Uber, the transportation and logistics unicorn many private investors consider more valuable than Ford Motor Company or FedEx, re-branded today. The company updated its logo, and new rider- and partner-app icons reflect the individuality of Uber’s local markets. In place black, gray, and blue, Uber is embracing bright colors, and lots of them. Each of 65 launch countries will receive a toolbox of new brand assets that include tailored colors and patterns, new midcentury modern illustrations, and guidelines for photography. Uber hopes to develop a more flexible brand that can grow with the company as it develops new products and attracts new customers.
The story of how Kalanick and his design team came to replace the ubiquitous “U” logo is about more than a corporate rebranding effort. It’s a coming-of-age tale. It’s about Uber’s attempt to transform its purpose and cement a new reputation—to change not only how it is perceived throughout the world, but how it perceives itself. Back in 2010, Uber’s founders launched an app that let wealthy bros summon BMWs and Lincoln Town Cars at the push of a button.
It was an elegant, elitist way for Kalanick, his friends, and people like them to “roll around San Francisco like ballers.” This, of course, was before Uber ran afoul of regulators and got hit with lawsuits alleging it misclassifies drivers as private contractors. It was before Kalanick raised more than $10 billion—valuing the business at close to $65 billion—on the promise that it would become the future of logistics. And it was before the launch of UberX, UberCommute, and UberPool—egalitarian offerings that feel decidedly un-baller. “The early app was an attempt at something luxury,” says Kalanick. “That’s where we came from, but it’s not where are today.”
Today, you’ll find Uber in 400 cities in 65 countries. Almost two-thirds of its 6,000 or so people have been with the company less than one year. That kind of hypergrowth has a history of causing startups—Blackberry, Palm, and Twitter among them—to lose focus. When most of your employees fit in your living room, it’s easy to communicate your plans. But now that task is exponentially harder. What’s more, Uber is a global and a local brand—the Mumbai market is very different than, say, the market in Lagos. Uber’s rebrand, says Kalanick, is about helping every person in its ecosystem—riders, partners, and employees—grok the company’s culture and ambitions.