Meet the Illustrator Diversifying Airbnb's Image

  • 2019-10-31
  • Wired

In her first few days working at Airbnb, Jennifer Hom saw that she had her work cut out for her. Hom had been hired as the company's first full-time illustrator, tasked with updating the bubbly cartoon figures spattered throughout the website and app. When she asked her coworkers what they most wanted to change about the illustrations—ones that showed stick-figures holding up cameras, or trading keys to their apartments—it wasn't the inconsistent style that bothered people. It was who the illustrated people looked like.

My coworkers who are underrepresented minorities didn't relate to them at all," she says. They repeatedly told her, pointing to the drawings of people who looked nothing like real people, "This doesn't represent me."

So when she arrived at Airbnb, she knew that illustrations could help to change a brand's image and engender loyalty with its users. If Airbnb wanted to reflect those users—the ones handing their keys over to strangers around the world—those illustrations needed to change.

There's the colorful illustration of folks waving to new members when they sign up for an account. The group of multiracial colleagues high-fiving, roller bags in tow. Illustrated people of all shades flip open passports, take selfies, open the doors to their illustrated homes.

The repository of images helped inform diverse face shapes, skin colors, facial expressions, and poses.