Look At Me, I Also Have Opinions About Uber’s New Branding

Uber’s (now out of date) brand mark

Disclaimer 1: This article was written some time ago and published only recently. For that reason, some of what’s discussed here may be out of date and may not reflect the latest changes to Uber’s branding, most recently made in 2018. Sorry about that.

Disclaimer 2: I’m not going to talk about whether Uber or its leadership are “evil” and I’m not going to talk about the recent trend for the public to go apeshit over corporate re-brandings. I’m tired of those two topics.

Another company has changed its logo, and another groundswell of internet indignance has emerged. It’s different this time—at least a little bit—because it’s Uber, and people seem to have especially strong feelings about Uber.

Is it really that bad?

First off: The new Uber wordmark and symbol are pretty good, at least in my opinion. The wordmark, in particular, seems like a huge improvement over the previous version which was starting to show it’s age. The bolder letterforms and tighter spacing have a much more pleasing geometry and don’t suffer from the “stretched out” look of the former design. It even retains the few details that I enjoyed most about the previous design, such as the selectively rounded corners.

Brandmarks and logos and icons

Whenever The Internet gets upset about a corporate re-branding, there is always a lot of confusion around brandmark vs logo vs app icon. In this case, Uber has chosen an app icon that does not include components or references to its new wordmark. This infuriates The Internet. The Internet sees clearly that this was an oversight or perhaps the work of a megalomaniacal CEO who The Internet knows to be “An Asshole”. In truth, of course, there is a long history of brand systems that including word and symbol marks that differ fundamentally, both in look and usage. This tradition both predates and includes app icons. Uber’s new app icon is a conceptual representation of their service, not of their name.

Uber’s new app icon is a conceptual representation of their service, not of their name

BoingBoing took issue with the execution of the app icon, pointing out several “mistakes” that, clearly, only An Idiot would make. Among them is the lack of mathematically perfect center-alignment of the circle and the square knockout in the center. Thinking that a company of this size would let something out the door with that type of my-first-shape-tool execution error is, on the face of it, ridiculous. It may not have been the same decision BoingBoing might have made, but it was a decision all the same, and probably not a mistake. Why is it not centered? Most likely the artist was attempting to align the two shapes optically rather than mathematically, which is not only common practice, but good practice. This is backed up by the fact that the square is offset horizontally but not vertically, and that it is pushed slightly to the right in an apparent attempt to accommodate the line to its left.

BoingBoing also breathlessly points to the gap between the line design in the icon’s background and the left edge of the circle shape. Clearly, this is the work of A World Class Simp. To my eye, however, this is another very deliberate detail intended to reduce the tension that can occur when shapes of differing characteristics share too small a space. This subtle knockout is not carried forth around the entire perimeter of the circle, which may be part of the confusion. Is it an entirely unimpeachable design decision? No, it certainly is not, but it’s also not what I would consider egregious.

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Design leader. Former Googler. Opinions are mine, except for the ones I borrowed.

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Jason Carlin

Jason Carlin

Design leader. Former Googler. Opinions are mine, except for the ones I borrowed.

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