At Airbnb’s Clerkenwell warehouse space, a panel of speakers explored the theme of home and what it means to them and their work.
The Airbnb London offices could not have been a more fitting venue to host an event centered around the idea of home. Designed with traditional British settlements in mind, guests were welcomed into the office’s Farmhouse Kitchen before making their way to the communal Village Green area. Here our speakers joined us in considering different perspectives on the concept of home.
James Greenfield, Founder and Creative Director of design agency Koto, shared his experiences creating the visual identity for Airbnb. Holly Clarke, Head of Social at Airbnb, discussed how the concept of home and belonging is at the heart of all work that Airbnb do. We also heard from anthropologist Signe Johansen, author of How To Hygge, about how the significance of home in Scandinavia is remarkably different to those living in an urban climate.
Finally, the audience discovered what it’s like to live at the Barbican, with insights offered by residents photographer Anton Rodriguez and Member agency EACH’s Creative Director Tom Munckton. The pair recently collaborated to create Residents: Inside the Iconic Barbican Estate. Looking into the homes that lie behind its Brutalist concrete facade, the book highlights the Barbican's architecture and interiors, and looks at the lives of the people who call it home.
Here’s what we learnt.
James Greenfield kicked of the discussion by talking us through his design process for the Airbnb symbol that broke the internet. Airbnb is about enabling people to “belong anywhere”. Guests might get this sense of belonging from simply putting a set of keys in the door and feeling like they’re at home, or by immersing themselves in the community and living like a local. James was inspired by his hero Wally Olins of Wolff Olins, who said that branding is ultimately about belonging and that it is the human condition to want to feel part of something.
But what does belonging look like? For James, this was the key question for the design of Airbnb’s new logo. The final design blends people, places, love, and, of course, the letter A. When it launched, the logo became the top global trending topic on twitter for eight hours and 172,624,731 people saw the logo through non-paid media. While belonging means something different to everyone, it’s clear Airbnb hit the mark on this one.
Belonging somewhere takes more than just visiting. Airbnb homes are a world away from the four blank walls of a hotel room, so to really drive the idea of belonging in the community, the Trips feature was introduced. This offers travellers the chance to go beyond the home and get immersed in popular cultural experiences. CEO Brian Chesky believes in end-to-end travel and that people should feel that their own lives are cinematic. Therefore, the campaign for Airbnb Trips turns each host into the hero of their own story, using bespoke photography to create film-style posters of the experiences on offer.
A home gives back
It’s no secret that Scandinavia is home to some of the world’s most famous designers. Signe talked to us about Alvar Aalto, Finland’s most celebrated architect whose work was inspired by his home. She proposed that your home can give back to you, and that it’s more than just four walls. It’s somewhere to go to escape anxiety and reflect on life.
Holly also drew on the idea that your home can give back. In a campaign created to recruit more hosts, Airbnb asked existing ones what they have gained through hosting. Thanks to Airbnb, and the homes themselves, hosts have been able to pay for adventures, personal projects and weddings.
Feel at home, at work
Airbnb implement several strategies to make sure its mission to cultivate a sense of belonging is reflected in its own workplace. Holly explained that feeling at home while at work is about who you work with, and more importantly, how people treat each other. It’s important for to employees to maintain solid, close relationships at work and get immersed in the company culture. This will help them feel more at home and bring out their best qualities.
Signe focused on how issues surrounding wellbeing can affect people’s happiness at work. Having grown up in a culture where being constantly busy is not a virtue, it was a shock coming to London and seeing the effects of urban living on people’s mental health. She advised audience members to change aspects of their worklife that could be better.
Home is a sanctuary
While creating Residents, Tom and Anton were surprised at the variety of people living in the Barbican estate. “If you let them, the central london apartments will work for you at whatever point you are in life,” they said. For example, they met Kate, who was a librarian at the barbican and has lived in the estate for 40 years.
While the Barbican’s brutalist architecture seems intimidating from an outsider’s perspective, it’s clear that it has an opposite effect on the residents, who feel safe, secure and happy in their concrete sanctuary.
The idea of home as a sanctuary was reinforced by Signe, who highlighted how when you live in an environment with long winters and a hard climate, the only place to escape the harsh elements is the home. The visual language of nordic designs reflect nature’s soft, muted palette. She stressed the idea of longevity and for people to build a sanctuary that could be their home for 30 or 40 years. Jumping from one property to another every few years can lead people to believe that they never really belong anywhere.
40 Compton Street,
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Start:7th February, 2017 at 6:30pm
End:7th February, 2017 at 8:30pm