Uber has a new logo and the world hates it. At least, that’s what you’d expect from the stories across tech and design blogs this morning. But what all of the scorn being poured on isn’t actually a logo. In one specific way, it serves the purpose of a logo – and it also shows how the core purpose of a logo has changed when most our interaction with brands is done digitally.
This is Uber’s new logotype – and it's about as uncontroversial as it gets: chunkier, more tightly kerned than the previous logotype (below), with the horseshoe-like serifs shaved off. It’s more corporate than its predecessor – as befits a company that’s no longer a start-up – but the way the slants on the ends of the top and middle bar of the E connect in negative space is rather appealing.
You can see a short animation created by Uber about how it was adapted from the old logo on the company's news post about it new identity.
But that’s not what has caused professional hot-takers to crank out their ire – it’s these two symbols.
These aren’t logos though. They’re the new app icons for the core Uber app for booking a rider (top – called the Rider app by the company), and the Driver app for its drivers (bottom).
The Rider app icon acts is almost a logo for the company – it’s a representation of the brand that’s seen by millions of people every day on their homescreens, even when they’re not using the app. Actually, especially when they’re not using the app, as the symbol isn’t used anywhere else apart from a brief splash screen – whether within the app or even Uber’s site.
The bland shapes and colours surround a dot - called a “bit" by Uber as a homage to its place as a ‘digital disruptor of the taxi market’. This is part of a wider identity, where the ‘bit’ forms the basis of Material Design-style squares of colour that form containers of text and images.
On pure aesthetic terms, the app icons aren’t beautiful – but then it’s hard to be stylish on a half-inch square with rounded corners. They’re also essentially meaningless – even Spotify’s bland yes-it’s-actually-our-logo icon is clearly based on the projection of sound and Amazon’s awful Kindle icon is a poorly-drawn picture of someone reading a book.
But they’re not a true logo, this is less relevant than their obvious purpose – to provide an underlying design that will tie the core Rider app to new apps offering different services such as food delivery that have yet to come, as Uber matures and diversifies to hit the growth targets it’s investors expect of it. This coherence aims to engineer trust in these new services, as well as the expectation of other core Uber brand values (e.g. cheapness and convenience).
It’s something few companies have got right and even Amazon has failed at.
Yes, the app icons would have been better if they’d had some inherent meaning, but criticising them in the same way we do traditional logos shows a lack of understanding of what a logo is for when your primary communication with a service is through a 5-6-inch screen.