At this point, the whole internet has had their chance to weigh in on the new creative direction for the Airbnb rebrand. Given the instantaneous reactions to the logo’s numerous anatomical comparisons, it begs the question: Was this the result of pure oversight, creative hubris, or viral genius?
It’s clear there was no shortage of time and money put towards the effort. The unveiling of the brand was accompanied with plenty of high minded, and sincere reflections on the nature of community and how their mark is thought to reflect these themes.
“At a time when new technologies have made it easier to keep each other at a distance, you’re using them to bring people together. And you’re tapping into the universal human yearning to belong.”
It’s within this context that the world was introduced to the Bélo, or as Airbnb would like to think of it, “the universal symbol of belonging.” Their accompanying introduction video gives us an idea of the perspective the team was bringing to the project.
It’s clear that the hearts of London’s DesignStudio were in the right place with the sentiment, but we have to wonder how no one along the way gave the creative director a nudge to raise a well-meaning red flag about some possible complications with the concept. Granted this isn’t the first time the public has seen some unintended things in otherwise innocent logos.
While Airbnb’s new identity appeals to the most altruistic and well-intentioned aspects of society, they neglected the more primitive instincts that rule on the internet from which they were born. If one thing is true about the internet, it’s that if a crude anatomic joke can be made, it will be made about a billion times over.
If this truth weren’t clear to the team before, it surely is now. Within minutes, twitter was flooded with commentary on the logo’s graphic connotations. It even spawned its own tumblr dedicated to reinterpretations of the mark.
The more troubling aspect of the story is that for as immaturely controversial as the logo has been, it’s not even particularly original. After the announcement it was noted that the new Airbnb mark bore a striking resemblance to that of San Jose’s Automation Anywhere. The two have since released a joint statement dismissing the similarity as mere coincidence and that the two will be cooperating to resolve the issue.
So, what can we learn from all this?
While anyone in the creative field knows what it’s like to get deeply invested in an idea, the real trick comes in knowing exactly how much to let outside influence shape the process. While the Airbnb/DesignStudio team was not working in a vacuum, they decided to not concern themselves with the reactions of the often neanderthalian net.
Either that, or they fully anticipated the response, and banked on the added viral bump. In which case, hats off to them. After all, it’s not every day a brand can inspire such a rush of spirited engagement. Who’s laughing now? Everyone? Time for a song.