By Peter Schlesinger
July 16, 2014

In a live broadcast this morning, Airbnb cofounders Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia and Nate Blecharczyk announced a major site redesign for the San Francisco-based company. Over 13,000 Airbnb users tuned in from 78 countries to the invitation-only event, and T+L spoke to company Product Lead Justin Santamaria for a sneak peek at the new look.

Across all platforms, a logo called the bélo (short for belonging; pictured above) features prominently. Designed to be internationally recognizable regardless of language, the bélo is also easy to draw by hand. Hosts can customize their bélo on a companion site to add their personal flare, such as sunglasses, top hats, and sneakers. They can then create their own merchandise and, significantly, business cards, with the unique logo.

The overhaul brings the human side of apartment renting to the foreground, showcasing hosts prominently. The home page—complete with “Welcome Home” text—includes images and looping videos of the owners in their rentals, while on the search page, host images appear with each listing.

Also new is the Discovery Experience, which offers destination and rental suggestions customized to the user’s location. Bay Area users will find recommendations to popular nearby vacation spots such as Lake Tahoe or the wine region, while East Coasters will see listings for Cape Cod or the Catskills. Helpful for impromptu getaways, the Discovery Experience is the first step in Airbnb’s process of personalization. (Expect even more customization in the near future based on individual user activity).

While the functionality of the site remains largely unchanged, a few updates stand out. Calendars now make it easier to see which dates are available for booking; the multi-tab layout of each listing has been replaced with a streamlined, easy-to-read format showing important information all in one place; and, most notable, listings in most popular destinations now come with a neighborhood guide stocked with images, key descriptors —San Francisco’s Portrero Hill appears with the words “Views, Sunny, Bungalows, Spread Out, Quiet, Warm”—and a map showing the apartment host’s personal recommendations.

The T+L Take? Airbnb is in major offense mode right now, as it faces uphill legal struggles and community backlash both in the US and overseas. Bringing hosts to the forefront and highlighting human experiences is the website’s savvy attempt to win over potential users in areas where the Airbnb news of late has been less-than sympathetic.

Peter Schlesinger is a research assistant at Travel + Leisure and a member of the Trip Doctor news team. You can find him on Twitter at @pschles08.