Uber just changed its logo and branding. Cue the Facebook-esque backlash

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Uber just changed its logo and branding. Cue the Facebook-esque backlash

Uber, the ride-hailing app that everyone loves to hate, but is essential to their daily lives, has pulled a Facebook. And the world ain't happy with it. Update the app on your phone; you will be asked to do so soon enough. But don't freak out, the internet has already done that for you.

The reason? On 2 February, Uber, the easy way to hail a taxi, rolled out a brand new icon for its app. The company is rebranding - its logo, its branding, its direction.

Uber has been inspired by the bit and the atom, both building blocks of the technological world we live in. The company wants to move towards an individualistic look for each of the 68 countries it operates in currently. It will now expand from a black and white colour palette to country-speicifc combinations along with five global colour combinations.

Uber's tagline has also changed - from "Everyone's private driver" to "Get there."

Here's what the blog post titled Celebrating Cities: A New Look and Feel for Uber written by CEO Travis Kalanick had to say:

"Uber began life as a black car service for 100 friends in San Francisco-everyone's private driver. Today, we're a transportation network spanning 400 cities in 68 countries that delivers food and packages, as well as people, all at the push of a button. And thanks to services like uberX and uberPOOL we've gone from a luxury, to an affordable luxury, to an everyday transportation option for millions of people."

We know change doesn't happen overnight and for Uber, this change is four years in the making. Their last logo was released on 5 December, 2011. They went from a big fat red U to the iconic black badge U. Now that has changed. Uber is no longer a U.

New Uber logo

There are two new app badges. Ridgers get to see notched white circle on a dark blue background. Drivers get to see a hexagon on a dark red background.

Uber logo_Before and after

Immediately, Twitter came to the rescue. The logo was not a U anymore. It was, well, who the hell knows? I'm confused and I'm sure you're confused as well. If anything, it should be this:

About the icon, the blog post went on to say:

"One of the big changes over the years is that Uber no longer moves just people; we're now moving food, goods, and soon maybe much more. With the potential for many apps with many app icons, we needed one approach that connected them all. So we came back to our story of bits and atoms. You'll see that both rider and driver icons have the bit at the center, and then the local colors and patterns in the background. This is a framework that will also make it easy to develop different icons for new products over time."

Here's a short 40 second video also:

Celebrating Cities | Uber from Uber on Vimeo.

All media houses rushed to give us, consumers around the world, a first look and behind the scenes look of what happened and how the new logo came about. The Wired piece is most relevant to us people here in India.

"By November, the team had a final design for the icon-a badge so visually connected to the concepts they'd developed that, in describing it, Kalanick once again narrowed his eyes and lifted his fingers to his mouth in a gesture of supreme satisfaction. But they had to kill the idea at the last minute; the icon looked too much like one belonging to an app launched by the State Bank of India. The design team returned to the war room."

Twitter was quick to point it out, whether or not they read the Wired piece. Uber = State Bank of India and is also = Zomato. Just take a look:

Cue the backlash and some hilarity, ala Facebook. Whenever Facebook changes its design, people freak out. Now Uber is feeling the same pinch, especially from the Indian Twitterati:

Also, according to an article in The Verge, the new intro sequence when one loads up the app means it will take many more seconds to reach the option where you can book a cab. Clearly, Uber didn't take into account the fact that a lot of people prefer cabs in the winter as opposed to other modes of transportation.

Personal branding

Oh, one last thing. The rebranding was personal, according to the Wired piece.

"Kalanick's involvement makes more sense when you understand the rebranding was personal. "There's an evolution here, for the founder as well as for the company," he says, "because really, they're very connected."

During Uber's early years, Kalanick came across as a bellicose bro, a rebel-hero always angling for a confrontation-with regulators, the taxi industry, and competitors. Reflecting on this image, Kalanick says it was all a misrepresentation by the media. When you don't really know who you are, he explains, it's easy to be miscast-as a company, or as a person."

Here's the kicker though, also courtesy that fascinating article, "Here's the thing, though. Kalanick is not a designer."

It's only day one as of now. We'll see how people feel on day 22. Facebook makes wholesome changes and people settle down and get used to it. Using the service is more important in the long-run then how it works.

So calm down people, get used to it, and move on with your daily lives.

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Sahil Bhalla

Sahil Bhalla @IMSahilBhalla