Uber: An Unpredictable Ride from Uninspired Logo to Memorable Identity
New Uber Logo by Wolff Olins
As the pioneer in the industry, the name Uber has become ubiquitous with ride sharing. Launched in 2009, Uber quickly became the go-to-choice to get across town for business or pleasure – affordably and with short wait times. But with questionable leadership practices leading to an oppressive (even sexist) culture, the past couple of years have been challenging for the Uber brand. The popularity of Lyft has accentuated those challenges. Many formerly Uber loyalists have sworn off the brand, or at least deleted the app.
With 16,000 employees; 3 million drivers; 75 million riders; and operations in more than 600 cities in 65 countries around the world, Uber has a substantial brand. But, with the damage the corporate scandal did to the brand, they are losing market share and growing at a slower rate than projected. So, of course, the logical thing to do is to rebrand! Wait. Didn’t they just do that a couple of years ago? Yes, but besides creating some dissociation due to the scandal, this rebranding is also designed to simplify the visual brand to facilitate global growth. According to the brand agency Wolff Olins:
"Instead of pursuing a complex identity system, localized through color and pattern, we moved towards a universal ‘beyond-simple’ global brand. Teams in diverse markets can make it relevant to their audiences with culturally specific content. And the logo is approachable, easy to read, and takes full advantage of Uber’s name recognition."
Uber Logo Before & After
Well, that may be the official reason, but no sane, stable organization goes through this process twice in three years. Rebranding should move you forward and help achieve strategic objectives. Yes, this is simpler. Yes, this relies on established brand recognition. However, it seems the primary objective of this latest rebrand is to distract from the past, and put a new, positive face on the brand. That’s not wholly bad, but let’s not sugar coat it.
I must admit that when I first saw the new Uber logo, I thought, “Well, distinctive that aint!” The new primary visual is at best uninspiring, and at worst a middle finger to design. Perhaps when your brand has become a verb, the significance of a logo can be downplayed. Google doesn’t need a distinctive logo for you to remember the brand. Kleenex doesn’t. Uber doesn’t. But in comparison to the other applications of the new identity, the word mark certainly feels like an afterthought. As one other review put it, “This new logo also marks the apex of the extreme simplification trend in logos that we’ve been seeing in the past year or two and manages to take it to the farthest end of that spectrum. It’s actually perfect.” Hogwash! While it is a stark stylistic contrast to the Lyft logo, I don’t think it is reflective of the Uber experience. The Uber experience is not staid. It is not unembellished. Uber wants to convey a brand that is functional, trustworthy, and predictable with the simple mark. But that’s nearly impossible with so many drivers around the globe serving as your brand ambassadors. So, other than the completely unnecessary “upper-case-lower-case U” there is nothing that provides any distinctiveness in the logo.
Even with a custom created font, which is basically a modified version of Century Book or Avant Garde, it is still the quintessential non-logo-logo. It’s the logo designed for anyone…or no one.
Uber Move by MCKL Type
How do you make a logo like this even more uninspiring? Avoid color. Very rarely does a brand refresh its identity and decide that its primary color scheme is just black and white. I’m not totally comfortable with that. I like a little color. But that’s the new Uber…almost. Along with new leadership at Uber came a greater emphasis on safety – for riders, drivers, and employees. As part of this emphasis, they added a unique Safety Blue to the color palette. But it’s used sparingly and intentionally for specific interactions. I would have liked to see it applied a little more freely. While the b/w scheme is consistent with an uber-simplistic approach to the word mark, it also creates more of a corporate feel (in stark contrast to Lyft that will change its logo color, depending on the audience/message).
Uber Color Palette
For Uber, it all starts with the app. Thankfully! Am I the only one who doesn’t understand the previous app icon? I’m glad they’ve decided to not overthink this too much. Although the new app highlights the blahgo (Get it blah-logo. Trademark!) at least it stays true to the newly-focused simplicity. It couldn’t be much clearer. However, I think there may have been an opportunity to utilize the U-frame (see below) for even greater simplicity and connection to the rest of their branding. An improvement, yes, but I’ll still wait to download. .
Uber App Before & After
Up until now, I was rather unimpressed by this rebrand. The effort seemed superfluous, and the result was too plain.
Then comes the rest of the Uber identity system…Wow! It’s a total departure from the bland, uninspired word mark. It is magnificent! It is incredibly well-thought-out. It is intentionally colorful, and global, and unique. When contrasted against (or complimented with) the word mark, it becomes even more visually impressive.
The simplicity and the logical guidance for the U-Frame application serves as the foundational composition element for all of their marketing efforts: advertising; billboards; signage; and more. And it translates seamlessly no matter where it's applied. This is a winner on so many levels. It is quickly recognizable; it allows for country-specific, or cultural-specific imagery; and it provides clear methods for modifying for unique applications. It no longer relies exclusively on the logo mark. When it does, as on the signage, I think it breaks down. As a complete visual identity, it becomes much more authentic of the uniqueness of each Uber experience. I can easily see this type of treatment adapted to other organizations’ future rebranding efforts.
The iconography is also completely thought out, with both an outlined set and a filled set to provide flexibility. The arrow is the primary icon, serving as a travel metaphor. Aside form the logo, this is what good branding looks like. What an exhilarating ride.
Uber U-Frame Applications
Uber Icon Set and Usage
I think this rebrand highlights the importance of considering the logo as just a piece of the overall identity system. While your logo needs to be able to stand alone, it doesn’t need to do all the heavy-lifting for the visual brand. And representing simplicity and predictability in a logo can at one time seem unimaginative, and at the same time be inspiring.
Now, I guess it’s up to Uber to make their rebrand mean more than just a pretty new identity. Because as much as I love the new visual branding, Uber needs to show the commitment to a cultural change that aligns with that tenets of that brand. Until then, I’ll still choose to get a lyft from someone else.
If you're considering rebranding, contact us. We'd love to talk.