Airbnb's New Logo Looks Awfully Familiar

Airbnb's new brand resembles the logos of several other companies. Looks like someone forgot to do a Google Image Search.

Update: Airbnb spokesman Nick Papas has written to tell us, "In early 2014 both Airbnb and Automation Anywhere began use of new logos that, by coincidence, have similar designs. 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." We will update the post as we learn more.

Unveiled today in San Francisco, the new Airbnb logo--or Belo, as the home rental service is calling it--looks like a heart bent out of a paper clip. Some people like it; others think it looks like genitals (male or female, no one's really sure). The one thing everyone should be able to agree on is that it looks an awful lot like logos that are already out there.

Twitter is awash this afternoon with spottings of the doppelgangers of the new Airbnb Belo:

To our eyes, the new Airbnb logo most closely resembles the logo of Automation Anywhere, an IT company focused on automation. In fact, the Airbnb Belo is almost indistinguishable from Automation Anywhere's logo, except for being pink and slightly more curvaceous. Is the similarity pure coincidence?

New Airbnb logo on left, Automation Anywhere logo on right.

In Fast Company's story about the design of the Belo, Austin Carr reports that the new symbol was designed to abstract the shapes of a heart, a house, and a location pin, all while evoking the shape of the "A" in Airbnb. We have to wonder if, when Automation Anywhere commissioned its nearly identical logo, the spec was similar. After all, both companies start with the letter "A" and involve using tech to interact with remote locations. "Give us a logo that looks like an 'A' with a house and a location pin in it, stat!"

Something tells me Automation Anywhere got its logo at a fraction of the cost Airbnb paid. Which is good. Because the problem with the new Airbnb Belo isn't just that it looks like a bicycle seat combined with a Burn After Reading style masturbation device. It's that no matter how good and thoughtful your design process is, you still need to make sure other people haven't come up with your design first.

In his story about Belo, Carr reports that the Airbnb symbol was outsourced to the London-based DesignStudio. Before agreeing on the final design, the designers claim to have studied everything from the logos of the Red Cross, the Olympic Games, and even the Bat symbol.

Too bad they stopped there, when a Google Image Search would have turned up so many existing logos that the Airbnb Belo is inadvertently aping.

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52 Comments

  • Peter Arnell

    A. There will always be another logo that in some way looks like yours. At least if you want to have a logo that is simple to use and remember. Of course you can do a logo that looks like Apples first one, but how long did that live?

    B. It does´t matter if they are similar, as long as they don´t compete in the same market or in the same media. And I think that IT automation service and home rental service will be quite distant from each other. Or am I misunderstanding, John?

  • lazora

    A: FC published an article days ago in praise of the logo... Now this article?
    B: no one liked comedy central's logo either. But it is now the normal. C: do any of these other company logos have brand presence. Answer is No. So who cares?

    D: it's a logo. it's good enough. move on to taking care of biz.

  • Eddie Brannan

    Where are the "several other companies?" You mention only Automation Anywhere and show a tweet of a patently specious comparison to an upside kangaroo. Lazy design? More like lazy reporting.

  • It's an unfortunate mishap for a lovemark candidate like Airbnb. Whatever their rebranding investment is and even if it's just multiple discovery but not a steal, settling with the original logo owner to make them change theirs is exactly the way a giant hotel chain would have acted. Credibility, sincerity and thrustworthiness should have been of utmost importance to Airbnb, a community powered brand. They should have simply apologized and withdrawn the logo.

    Note to Fastco Design: Not quite sure how Airbnb or DesignStudio could have image searched the bélo shape before the launch. There's no search engine that can efficiently reverse search visual similarity of a shape or a logo to another and validate its originality. Can't do that with Google reverse image search or Tineye. Currently only human eye can do that. There's great potential for such an AI powered service though.

  • Jeff Caldwell

    Nothing in design is completely original people.. Get over it.. I challenge you to find a completely original logo that doesn't resemble or take from an existing structure or form. Trust me it's impossible and there is actually a good old argument that this isn't a bad thing, when it comes to brand awareness and making your mark memorable familiarity helps it stick.

    This is an old favorite I like to pull out whenever this argument arises: http://www.logodesignlove.com/similar-original-logos

  • The deluge of pedestrian commentary about this Airbnb mark is hilarious.

    This supposed expert commentary is ill-informed and uninspired – it’s disheartening.

    Fast Company should exercise better editorial oversight if they expect this blog to be viewed as anything more than blather.

  • All these comparisons to existing logos is specious. It's like saying that any logo that uses a heart shape or a letter form are too much alike, which may be the case, but not always.

  • Snark is easy. And I guess snark — plus insulting metaphors and bad puns that pass as critical judgement — generate more heat and clicks on social media. But the key question — the only question — is something never asked by people hobbled by such a thin grasp of branding. "Will the logo work?" Yes. In this case, emphatically, brilliantly, yes.

  • A couple years back, I may have agreed that this may be a blatant logo ripoff, but no longer. As a designer who specializes in logo design, I have had an experience where a design I created turned out to look very similar to an existing design. It was a scary revelation as I would never intentionally copy someone else's work.

    These things do happen and it's a bad idea to jump the gun and immediately throw around accusations...especially when discussing simple marks that are quite easy to mimic.

    All of us have created something that closely resembled something else in existence so get off of your high horses people. Sure, go after the blatant thieves, as they should be discredited; yet throwing out the possibility of coincidence right off the bat is a dangerous thing.