The Airbnb redesign: It’s time we looked at logos differently

What more can possibly be said about the Airbnb redesign? In my view, the heart of the matter has still not been dealt with.

Lets back up a bit. Two weeks ago a fiasco erupted in response to the latest brand update for the global apartment rental service Airbnb, designed by London based agency DesignStudio. They were talking all about our need for ‘belonging’ and their logo, featuring an abstracted letter “A”, was all about customisation and taking ownership. It is all beautifully designed. So far so good.

Then criticism began to ripple through Twitter and not for the first time of course. The logo faced a “backlash on social media”. This hilarious blog sprang up showing how the new logo looks like all manner of genitalia, and all sorts of influencers blogged about it and inevitably Buzzfeed published an 18 Things That Look Like The New Airbnb Logo post. It was funny! Lolz! Good one. No. Wait. What!?

A few of the hundreds of parodies created in reaction to the new Airbnb logo. Bums, boobs, penises and vaginas all feature heavily

A few of the hundreds of parodies created in reaction to the new Airbnb logo. Bums, boobs, penises and vaginas all feature heavily

That doesn’t look like any genitalia that I’ve seen (or wish to see). What am I missing? And what’s that got to do with the quality or effectiveness of the design?

Granted, all the penises and vaginas are funny and pretty creative, but they have no bearing on the design quality. It only tells us about the quality of YOUR thoughts, not the designers. If your parents buy you a house, you can’t make them look selfish, no matter what you graffiti on the walls. Even if it does look like a penis with that extra garage on the side.

In fact, the mock logos don’t discredit the design work but actually affirm it’s excellence. The creative mockery affirms the accessibility of the image they are attempting to ruin, and unwittingly compliments the designers in their achievement to welcome ownership and belonging.

Those things aside, what is really revealing about this subject is how, on the whole, we are clinging to old paradigms of design excellence that are not fit for the digital era.

DesignStudio, the agency behind the rebrand, set out to design a marque that "everybody could draw". To really push this idea home, they created an app which allows users to create their own symbol

DesignStudio, the agency behind the rebrand, set out to design a marque that “everybody could draw”. To really push this idea home, they created an app which allows users to create their own symbol

Underlying this criticism is an archaic view of what a logo should be and do. It comes from an expectation that logos are prescriptive, descriptive, fixed entities that are focussed on clarity and expelling abstraction. They are what they are, and nothing else.

We need to let go of this kind of thinking, because it doesn’t have room for the ever sophisticated goals that brands are trying to achieve. We all know that a logo needs to be evaluated not with personal preferences in mind, but by the effectiveness with which it communicates and takes part in it’s purpose. We don’t impose subjective values unless they clearly expose a failure to achieve objective purposes. We don’t say a hammer is useless because it sometimes looks like a wooden leg.

This is a confirmation to me that we should give less time to listening to what Twitter tweets. I’m all for user-experience to lead design. But users are not experienced in design. They’re stupid! They may be increasingly design literate, but that does not mean they are in any way intelligent. Someone who knows what Helvetica looks like does not necessarily know why it’s better than Comic Sans, or how to put pants on the right way round.

So, lets not listen to Twitter to judge the quality of design work.

Lets not confuse communication with clarity.

Lets not evaluate logos without knowing what they’re for.

Instead, let’s congratulate DesignStudio for their excellent work and say balls (or vaginas) to the rest of them!



Warning: Undefined variable $postID in /www/fiascodesign_482/public/wp-content/themes/fd/parts/old-post-content.php on line 58

2 Mins

The Quiet Life: Why Medium offers a contemplative alternative to the myriad of online publishing platformsI’ve always been a fan of design that’s simple. Design that concentrates on the essential aspects and ignores superfluous non-essential elements to communicate an idea or function. “Good design is as little as possible,” as Dieter Rams famously put it. A couple of years ago ‘flat design’, a web design approach that focuses more on […]

3 Mins

Originality in Design: Lessons from the Leaning Tower of PisaA few weeks ago we received an unprompted comment that some of our work was “a bit anonymous”. How intriguing! After investigation our generous, proactive commenter went on to display some archetypal errors in design philosophy, that I have been guilty of myself. Shortly afterwards I visited the leaning tower of Pisa and it struck […]

