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Telling Uber’s story for our IPO

When Uber went public on the New York Stock Exchange in May 2019, it was a pivotal moment for the company. We had already made such a huge impact on culture, and our future included many new products on a global mobility platform. That’s the story we wanted to tell the world in all the ways our design system could tell it.

So although the IPO itself took place on Wall Street in New York City, our teams saw the event as a global opportunity to create a large-scale, public-facing showcase of our brand.

Celebrating people and platform

More than 300 people across a dozen departments focused for 3 months on 2 main stories about Uber’s huge impact on culture worldwide. We’d tell the first through celebrating drivers and delivery people from many countries. The second would look forward by highlighting the diverse products and services on our global platform.

Many shapes and sizes; one voice

Throughout our campaign, we used all 9 elements of our brand design system (logo, composition, typography, iconography, color, motion, photography, illustration, and tone of voice) to target riders, drivers, delivery people, and other users, plus the public and media in cities around the world.

The primary storytelling took place through experiences in and around the heart of the action: the NYSE’s trading floor. Outdoor spaces and OOH marketing celebrated drivers and delivery people—like the 2 U-frame screens (each 20 feet wide) looping our docuseries highlighting 12 drivers and tweets from riders, plus an Uber Eats food truck.

The deeper the audience went indoors, the more the narrative shifted to the global mobility platform. Media walls inside the NYSE transitioned the storytelling about drivers to storytelling through numbers: what we offer, and where, to how many people (17 million trips a day, at that point). Ballroom arches at breakfast featured 3 platform offerings and our advanced technologies. Cubes above the trading floor put icons of products from Uber’s personal mobility platform and Uber Eats in motion along with our logo.

A flexible framework

From Times Square in New York to London’s Piccadilly Lights to the Marriott Los Angeles LA Live, we crafted a flexible visual framework for spectacular OOH experiences. Passersby watched riders dance in back seats, drivers tell jokes, delivery people and carriers enjoy scenery, a restaurateur create nourishing soup—and saw messages celebrating drivers and delivery people that added a sincere element of humanity to our tone. (Said one tweet: “My Uber driver said he stays out driving late to make sure everyone gets home safe cause he hopes someone would do the same for his son.”)

Of course, we also reinforced key campaign messages in-house—in various spots on, a special docuseries online destination, a new investors site, and our social channels. Our flexible design system allowed for all these IPO stories to be told in numerous ways across the media spectrum but still speak in one visual voice.

Real-world inspiration

One of Uber Design’s first principles is that “really great design happens out in the world,” meaning in part that “design starts with real-world inspiration.” That’s how we began our design thinking for Uber’s IPO—being inspired by drivers, delivery people, and riders—and it’s how we launched the campaign, too. The world watched our simple, consistent design be the vehicle for genuine human interactions among the people who have powered Uber and who will be with us as we move forward.