If you thought food delivery services began and ended with Grubhub, it’s time to get with the times. Since 2013, there’s been a new kid in town, one that’s well on the way to becoming one of the biggest companies in the US. In 2013, four Stanford students, Tony Xu, Stanley Tang, Andy Fang, and Evan Moore, joined forces to launch DoorDash, an on-demand food delivery platform that’s subsequently gone on to take the US by storm. Using very 21st century logistics, creative marketing, and modern technology to offer food straight from the restaurant to your door, DoorDash has managed to expand from its small beginnings as a small Palo Alto start up to a major enterprise that covers over 4000 cities across the US, Canada, and Australia. So, how did a Stanford start up go on to become the third largest food delivery service in the US? And what’s the story behind its instantly recognizable logo? Stay where you are, because you’re about to find out.
The Start of a Stanford Start Up
In 2013, DoorDash was born (although in those days, it was known as Palo Alto Delivery). The brains behind the project were Tony Xu, Evan Charles Moore, Stanley Tang and Andy Fang, friends and students at Stanford. Driven by the desire to take the hard work out of food delivery (a common problem among the student population of Stanford, by all accounts), the company started out making deliveries on the Stanford campus, but in very little time, their ambitions (and their customer base) extended way beyond the student population. “We created an experiment with restaurant delivery after spending an afternoon putting together a quick landing page. When I went online, I found some PDF menus. We stuck them up (on the website) along with a phone number at the bottom, which was actually our personal cell number. And that was it. We put up the landing page and called it PaloAltoDelivery.com,” Stanley said during a speech at Stanford in October 2014. “It was simple, ugly, and honestly I wasn’t really expecting anything,” he went on to add. “We wanted to see whether we would receive any calls. If we got enough, then maybe the idea would be worth pursuing.”
To say they got enough phone calls would be an understatement. By their third round of funding (which took place just over a year after the company launch), the company was valued at a healthy $73.5 million. A year later, it was valued at an even more considerable $600 million. An android app was launched to accompany the website, a new identity (more on which coming up) was unveiled, and by 2015, DoorDash had expanded its ambitions beyond the US and into Canada. In September 2017, the company made its first acquisition, the same-day delivery platform, Rickshaw. That same year, it introduced a group ordering feature on its Android and iOS apps (something that had already been tested to great success on the website), Fast forward to today, and despite some legal battles along the way (not to mention multiple accusations of trademark infringement, tipped wages, unfair competition, monopolistic behavior, and a couple of data breaches), it’s more than achieved its initial aim of becoming a local, on-demand FedEx. A global, multi-million-dollar concern, there can’t be too many households left that haven’t used the DoorDash service, and even fewer that haven’t heard of it. Even the COVID crisis has proved no obstacle to its sucess: after stockpiling thousands of gloves and bottles of hand sanitizer and delivering them free with orders, it’s captured the market in lockdown take-out (yep, it’s now a ‘thing’).
The Background to the Logo
Potted history over, let’s take a look at the logo. In 2014, just a year after its launch, DoorDash had grown to the point that it demanded a brand new logo. So it got one. “We’re stepping into new markets, and our design language is crucial in helping our partners understand who DoorDash are and what we stand for,” Brandon Ly, designer at DoorDash, said of the change via Vator.tv. “To our merchants, the logo represents a partnership that will propel their business forward. To our team, the logo is a badge they can wear with pride as they represent us. And to customers, it represents a friendly, efficient service they can count on.”
Not that deciding on the new emblem was a simple process. According to Medium.com, finding an identity that proved appealing across the broad spectrum of DoorDash’s customer base, restaurants, partners, and drivers was an arduous task for the team’s design team (San Francisco-based branding and design agency, Character). It would take many weeks and many protypes before they finally settled on an emblem that conveyed just the right tone of professionalism, expertise, and personality.
The Final Choice of Logo
The inspiration for the final choice came from a slightly unusual source: the Japanese bullet train, or Shinkanse, a high speed, futuristic machine that shares the same values of speed, community, state of the art tech, and functionality as DoorDash.
Simple and clean in design, the design features two horizontal lines – a feature that not only draws the eye to the two D’s in the name, but helps give the impression of speed and movement. The negative space used to represent the “dash”, meanwhile, is, as thedrum.com notes, intended to convey potential and evolution… two concepts that have been integral to the brand’s identity ever since its launch.
Whether or not you get all the messages, concepts, and theories the logo’s meant to represent or not, the one thing you can’t dispute is that this is a badge that’s instantly recognizable (at least to the millions and millions of customers whose love for fast food has led the company to become a multi-million-dollar, global contender). Stylish, efficient, and utilitarian, it does exactly what every good emblem should do: increase brand awareness and give customers a visual image to latch onto.
Given that DoorDash is less than a decade old (and considering how many changes it’s already gone through in its short life), we could very well see some more changes to the brand’s image and emblem down the line. But for now, it’s doing a very good job of delivering the goods… and what more could you ask from a logo than that?