In 2007, Joe and I opened our home up to the first Airbnb guests. They booked a place to stay, but they ended up with something more than just an airbed at a slightly messy apartment. They learned our favorite places to grab coffee, ate the best tacos in the city, and had friends to hang out with whenever they wanted. They were thousands of miles from where they lived, and yet they felt right at home. What started as a way for a few friends to pay the rent has now transformed into something bigger and more meaningful than we ever imagined. And what we realized is that the Airbnb community has outgrown the original Airbnb brand. So Joe, Nate, and I did some soul-searching over the last year. We asked ourselves, “What is our mission? What is the big idea that truly defines Airbnb?” It turns out the answer was right in front of us. For so long, people thought Airbnb was about renting houses. But really, we’re about home. You see, a house is just a space, but a home is where you belong. And what makes this global community so special is that for the very first time, you can belong anywhere. That is the idea at the core of our company: belonging.
We used to take belonging for granted. Cities used to be villages. Everyone knew each other, and everyone knew they had a place to call home. But after the mechanization and Industrial Revolution of the last century, those feelings of trust and belonging were displaced by mass-produced and impersonal travel experiences. We also stopped trusting each other. And in doing so, we lost something essential about what it means to be a community. After all, our relationships with people will always be the most meaningful part of our lives. You just need to get to know them. That’s why Airbnb is returning us to a place where everyone can feel they belong. Like us, you may have started out thinking you were just renting out a room to help pay the bills. Or maybe you were just booking a bed for a night on an unexpected layover. However we first entered this community, we all know that getting in isn’t a transaction. It’s a connection that can last a lifetime. That’s because the rewards you get from Airbnb aren’t just financial—they’re personal—for hosts and guests alike. At a time when new technologies have made it easier to keep each other at a distance, you’re using them to bring people together. And you’re tapping into the universal human yearning to belong—the desire to feel welcomed, respected, and appreciated for who you are, no matter where you might be. Belonging is the idea that defines Airbnb, but the way we’ve represented Airbnb to the world until now hasn’t fully captured this.
Meet the Bélo
Belonging has always been a fundamental driver of humankind. So to represent that feeling, we’ve created a symbol for us as a community. It’s an iconic mark for our windows, our doors, and our shared values. It’s a symbol that, like us, can belong wherever it happens to be. It’s a symbol for people who want to try a new tea they’ve never heard of from a village they couldn’t find on the map. It’s a symbol for going where the locals go—the cafe that doesn’t bother with a menu, the dance club hidden down a long alleyway, the art galleries that don’t show up in the guidebooks. It’s a symbol for people who want to welcome into their home new experiences, new cultures, and new conversations. We’re proud to introduce the Bélo: the universal symbol of belonging.
There’s something else that’s always been a little different and special about us. Today, so much of the way we travel has been mass-produced and commoditized. Airbnb is just the opposite. We’re a community of individuals. We’re powered by people of all different backgrounds and beliefs, each with our own outlook and our own story to tell. With Create Airbnb, we’re letting everyone create their own unique symbol under our shared banner. This homemade symbol can be as unique as every one of us, and it will always be a little different whenever you meet it. So we want you to make your own unique symbol, and we’ll help you bring your story to life with merchandise that showcases the experience you’re proud to provide. But most of all, Create Airbnb is a recognition that our identity simply cannot be separated from all of you. This is a shared brand identity. It’s something no company has ever done before.
The new Airbnb
Of course, an identity is about more than symbols. So we’ve redesigned the entire Airbnb experience to better reflect the people who make up this community. Our shared vision of belonging is the thread that weaves through every touchpoint on Airbnb. We have redesigned every single page of the user experience across the web and mobile to bring our new identity to life. Now we have a platform that reflects your feedback, and that can continue growing as we keep listening. Everything from immersive, cinematic photography to typeface to color schemes has been updated to reflect our new look and feel. And we’ve reimagined our homepage with a new “Discover” section to inspire everyone who visits Airbnb, and showcase all the different places in the world you can belong.
In the end, nothing can express our identity more profoundly than the stories of people who make up this community. When we started Airbnb, I had no idea about the people we would meet, or the friendships I would make. Then I met Amol, one of the first guests, who later invited me to his wedding in India. I met Sebastian, who was trapped in his house in the middle of the London Riots in 2011. Before his own mother had a chance to check that he was okay, seven of his former guests did. And I met Shell, who saw the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy, and listed her home for free to those who were displaced. These people, along with millions of others, have their own unique backgrounds and life experiences. We all come from vastly different cultures and places. And yet, no matter how many miles may separate us, we are united by the universal, powerful, human desire to connect, to understand, and to belong. So together, with this new identity, I look forward to starting the next chapter of this improbable journey with the idea that first set it in motion—the belief that belonging can take us anywhere. — Brian
Find out more about where Airbnb is headed in this video, recorded live from the living room of the first Airbnb: