UBER: BALLER RIDES AND LOGOMOTION

Alongside a look at Uber’s new visual identity, we took the opportunity to comment on their cultural significance and how their new logo affirms Uber’s role in today’s cultural and geographical landscape.

  • Consumers increasingly demand the inexpensive, seamless efficiency that characterises the sharing economy – even in organizations that operate outside of it.
  • Uber’s declared shift in emphasis towards fairness and equality isn’t obvious in its new logo design.
  • As Uber transforms the way we move through cities, our habits are increasingly dictated by technology  – this is reflected in Uber’s visual and written story of bits and atoms.

Urban ConnectivityBaller Rides

When did a reliable ride become so important? Uber started as a way to “request premium black cars” in a few metropolitan cities back in 2008 and spawned a new standard of safety and convenience that is transforming the way we think about transportation. Tapping a button on your mobile phone far surpasses consulting any bus schedule or wailing around on the street in bad weather. Uber is a service that evades exposure in other ways too; its cashless encounters render money a cumbersome exchange happily avoided and thus riding with Uber offers financial discretion. It should be noted that Uber is both a global and a local brand, adapting to suit its 365 cities individually. In Lagos, Nigeria, a rider pays cash, which is a significant shift from a fairly ownable asset that provides fodder for analyzing fiscal exchanges across the globe. These local nuances are now echoed in a thoughtful color palette inspired but the city’s visual culture, which reinforces a sense of immediate geography for the user.

For the driver, or “partner”, Uber is a flexible way to earn money that’s swiftly becoming a full time job—welcomed or not. With quotas and strikes on the rise, it’s hard to say they are satisfied, but consumers still expect nothing less than immediate and reliable chauffeurs, and then more. If an UberPool results in a phone number exchange, the partner becomes a matchmaker. For the bleary eyed party goer, the partner is definitively a fairy godmother. In Columbia, UberAngel will meet you on his or her bike and drive your car home for you. Riders demand this logistical reality, which frees access just as GPS became a transportation standard. Uber as a cultural staple evinces a more fluid urban environment and lifestyle that significantly redefines the role of servicemen. A reliable ride isn’t just important—it’s infrastructure; and expectations like these are effecting organisations outside of the sharing economy.

As these people-driven cars help lead the future of public transportation and likewise compete with drones, a super highway of fluid, seamless exchange emerges. According to CEO Travis Kalanick, this egalitarian ethos feels a long way from baller private rides; however, Uber’s sharing economy still harbors a residual delineation between rider and partner that is evidenced in their new redesign. As uber aims to make transportation as “reliable as running water,” it may be curious to see what socio-economic divides arise within the new bit and atom metaphor.
new-uber-icons-640x321

Logomotion

Uber’s heavy, heraldic, horned U is no more, and by now the constituent parts of the new Uber logo, the bit and the atom, have been well discussed. The brand’s lofty goal of uniting the ephemeral, light-speed world of information with the physical world of asphalt and tyres and smartphones might not be quite so unique as Travis Kalanick claims, but it is a fitting claim for Uber.

The bit resides both within the atom, and above it (for how else would it be visible?). Nested inside diagrammatical highways of rigid symmetry, the atom has a new nucleus; the offline world has been possessed by a networked army of helpful nodes, gradually bringing sci-fi levels of instant convenience into every nook and cranny of analogue life.

This new hierarchy is reinforced with the line that joins the bit to the outside of the atom. Born in a culture that reads from left to right, the line represents a journey into the heart of the bit – it is, at first glance, an arrow hitting the bull’s-eye, the affirmation of a service that sends you to your destination, but it also represents society’s shift towards a world that is technological first, and physical second. There is a sense of inevitability here, which is surely an ominous message for Uber’s current or future competitors.

Despite also relying on the bit as its protagonist/vanishing point, the updated Partner app, signals something altogether different to Uber’s logo and Rider app. The atom has become a nut, a cog – a less egalitarian symbol than the atom, which by its very nature unites everything – that suggests being part of something larger, but also a lack of autonomy. Inside this mechanical frame, the bit has two paths that vertically bisect the cog. The fragility in this structure perhaps reminds Uber’s partners of the constant need to expend effort on maintaining the machine that runs on their collective adherence to the expectations of a public now so familiar with ease and convenience.

This turn towards authoritarian symbolism reveals an honesty about the division between those facilitating the sharing economy through the world of bits, and those providing it through the physical structure of their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel. Failing to bridge this divide – which would likely increase partner happiness and motivation, and allay fears of precarious employment by faceless dystopian entities – is an opportunity which remains to be taken.

– Hannah Hoel and Matthew Oliver