When Uber released a new logo for its ride-hailing app earlier this month, the updated look received mixed reviews. Some people even noted that the “bits and atoms” icon resembled the logo of other companies including J.P. Morgan Chase
Lately, a growing chorus of people on Twitter
are accusing Uber of copying the logo of another startup: CircleCI, a company that makes container software for computer programmers at Spotify, GoPro
and Instacart, among other customers.
CircleCI’s logo features a white backwards letter “C” on a dark blue background. Uber’s new icon, meanwhile, has a white circle with a dark blue square “bit” in the middle—but the left side of the circle is bisected by a blue line so that it also resembles a backwards “C.” “I’m not the only one who finds Uber’s new logo eerily reminiscent of CircleCI’s, right?” Wilson Lee, an engineer at travel startup Urbandoor wrote on Twitter.
Fueling the logo conspiracy theories is the fact that Uber recently moved some of its employees into the same building as CircleCI’s headquarters at 555 Market St. in San Francisco. One Twitter user suggested that the close proximity of the companies might have created a “chameleon effect,” a psychological phenomenon in which people unconsciously mimic those around them:
CircleCI responded to the similarities between the logos with good humor, saying it wasn’t worried about customer confusion because of the low overlap between its target market and Uber’s—but that it would gladly provide a free trial of its product to Uber’s software developers. It’s also hoping to benefit in other ways from the coincidence: “We do expect to be able to wear our CircleCI t-shirts and gain access to the Uber cafeteria on the seventh floor, no questions asked,” says Laura Franzese, the company’s head of communications.
For its part, Uber says that it designed its new app icon to represent its business symbolically—the circle stands for movement, while the square “bit” at its center is “the symbol of our technology.” And the blue bar interrupting the circle that makes it look (sort of) like a “C?” That’s a “grid line” to “convey the rider story of a trip in progress or the arrival at a destination.”
In response to a request from Fortune, an Uber spokesperson also referred to comments the company’s CEO Travis Kalanick made during a TED talk earlier this week. Explaining why Uber changed its icon design from its former version featuring a black “U,” Kalanick said that the company intended the new “patterns and colors” to better convey a sense of the cities in which it operates. “And to be more iconic, because a U doesn’t mean anything in Sanskrit and a U doesn’t mean anything in Mandarin,” he said.