Uber rebrands with location-specific "asshole" logos based on bathroom tiles


Taxi service Uber has launched a new identity designed by the company's CEO, which presents users in different countries with customised colours and patterns, and which has already been compared to an "asshole". 

Unveiled yesterday, the branding is centred around a theme of bits and atoms to represent Uber's technology and human focus.

Rather than hiring a designer, CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick worked with Uber design director Shalin Amin on the redesign. Kalanick told Wired magazine that this was because he didn't trust anyone else to do it for him.

The new design has already been called out as "confusing" by Techspot and likened to an "asshole" when turned on its side by Gizmodo.

Uber's new logo
Uber's new logo has been likened to an "asshole"

Patterns found across the background of the revised app icon and loading screen were devised by communications designer Catherine Ray, who was reportedly inspired by small square tiles in her bathroom.

The recognisable U on the icon has gone – replaced by a circular motif for riders and a hexagonal shape on partners' devices. Both have a square "bit" in the centre, which has led to the comparisons to an anus.

Instead of black and white, Uber has opted for a colourful palette influenced by mood boards of architecture, textiles, scenery, art and fashion in the countries it operates in.

Uber's new logos
Uber has launched different app icons for users (left) and partners

"In Mexico, we were inspired by Mexican pink and the patterns in the local tiles; in Ireland, from the Georgian architecture and the lush greens; and in Nigeria, from the ankara, which came up again and again because of its bright colours and beautiful geometric patterns," said Kalanick.

Users in the different countries see a customised version of the identity to match these colours. The company also plans to roll out city-specific versions of the colours and patterns as time goes on.

Uber's new logo
Uber used colours and patterns in China to inform a location-specific palette for the country

The typeface used for the new written logo is thicker, more condensed and simplified to remove the curls on the U and R – a move the company described at cutting off its "1990s hairstyle".

"This will help you see Uber from afar, and when it's in small places," said Kalanick. "It also reflects a more substantial look as we too have matured as a company."

Uber's new logo
Each country has a custom logo – Mexico's was influenced by patterns in the local tiles

Kalanick set up Uber with Garrett Camp in 2009, as a black car service for 100 friends in San Francisco. Its first logo was a red magnet designed by Camp, which the greyscale identity the new logo replaces was introduced in 2011.

Other recent controversial rebrands include Airbnb's design overhaul, which was quickly compared to human genitalia, and sparked a series of variations and memes.

  • David C

    Errm, am I the only one that feels the anus reference is bit of cringe-worthy clickbait? Feels like a nonsense opinion designed to give a more dramatic angle on the reporting of a perfectly reasonable piece of work.

    Just because you don’t like Uber (or any big company) doesn’t mean you have to sulk like a teenager and try and sabotage it so you feel better about yourself. If the same work had been shown, but for a small niche brand, that reference would never have been made. Dezeen, you are better than that.

    • Guest

      They don’t seem to be better than that. Dezeen is posting these sort of titled articles frequently. I gather they are trying to come across cheeky but really it just sounds lame.

    • Chris A.

      Precisely, no one would say that about the Chase Bank logo.

    • Durgen Jensen

      Yeah! What is this article?

    • prejudice

      Indeed. What’s more, let us judge whether it looks like an asshole or not. Don’t slap it in the headline and taint our (hopefully) open view. It’s not just an insult to Uber, it’s an insult to us the readers.

  • spadestick

    Trust CEOs to design their own logos. This is one area where they shouldn’t be sticking their noses in. Time to go with an alternative taxi app service – it seems like every city has its own copycat version of Uber around the world.

    No trust in a company means an industrial-age type of company and culture, and these egoistic losers can go crap on themselves back to the Stone Age for being such “assholes”. So apt!

  • Rhys Merritt

    I am a bit confused by the part of the article that states “a new identity designed by the company’s CEO”. Really? Travis Kalanick designed the new identity?

  • Aaron

    This is a classic example of what happens when someone who’s not a designer thinks it’s be fun to have a crack at being one. How hard can it be, right?

    Three years and hundreds of iterations later and you end up with something so confused as to be conceptually illegible. When you’re basing your logo on your bathroom tiles – and admitting it – you know you’re in trouble.

    Half the point of hiring an external design firm is to have people (experts even) removed from the company who have some distance and provide some perspective. They didn’t, and now they’re getting that perspective (“This sucks”) from the public.

    On the plus side, the new word mark is an improvement.

  • DoubtfulDodger

    Uber should have got the professionals in. This is shoddy design at its most amateurish.

  • “See that? I designed it myself!”

    • After staring at the tiles in my bathroom…

  • Wolfgang Strack

    Why does a design advocate like Dezeen engage in design bashing on this level?

    • thepixinator

      Because the logo was designed by someone who’s not a designer, who was inspired by her bathroom’s tiles. Plus, any design website should not be afraid to be critical. I don’t think this is bashing. I think the criticisms are well-founded.

  • The Liberty Disciple

    Uber has a bit of an underground movement attached to them as they circumnavigate all sorts of anti-completive laws of yesteryear.

    To me, this is the aim of the redesign with a less than obvious logo. Whether successful or not, their marketing is rarely done outside of email receipts, and app notifications.

    Truthfully, the “U” only makes so much sense in western-speaking countries. This is an interesting, yet recognisable branding for the controversial company. I neither love it nor hate it. Let’s see how it goes once we’re down the road.

  • Barry Chills

    Read the stationery in the header image as “Badly Wrong”. Sums up the rebrand. Could be much better.

  • disqus_GsRPQXTzMS

    Are donuts anuses, then? Are we all eating anuses in the morning?

  • Rae Claire

    I was sooo sad to see it on my phone when I checked after reading that the “U” was gone. This thing is not suggestive to me of anything more unpleasant than a floppy disc from the 90s, but it doesn’t say anything useful either. Please try again, boss.

  • There’s a reason branding is a science. Stick to your strengths, CEO.

    • Steve Hopkinson

      Branding and design are complex skills that require hours of learning and practice to develop, yes. But to call branding ‘science’ diminishes both terms.

  • TL

    How are you supposed to recognise the app – there is no indication of the U or Uber?

    Reminds me of that scene from W1A when they try to redo the BBC logo…

    It doesn’t look like an asshole – it just doesn’t look like anything apart from Catherine’s bathroom tiles. Great job Catherine! Bully for you!

  • TheCritic

    David C totally agree, It seems Dezeen needs more attention, and here we give it…

  • Paul Rees

    Lame article with faux Freudian connections that simply do not exist but in the mind of the clickbait writer. Dezeen can and does do better than this. Please treat your audience with some respect.

    • thepixinator

      I disagree. I’ve seen the same complaints about this logo online on many different sites, before this Dezeen article was printed. And design sites should be critical. I don’t think it’s clickbait at all.