Airbnb Logo: Meaning, History and Controversy

by Mike Jansen

Have you planned your next holiday destination? The holiday season is just around the corner, and some of you are busy buying amazing deals offered by various online travel agencies. But, if you are not sure about where to go, you can begin by logging on to Airbnb.

Airbnb begins by suggesting you the places you can go along with a host of other things. The online marketplace has gained immense popularity since its launch in 2008, but it has also seen more than its fair share of controversy surrounding its logo.

The visual identity of the online platform has taken a serious beating from critics and graphic designers. Despite the odds, Airbnb stands strong!

We will explore the meaning and other “hidden meanings” of the Airbnb logo along with looking at some of its controversies. But first, let’s look at the company’s history.

A Brief History of Airbnb

Airbnb is an online marketplace where people looking for accommodations are connected to people renting out their property. The online platform is a favorite for those looking out for a homestay over hotels.

The idea for the online marketplace came up when friends Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky turned their living room into a bed and breakfast by putting an air mattress there. In 2008, Nathan Blecharczyk joined Joe and Brian as the third founder and called their new venture AirBed & Breakfast (Airbnb).

Founded in 2008, the San Francisco-based online marketplace covers more than 190 countries in the world today.

Meaning of Airbnb Logo

Airbnb’s unique approach towards changing traditional lodging arrangements and integrating it with the current wave of “sharing economy” has been the bedrock of their success. However, the company’s logo has had a hand in the company’s success.

For any brand to thrive, creating awareness is critical, especially if it is a new industry. Airbnb successfully created the new industry by raising awareness among people through aggressive digital advertising. The Airbnb emblem served as the foundation of their digital marketing efforts.

The Airbnb symbol has fascinated people in many ways. Some even think that there are some hidden meanings in the symbol. We will discuss the hidden meanings later, but first, let me tell you about its “surface” meaning.

The interesting-looking Airbnb emblem is made up of various symbols. The teardrop in the middle portrays a person’s head, signifying that Airbnb is a people-oriented brand. The same is associated with the location icon, symbolizing travel.

Airbnb Logo History

History of Airbnb Logo

Airbnb revamped its visual identity only once in its history, changing the original blue icon in 2014. The first official Airbnb logo was the blue one; however, they used the following logo when they initially started.

Initial logo of Airbnb

2008 – 2014

The original Airbnb emblem was a blue and white wordmark.  The interesting cursive inscription was visually divided into two parts: Air and bnb. The “Air” was placed slightly above “bnb,” giving the entire logo a fun vibe.

The lowercase wordmark appeared welcoming along with evoking a sense of reliability and professionalism.

2014 – Now

Airbnb overhauled its visual identity in 2014. Created by the London-based design studio Belong Together, the logo seemed simple at first glance. The visually appealing logo comprises an abstract symbol and the wordmark placed towards its left.

The logo has drawn a considerable amount of controversy over the years, along with facing harsh criticism.

Color Palette of Airbnb Logo

Airbnb uses a pink and white color palette to represent itself as a friendly company. The choice of colors reflects the brand as warm, kind, and concerned. Pink and white together in the logo portray love, protection, and feelings of tenderness. The soft colors have helped the brand stand apart from the crowd.

Airbnb Logo Typeface

The lowercase Airbnb wordmark has been executed using a conventional sans serif typeface. The typeface appears very close to LL Brown: a geometric sans serif font.

The Controversy Around Airbnb Logo

The 2014 edition of the logo has been a subject of various controversies. The first controversy surrounding the Bélo (the name of the symbol) is in the way it looks. People have compared the symbol to the female genitalia! However, CTO Nathan Blecharczyk felt that people didn’t really stop to think about what the Bélo really represented.

An article published on Vox mentions: “It’s just like: Go ahead, laugh all you want, guys,’ he said. ‘We wouldn’t want to design a logo that caters to the lowest common denominator. This was a yearlong undertaking for dozens of people, it’s something meaningful, and no one really pauses to understand that… The symbol is not supposed to be a symbol; it’s supposed to be something with meaning. The Bélo is a vehicle for rich, deep, emotional, human stories.

The symbol has also drawn significant criticism due to its likeness to Automation Anywhere’s logo. According to a BBC article, the likeness appears to be “misplaced.”

As per the article, Airbnb and Automation Anywhere “began the use of new logos” in early 2014 and the similarity in designs are a mere “coincidence.”

“Airbnb and Automation Anywhere are working cooperatively to address this issue, and Automation Anywhere is in the process of transitioning to a new logo design that is not similar to the Airbnb logo.”

Hidden Meanings of Airbnb Logo

Not one, not two, well not even three, but the Bélo has four meanings! The interesting symbol is more than an infinity loop. Wow! Did I just come up with a fifth one? Well, it does resemble the infinity loop, maybe a bit!

Borys Skowron, a brand identity designer, revealed in a video that the Airbnb logo is made up of four different symbols.

Hidden meaning of Airbnb logo
  1. Airbnb: The first thing you notice about the Bélo is the letter “A.” The uppercase English alphabet in the logo symbolizes the company’s name: Airbnb.
  2. People: The inner teardrop in the symbol represents a person’s head, which conveys the notion that Airbnb is a people’s brand.
  3. Location icon: The same inner teardrop also represents the location icon, which is generally associated with movement and destination.
  4. Love: The outer “A” shape of the symbol also looks like an inverted heart, symbolizing love, kindness, and compassion.

Evaluation of Airbnb Logo

Relevance of Airbnb Logo

The best question to ask yourself before you begin designing your company logo is what is the purpose behind the logo? 

The answer to your question will help you in devising a logo, which is relevant and to the point. A designer may have many tricks up his hat to create a great-looking logo for you, but unless you are sure about the intention behind your logo, everything will be in vain. 

A relevant logo clearly communicates the brand identity and personality along with being relevant to the market their businesses target.

The Airbnb emblem is a fantastic example of an appropriate logo. While the logo has been a subject of various controversies, it is a fantastic logo that clearly communicates the brand’s personality and identity.

Memorability of Airbnb Logo

One of the most important elements of a great logo is that it can be easily recalled. And how do you make a logo memorable? The best way to make a memorable logo is by making it unique. You should always strive to be unique while designing your logo. A logo that is unique helps a brand get noticed. If you are a startup or a business with limited funds, then designing a unique logo will help you in more ways than one.

The Airbnb logo is unique as it combines various symbols to create something new. The emblem is memorable and creates a powerful impact on the customer’s mind.

Simplicity of Airbnb Logo

You are at a greater risk of losing fine details when you design a complex logo.  Simple logos highlight the most important aspect of the brand. Some of the greatest brands in the world use extremely simple logos to drive the message home. Simple logos are easy on the brain and communicate the brand’s personality within seconds.

The Airbnb logo has been executed using four different symbols, but it looks very simple. The emblem is a great example of how simplicity can turn a design into a great piece of artwork. 

Timelessness of Airbnb Logo

A well-composed logo, which does not follow current design trends, is more likely to be relevant over time. A timeless logo consists of all the elements mentioned above, along with being versatile.

The Airbnb logo has all the elements in the right place for it to become timeless!

Final thoughts,

While it is true that the Airbnb logo has faced some serious backlash from critics, it has all the right pieces in place, which can make the emblem iconic. In terms of design aesthetic, the Bélo is well-balanced and pleasing to the eyes.

So, if you haven’t planned your next holiday destination yet, Airbnb will help you “belong anywhere.”

Businesses accross the world have consulted DesignBro to build their brand with logo, website, packaging design and much more.

We can help you too!

Airbnb Logo: Meaning, History and Controversy
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