Upwork 2021 rebranding: a much improved look

Last Modified: Oct 9th, 2023 - Category: Branding, News, UI Design, UX
Upwork 2021 rebranding analysis cover

So Upwork 2021 rebranding is here, and it’s quite good!

Following the trend of 2021, where many big brands are redesigning their visual identity, Upwork is also joining this bandwagon.

Upwork Inc. (Nasdaq: UPWK), today announced a completely revamped brand, tagline and global campaign to broaden the platform’s appeal and appeal to the world’s best freelancers and businesses of all sizes.

Freelancing is the norm now more than ever, and the pandemic has only accelerated this trend. As companies learn to navigate the new landscape of work, Upwork sets out to solve two core issues facing businesses: the constraints of working with limited resources and critical skills gaps.

“We are seeing a dramatic shift in the behavior of global companies toward emerging independent talent,” says Upwork SVP of Marketing Lars Asbjornsen. “The reality is that a new era of work has dawned where we are all free to work the way we prefer, with more scale, agility, control and growth potential. Our goal is to create economic opportunity for clients by offering them multiple ways to work on Upwork.”

The rebranding and new campaign follows the launch of a new industry category, Job Marketplace, created in response to the rapidly changing needs of businesses and the increasing use of freelancers. Upwork makes it easy for freelancers and businesses to connect and build trusted, long-term relationships that help them achieve more together.

Both the rebrand and campaign were developed and implemented by creative agency Alto in collaboration with Brooklyn-based design agency Porto Rocha.

Branding Process

Example of video for Instagram’s posts

According to Upwork’s blog, the Upwork 2021 rebranding process began in early 2018 and involved a lot of research and analysis, as well as collaboration with their clients. The company was clear that this change needed to reflect who it is now and what it stands for: “where we are going” (its vision), “how it feels” (design), and “what people will see” (the new logo).

In the past, Upwork has always focused on providing great service by hiring great freelancers. In addition, their goal is to make the world a better place by connecting businesses with qualified freelancers from all over the world. This sets them apart from other companies like Elance or Freelancer that charge high fees but do not provide quality services. Therefore, it was important for business owners to find good freelancers because they could save money and time than doing everything themselves in-house!

But as we all know, Upwork is not just a marketplace for freelancers. Upwork has evolved into a business and marketing platform that connects businesses with the right people who can help them grow. So the new logo should reflect this changing vision and mission!

Upwork’s new Logo Design: The new face of freelancing?

Upwork old logo vs Upwork new logo comparison

The old Upwork logo was designed in 2013 based on three key elements: USP (Unique Selling Proposition), brand personality and globalisation strategy. However, their research showed that most customers confused the company name “UpWork” with “Uphill Work” or similar, which made them unhappy because they did not think anyone could confuse a word like “up” with ” uphill”.

So, based on feedback from their customers, the team at Upwork decided to redesign the logo. To create a new identity for this company, they spent a lot of time and effort analysing all aspects of the business. This included: geolocation strategy (how big is your global presence?), product offering (what do you offer? Do you focus only on freelancers or other things as well?), brand vision (where are we going?) and more!

The process started with trying out different variations until we found one that felt right. Then it was tested by users around the world to make sure it worked well in every region! They went through 99 iterations before arriving at version 100, which became the final design!

The end result was an interesting combination of two logos: ‘UpWorker’ representing freelance work and ‘UPWORK’ representing business/marketing platform/ Company Branding. The former stands for people who work remotely either individually or in teams, completing tasks for clients around the world, while the latter stands for companies who are there looking for skilled workers and ready-made solutions!

Their old logo was quite simple and had a very minimalist design.

Working with Alto and talented illustrators, animators and photographers, the brand agency Porto Rocha developed an identity that conveyed the brand’s authentic story of creative innovation, nurtured talent and human connection.

The concept of connection runs throughout the design system, perhaps most clearly in the new logo for Upwork. Retaining the iconic ligature between U and P, the logo design merges the previously separate words “up” and “work” into a single, monochromatic mark. Embedded in a bespoke edit from Neue Montreal, it signals the arrival of a refined and confident brand. The typographic system is based on Upwork Neue Montreal, a no-frills sans serif typeface; the bespoke serif Upwork RZA adds a warmer, personal touch. Together, this combination strikes a balance between technical precision and human warmth – a duality that is reflected in Upwork’s product.

Using the recognizable Upwork green as the brand’s signature color, the new color palette for the Upwork 2021 rebranding offers a wider range of expression with different tones and shades. This new palette marks a shift away from a predictable corporate identity to an unexpected creative space.

A flexible modular system that balances character and utility allows the brand to seamlessly adapt to different contexts. The new identity takes an editorial approach to key communication moments, putting freelancers front and center with a new library of brand photography that illuminates the real people at the heart of the platform.

This more human approach expresses a new understanding of the importance of community and transforms Upwork from a transactional tech brand into a more serious brand that stands for trust, expertise, innovation and creative confidence.

Upwork 2021 rebranding: logo animation

The new Upwork logo

Upwork 2021 rebranding: Cards for freelancers
Upwork 2021 rebranding: Cards for freelancers

The new brand celebrates the emerging independent talent helping companies succeed in the telecommuting economy. It taps into the cultural moment when the entire world is entering a new era of work, and presents the brand with a refreshed identity that embodies what Upwork is and always has been. The complete overhaul of the main brand, including the logo, reflects Upwork’s optimistic perspective on the current and future potential of freelancing.

