Andrew Schapiro, Head of brand creative at Airbnb, on the impact design has had on its success

We hadn’t done a lot of traditional marketing or storytelling. Design has impacted the way we evolved our product, how we thought about building the brand and that has really differentiated us. We really focus on authenticity and how we marry design with intention. It’s honest, sometimes provocative and that’s what we’re about.

In reality, the world is full of start-ups, competition and tensions. It takes more than designing a brand, it is understanding what you offer and what’s unique about you. What’s your differentiation beyond a marque or visual system. What you stand for is where you stand out.

In our rebrand we needed to communicate in a snap second. It’s what drove us to design a symbol of belonging. If we could create one strong iconic symbol that had depth and meaning that could be communicated globally we could capture what our brand was about to a wider audience.

[The AirBnB symbol] is one that our community and hosts can take ownership of. More people have started to travel and host through AirBnB and we wanted to engage more with that community. We wanted to adapt the visual brand to communicate with a wider community and share more stories.

We apply holistic design thinking, how every detail can impact digitally in the product as well as traditional marketing communications or experiential campaigns. Originally, our visual brand was focused on where the company was at the time and where it had come from – a Bay Area tech company. The original visual brand was given quite a bit of thought but our understanding of it has changed over time.

The company is founded by designers and it has always played a role – in the product, in holistic experience and storyboarding and ultimately the user journey both on and offline.

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