The recently rebranded Airbnb logo is yet another classic example of how a well-intended logo design can encourage all the wrong innuendos if meticulous thought and planning are not implemented.
The new logo is meant to serve as a universal symbol of belonging. According to Airbnb, the logo represents people, places, love, and the American dream of “coming together” and “belonging anywhere”. But social media users have labelled the logo as obscene, saying it is representative of various body parts.
The suspicious similarity to the existing logo of Automation Anywhere is also highly concerning. Did these issues not get raised during the creative planning sessions?
Within hours of the launch, social media sites were overflowing with recreated versions of the logo that depicted a wide array of unscrupulous images. “Is it balls? Is it a vagina? Is it balls in front of a vagina?” asked Gizmodo. “I challenge you to name a sexual area not evoked by the Airbnb logo,” tweeted another.
The design studio behind the project (confusingly named Design Studio) said that the logo was inspired by Kurt Wiedeman’s theory that a great logo “is something you can draw in the sand with your toe”. It is meant to symbolise a person with their arms outstretched, a map pin location marker, an upside-down heart, and their brand letter A.
While all of these symbols are clearly visible in the logo, it is difficult to ignore the myriad of other unintended symbols that are evident too.
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Airbnb was created in 2008 as two housemates offering airbeds and breakfast to guests in exchange for rent money. Today, Airbnb now connects hosts in 190 countries offering unique experiences and forging friendships with travellers and renters. The new logo, named ‘Belo’ has been designed as an iconic mark for hosts to use on their windows and doors. It can be drawn by anyone and recognised anywhere.
Airbnb is inviting members of its community to create their own versions of the Belo symbol to put on their profile pages: “behind each symbol is a story only you can tell – about your home, your guests, and your adventures”.
Airbnb invested a lot of money and time into the rebrand. And it’s clear that Airbnb has been caught off guard by the reaction to the logo. Nathan Blecharczyk commented: “It’s just like: Go ahead, laugh all you want, guys. We wouldn’t want to design a logo that caters to the lowest common denominator”.
It has often been said that any brand exposure is good for a company. While Airbnb is receiving a lot of ridicule for this design oversight, they are still receiving a lot of brand exposure. Social media platforms are now unintentionally helping to promote this brand; regardless of what innuendo the brand is likened to, people across the world now know about a brand that they may have otherwise not heard of before.