The new brand identity balances the duality of Upwork’s brand promise. On one side: warmth and connection. On the other: precision and efficiency. These two sides of Upwork coexist seamlessly in the new brand identity, and together they articulate Upwork’s offering like no other.

As far as readability goes, the new logo is (much) better. A stronger font, a single color, and a height rationalization make this logo easier to read, as the cognitive load is much lower. Despite the improvement, the logo retains the main symbol from the previous version, except it’s better used. Also, Upwork’s brand green has been changed to a darker shade, which improves accessibility and makes the logo look more professional. All in all, despite some opinions to the contrary, the logo is very good and has no issues.

Upwork 2021 rebranding and brand campaign

Upwork 2021 rebranding: The new color palette
The new color palette

An introductory film released today tells the story of freelancers and businesses taking a leap forward to create better companies, better careers, and better lives.

The film is based on the Up We Go creative platform and was inspired by the real-life stories of clients who are experiencing change in their work and lives every day through Upwork. It shows that once the old restrictions are lifted and independent talent is at the heart of every business, we can achieve great things together. The new way we work is defined by opportunity and abundance, not challenge and scarcity. Flexibility of time and space, not limited by four office walls. Valued and trusted relationships, not rigid employment contracts.

The goal is to reflect on the role of Upwork as a positive growth tool that helps companies overcome common misconceptions and supports self-employed individuals in pursuing their professional goals.

The three-minute film profiles an ambitious CEO working with her Upwork team. This team includes a programmer based in Hong-Kong. A designer leaving the UK to be closer to his girlfriend in Italy. And finally, an engineer who left Silicon Valley and moved to the coast with his family to be closer to nature and live a more well-rounded life. With a shared vision and confidence in Upwork’s solution to provide opportunities for the new world of work, the CEO and her team are finally on their way to success. By the end of the film, the viewer has witnessed the journey of each team member and felt the freedom that flexible work solutions bring.

The film work also includes a one-minute television spot, as well as four 30-second and four 15-second spots that tell the story from both the company’s perspective and that of an independent talent. The campaign will be supported by broadcast, outdoor advertising, podcasts/radio, digital and social media.

Upwork is a pioneer in this space and has been bringing independent talent and companies together for twenty years to lead the new way of working. This is exactly the kind of perspective the world needs as we all go through this massive shift. Translating their vision of better human connections and better work into an entirely new brand identity and platform, and communicating it at such an important time, is the kind of challenge we dream of.

Hannes Ciatti, CCO and founder of Alto.

Upwork’s new brand identity reflects the values and culture that have guided the company since its inception. It positions Upwork as an expert freelancer, partnering with leading companies and professionals who want to help each other succeed. With the new brand identity, Upwork continues its journey to become the best place to work in the world.

“We are changing the way people and companies connect and making work better. We want to show that good things happen when we work together,” said Upwork CEO Stephane Kasriel. “The evolution of our brand identity reflects who we have become as a company over the last 20 years and where we are going next.”

Upwork 2021 rebranding and brand identity was developed with the help of Alto, an award-winning branding and design agency based in San Francisco. The work was led by CEO Hannes Ciatti, who also co-founded Alto, and Creative Director Keith Robinson.

“We are thrilled to be working with Upwork on such a significant project,” said Ciatti. “Their values align so well with ours that we were able to quickly develop a deep understanding of their culture and goals.”

About Upwork, Inc.

Image of Upwork's new visual identity
Upwork’s new visual identity

Upwork is the leading online workspace offering its services to companies of all sizes and individuals seeking flexible work opportunities. With more than 12 million registered freelancers in 180 countries and more than $1 billion in annual revenue, Upwork gives businesses faster and more affordable access to global freelancers than ever before. Since its founding in April 2010, the company has helped create jobs for more than 3 million people in nearly every industry. From accounting to web development, marketing and design to software development and beyond.

For more information on how you can benefit from millions of professionals around the world in need of flexible work opportunities, visit upwork.com.

About Alto

Alto is a brand and design agency that works with startups and established companies to create strong, meaningful identities. Since its founding in 2011, the company has developed brands for startups like Y Combinator (YC) and Zenefits, Fortune 500 companies like Microsoft, organizations like Tony Hawk Foundation. Also, nonprofits like Girl Scouts of America and media outlets like The New York Times, NPR News & Public Radio International’s “The World,” NBCNews.com, Gizmodo(GMG), Rolling Stone magazine, Wired Magazine, Fast Company and others. For more information, visit alto.co.

Conclusion on Upwork’s rebranding

The rebranding is very good. You can say it’s a bit trendy and will have problems once the trend goes away, but for now there are no real problems.

The logo has improved a lot, the promotional material is great, the illustrations and animations are amazing.

Keep in mind that Upwork’s forte has never (ever) been UX or UI or design, so this massive rebranding with such quality is refreshing news indeed.

The most intriguing part, however, is the branding voice: Upwork has made an entire campaign about its pool of talent and how to get great value from hiring that talent. Yet Upwork has left its own platform to hire talent.

I think if you are not able to maintain consistency in your brand voice and claim, then you have serious problems with your entire claim and it affects credibility, which always was a problem for Upwork.

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