A look at Uber - and why Tech companies are refreshing their visual identities?

Guest Author

October 10, 2019

An organization is just like a person, both can communicate ideas visually without the use of words. Humans express a large part of their personality through body movement, facial expression and fashion style. Their age, personality, what they like and sometimes even the music they listen to can be reflected in how they dress. The same is true for an organization's visual identity. So with all this being said, why did Android, Slack, Yahoo, Uber and many more in the Tech space change their look recently?

Brand recognition

Uber logo redesign 2018

To answer this question we first need to look at the consequences of missing the mark when it comes to visual identity. A great example of this is Uber, who realised they were headed in the wrong direction when the bad press resulting from its business practices, culture, and overall appreciation made some people riding Uber feel complicit in their bad behavior. On their famous 2018 rebrand, the multi-billion dollar transportation unicorn commented that:

"One thing was clear: a truly iconic brand system would leverage the power of our name recognition. We also found an overwhelmingly positive association of our brand with the color black.”

The Right audience

A worse scenario is building recognition but with the wrong audience. Think of it as going to the beach in a suit and tie, you would be undeniably recognisable as the only person there who is dressed like that. Is that recognition useful though? Most likely the answer is no and you should get going because you are late to your interview. Everything from color to typography ensures that an organization is ‘dressed for the part’, that their visual language reflects their values and communicates them effectively to their target audience. 

The Differentiation game

In a crowded market, it is increasingly hard to differentiate your business from others. If you decide to compete on price there will always be cheaper, if you decide to compete on quality there will always be better and the same goes for all other factors except personality. That is the only thing that no competitor can be better at than you are, by using a very specific and tailored visual language you can appeal to a laser focused target and connect with them on a deeper level. By creating this deeper connection you now have an unbeatable competitive advantage. Uber’s new logo is not a perfect one. It’s a perfect logo for Uber — now. To me, one of its biggest achievements, especially in the U.S. market, is that it’s the opposite of Lyft. It draws a clear distinction and establishes Uber as the more professional, robust, and straightforward option of the two. It may potentially also communicate an unwelcome coldness that contrasts negatively from the warmth and friendliness implied in the Lyft brand and its drivers but, as long as Uber and its drivers stay on the straight and narrow, the associations should become positive.

I can’t really point to the exact reasons that pushed each specific company to update or completely change their visual language. But what I can say is that design and visual communication when paired with strategy can create strong brands that are worth being fans of. The Tech space specifically is always changing with an audience getting bigger than ever, something that maybe is making companies, big and small, rethink their image and redefine their target audiences, and by extension the way they should communicate to them visually. 

The author, Abdellah Rholem, is a branding strategist who has worked in the creative field for many years and has collaborated with Castle Lab repeatedly. You can learn more about him, or his work, right here
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