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The Birds and the Airbnbs

Airbnb has a new logo, and the Internet is going a bit nuts over it. Has been for days.

Let me explain.

No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

Despite some controversy that they may not have done their homework first, Airbnb has rebranded with what could be seen as almost overdue diligence. An entire new mission, narrative, and spirit was created for their recent site overhaul, was intended to make Airbnb easier to use while also making its listings more appealing.

The resulting new logo, if anything, may have had almost too much thought put into it, though it pains me to say so. There was a crazy-intense process that I’m honestly almost jealous of, a shiny new bespoke color of their very own called ‘Rausch,’ a customized version of an existing font, and a new icon that they encourage everyone to re-create. “Put a penguin on it,” they say.

The problem, however, lies with the icon, nicknamed “The Bélo.” As in “belonging.” Because you belong in other people’s houses. Or, er… other places… um… yeah.

Airbnb logo redesign 2014
Image: Airbnb

Don’t get me wrong, this thing certainly doesn’t suck. It’s simple, iconic, and certainly memorable. I have all kinds of more nuanced, design-blathery things I could be saying about it, but let’s stick to what folks are talking about: it looks rather like something that might be on the receiving end of the aforementioned sucking, and the reddish-pink color doesn’t help matters one bit.

There is not a single review or critique of this new logo that does not include at least a passing reference to human anatomy, most often pants-natomy. (Which yes, I just made up. Shush.) The internet is full of dirty minds, and it took all of .0125 seconds after launch for all of them to immediately devolve into 13-year-old boys, complete with Beavis and Butthead chortling. The icon is all parts for (or of) all people, and once you see it, it cannot be unseen.

TechCrunch says that the “New Airbnb Logo Wants You To Draw It Like One Of Your French Logos,” asking readers to submit their own visual remixes. AdWeek recommends that Airbnb “Ride the ‘Vagina Logo’ Buzz.” And even though it’s a reference not to genitalia but the company’s purpose, Brand New still declares that “All Your Bed are Belong to Us.”

Collectively, for one moment, the internet speaks almost as one: Heh-heh-heh. Heh-heh.

In the days since the announcement of Airbnb’s re-do, hordes of armchair designers have critiqued, criticized, mocked, and questioned the new design. A Tumblr (nsfw, depending on your workplace) was created. A hashtag was started. There’s even a song or three. This thing is a Rorschach test. But it’s got people talking.

Whether the story they intended to tell is the one that gets remembered (and whether the remembered story is a boon to Airbnb) remains to be seen, but the whole thing has already blown up far beyond the typical redesign announcement. Whether you notice a blobbly swirl drawn on a window or you see it as a part of an authorized advertisement, you will undoubtedly recognize the icon as representing Airbnb.

Which is really the point.

All images credit: Airbnb.

Beth Voigt

Beth is a graphic designer in Chicago, a superhero in her own mind, and absolutely nothing on TV. She wrangles fonts professionally, pummels code amateurishly, and has been known to shove fire in her face for fun. Fond of volunteering, late-night bursts of productivity, and making snacks, she dislikes grocery shopping and sticky public transit and is only on her second smartphone. Her opinion is that you should try everything twice; if you don't like it, you were probably doing it wrong the first time around. If external links are your thing, here are links to Twitter and Instagram, and you can support her ongoing weirdness by buying her a coffee or six.

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