Uber’s surprising new direction


Stuart Chapman


Tags uber ux

Uber’s changed its look and feel, and it’s pretty radical.

If you’re a city dweller, you might have spotted that one of your apps looked different this morning. Uber’s ‘U’ app icon, long established as a mainstay on urbanites’ home screens, has changed.

In its place is a radically different, slightly perplexing icon which evokes the world of connectivity and networks – both city and circuitry.

Whatever you think of the icon, strategically, the move makes sense. Uber’s been built on the slick visual language of the private driver, but that no longer encapsulates its developing role as a “transportation network”, offering services like food and laundry delivery. Change was needed.

While the app icon has come in for some stick – it’s lost the immediacy and clarity of the ‘U’ – other parts of the wider Visual Brand Language (even the app loading screen) feels a little stronger.

But for me, it represents a missed opportunity. Uber has long had a reputation issue – whether its the privacy allegations, safety concerns or just the impact it’s having on the humble cabbie. While design’s not going to solve any of that, it could have presented a more relatable, human face – perhaps reflecting the eclectic mix of characterful drivers, or the serendipitous social pool car meetings.

Instead, they’ve created a VBL which fails to remedy the coldness of the previous branding, and compounds it with a distant-feeling, alienatingly techy ‘Skynet-like’ design language (see their slightly chilling video here).

It’s certainly different, and that’s a good thing. But first impressions? More alien than human.