2 Mins

In the Net: This week fonts, a historical identity, passport design and hovering islandsThis week we travel across the pond to bring you Thomas Heatherwicks incredible plans for a floating island in New York City and the identity for the World Trade Centre. Whilst back in europe we find Norway’s beautiful passport designs and Sweden’s very own national typeface aptly named ‘Sweden Sans’. Enjoy.  Thomas Heatherwick’s hovering island […]

2 Mins

In the Net: Typofun this week! Type Genius, Aerial Bold, Google and a clever new font for dyslexics.This weeks In the Net is a full of typographic goodness. It includes a beautifully designed printed takeaway by Manual Creative, web tools to help you find the best type combinations and a new typeface designed to help dyslexics read faster. Enjoy.   Google Material design Google recently rolled out a new visual language across […]

2 Mins

In the Net: Videos galore! Featuring Okay Go’s epic new video, an IKEA halloween and the 2014 John Lewis Christmas AdWhat a week! It’s lively in the studio here, and I bet it has been for you too. During all the hubbub, here’s what we caught from the noise on the world wide web this week. Okay Go — I Won’t Let You Down Well and truly getting away from the small-scale, but intricate affairs […]

In the net

< 1 Mins

In the Net: This week Hoverboards, FKA Twigs X Google Glass and a library-based love storyThis week In the Net a charming new music video from film producers CANADA, the worlds first Hoverboard on Kickstarter and FKA Twigs directs and stars in a new concept film for Google Glass. CANADA music video for Verkeren The super cool Barcelona-based filmmakers and producers do it again with this library-based love story for Spanish […]

canvas conference

3 Mins

Canvas Conference 2014: The stories behind the brandsThis years Canvas Conference promised to deliver “the stories behind the worlds most interesting digital products and services” and it delivered healthily. Full of insights into the workings and design ethos behind the likes of BBC iPlayer, AirBnB, Google Maps and Spotify; here’s a short round-up of what we took away from the whole day. […]

2 Mins

In the Net: This week Kano, Urthecast and the brilliant new Hiscox AdThis week we take a look at the lego-like simplicity of the new children’s computer Kano, a thought-provoking website about the effects of Altzeimer’s and the making of the new Hiscox ad featuring famous faces. Kano Hearing their talk at this weeks Canvas conference made converts of us all. This easy-to-use and beautifully designed hardware […]

Git hub 1

3 Mins

Git: What it is, why we use it and how it differs to Github.For any developers reading, this will be a fairly straight forward question to answer and, thus, presumably will also be well versed in the commands used to operate Git. But for most its a bit of a grey area or a jargon filled, mine field of technical expressions and assumed prior knowledge. So I’ll try […]

mike bennett

< 1 Mins

We welcome in Mike Bennett as non-executive directorWe’re thrilled to be able to announce that we’ve appointed Mike Bennett, entrepreneur and co founder of the hugely successful digital agency e3, as non-executive director. We’re over the moon to have Mike join our team. He has demonstrated countless times that he has the knowledge and track record of successfully growing creative businesses. Having access […]

4 Mins

Better together: How to make the most out of collaborating with othersCollaboration is a key part of any design studio or creative project whether it be designers working with developers or working alongside clients to achieve the objectives of a project. But collaboration doesn’t have to be just the combination of individual skill sets. In my experience some of the most interesting ideas have arisen when […]

4 Mins

Between the sheets: Falling back in love with the printed wordI’ve always loved magazines. Since I was young enough to remember, spending money on magazines has been a bit of a hobby of mine and over the years I’ve built up a huge collection of varied titles, most of which are boxed up and are unlikely ever to see the light of day again. It’s their tangible […]

3 Mins

A Note to My Former Self, Aged 21  I am currently taking part in the West of England Design Forum (WEDF) Design Buddy scheme which is a unique mentoring opportunity set up to help third year graphic design students studying at Bath Spa University. It is a brilliant way to not only inspire the next generation of designers, but to also share with […]