Recently, I’ve become aware of a strange, cryptic, geometric symbol that’s been cropping up in the oddest of places, and for the past several weeks it’s left be rather baffled. It’s a pretty simple design—a perfect circle, with a small squarical section taken out of the middle, with the left portion divided in half to form a backwards letter C—but it’s actual meaning continued to allude me.
At first, it was just in the rear window of this one car I see occasionally around town. The symbol appeared to have been cut out of faded construction paper and taped to the window (possibly using packing tape), so naturally I assumed it was homemade, though I couldn’t imagine what it might mean. Perhaps some sort of personal emblem? Hey, I’ve got a personal emblem. Who am I to say this other fellow can’t have one of his own?
I noticed that I was seeing the car with the backwards C a lot. At least, I assumed it was the same car. I hadn’t been really paying much attention to what kind of car it was. I was mostly just trying to figure out what the hell it meant. But when I started seeing the symbol in other, nearby cities, I was forced to confront the possibility that perhaps there was more than one car bearing it. After all, the only other explanation was that I was being followed… by a car driving in front of me. And honestly, even at my most paranoid that doesn’t really sound plausible.
After that, I started to notice that, yeah, no, it’s totally not the same car every time. All different models, too. I felt a little foolish for not noticing that before, but give me a break, I was focusing on the symbol. Oh, and driving. I was focusing on driving too. That part’s important. But this meant it wasn’t a personal emblem, which brought me back to my original conundrum. What the hell could this curious rune possibly mean?
I briefly considered that it might be the logo of some sort of ride-sharing service, since I recalled seeing stickers identifying ride-share cars occupying the same space on other cars’ rear windows. I quickly discarded this theory due to the cheapness of the decal and the fact that I already knew the logos of every notable ride sharing services, and none of their names started with C anyway. Maybe it was a political statement, like the blue equal sign that represents equality. If this was the case, I couldn’t imagine what cause it might indicate support for. Its meaning was just as opaque as ever. Perhaps these people were supporting the “open source” intellectual property system known as Copyleft (a play on “copyright”), which is also represented by a backwards C. But if that were so, why not just use the pre-existing copyleft symbol, which was an inverted copyright sign? Hell, maybe there’s just some new shoestring-budget fraternal order that’s rolled into town. I don’t know.
Realizing that I was never going to figure it out on my own, I turned to the internet for guidance, armed with a crude reproduction of the symbol I’d thrown together in Photoshop (though admittedly, it wasn’t much cruder than the original symbol).
Soon, I had my answer. As it turns out, I’d been too quick to dismiss the ride-share theory. But that doesn’t mean there was a new company throwing its proverbial hat into the ride-sharing game. Oh no, this logo represented Uber™.
There’s this weird trend I’ve noticed among internet-based companies where they all seem to suffer from this bizarre compulsion to completely redesign all of their logos and other graphic materials roughly once every half hour, for absolutely no reason whatsoever. Uber™ (or “Ↄber™”, as I suppose they must want to be called now) is seemingly no exception to this trend. And apparently they’ve hit the bottom of the barrel early, because like The Website Formerly Known as deviantArt™, they’ve decided to scrap their clearly identifiable monogram in favor of an utterly incomprehensible glyph which nobody, anywhere would know was associated with their brand without first being explicitly informed that it was.
So there’s got to be some underlying logic behind Ↄber™’s choice of emblem, right? Well, there’s a reason, but I’m not sure you can call it “logic”. Allegedly they designed it to “better represent what [they] were going to become,” which raises oddly existential questions about what exactly it is they think Ↄber™ is going to become. Apparently, the circle represents “atoms”, and the square in the middle represents “bits”. Nobody seems to be entirely sure what “atoms and bits” refers to. It’s probably referring to matter and data, for whatever reason, but it could just as easily be something else entirely.
And even if we are talking atoms of matter and bits of data, what the hell do either of those have to do with ride-sharing? Or Ↄber™ itself, for that matter? From what I’ve read, nobody seems to know. Even the company themselves can’t come up with anything other than the pretentious borderline incoherent claim that “the unique aspect of Ↄber is that we exist in the physical world […]” (if existing in the physical world is unique to Ↄber™ what the hell is literally everything else in the universe?) “[…] We exist in the place where bits and atoms come together.” So in other words, it has absolutely nothing to do with ride-sharing, and everything to do with drugs (or possibly late-onset schizophrenia). Frankly, I could swap that out for a randomly selected quote from that Time Cube site and it’d make just as much sense. Possibly more.
Unsurprisingly, there were no actual graphic designers involved in this change. Ↄber™ CEO Travis Kalanick designed it himself because he “didn’t trust anyone else”, and was inspired by the tiles in the bathroom. I see no way of interpreting that as anything other than confirmation that yes, drugs were absolutely involved. Ↄber™ has offered no explanation for why their new labels are made out of old construction paper.
Moral of the story: If you don’t talk to your boss about bad design, who will?