducing new icons or elements that are not universally common.

Airbnb homepage design.Airbnb list view map design.Airbnb listing viewsAirbnb listing views

The teams at Airbnb and DesignStudio have shown a great example of collaboration, with the result being a new brand that, even though is lauded as suggestive, will eventually be revered and emulated by many.

They just need to get by the whole sticky infringement thing withAutomation Everywhere. I’d be curios to see how AE traffic increases with all this new publicity.

Automation Everywhere traffic stats for similarweb

Automation Everywhere traffic stats for similarweb

Could it be intentional? Who knows, but like all cases of infringement I’m sure this will be settled quietly (if Automation Everywhere is smart about it).

I guess if there is one thing to expect with any rebrand, is the negative criticisms. They may not be as loud and rampant when you’re relatively unknown, but when you’re as big as, say GAP you are a moving target. Failure to put a decisive process and a REAL story behind any branding exercise is just asking for failure.