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6 best airline logos

Branding a major airline is the most prestigious, large-scale jobs a design agency can land. It is one of the most expensive to implement. Your work will be emblazoned across a fleet of aircraft. As well as every other touchpoint that customers experience, from terminal kiosks to tickets. It’s a big responsibility.

Redesigning an airline logo is a decision not to be taken lightly.  Because people often get rather attached to the logos of their country’s airlines. Major rebrands often attract their fair share of controversy. American Airlines and United, both covered below, are prime examples of this – they ditched the work of luminary designers in the process, and went from some of the best-loved to the most-hated logos overnight.

Get it right, however, and the best logos for airlines can truly stand the test of time. Read on to discover six of the most recognisable airline brands from around the world.

01. Lufthansa (1963 version)

Lufthansa logo before its 2018 rebrand

Until 2018, Lufthansa ‘owned’ ochre yellow in the airline sector

As the world’s oldest airline, the stylised ‘flying crane’ motif dates back to 1918. When Otto Firle first created it for Lufthansa’s predecessor Deutsche Luft-Reederei (DLR). In 1963, Otl Aicher added its distinctive rich ochre yellow as a brand colour.

Ownership of a colour in a sector largely dominated by red and blue can be crucial for standout. EasyJet’s grip on orange is another case. The yellow became a key part of Lufthansa’s identity, alongside the iconic crane.

Lufthansa livery

The rebrand removed it from aircraft liveries, but kept it as a secondary colour elsewhere

As a result, one of the most controversial aspects of Lufthansa’s in-house rebrand earlier in 2018 was the downgrading of yellow to an accent colour, playing second fiddle to navy blue. It remains across many of the airline’s touchpoints – such as tickets – but the backlash was strong. Lufthansa’s 350-odd planes are now liveried exclusively in navy blue, with a slimmed-down crane.

02. American Airlines (1967 version)

American Airlines logo by Massimo Vignelli

Massimo Vignelli’s bold, angular American Airlines logo is indisputably iconic

Designed in 1967, the American Airlines logo combines the ‘AA’ acronym with a heavily stylised, angular eagle. This sits neatly inside the triangular negative space between the two letters. It’s indisputably one of the most iconic airline logos of all time. Which is why it remained a badge of honour for the US carrier for almost half a century. Best Logo Design Services

FutureBrand ripped up Vignelli’s much-loved logo in 2013, and also moved away from Helvetica as a brand font.

American Airlines rebrand by FutureBrand

FutureBrand’s 2013 rebrand was widely criticised for ‘fixing’ what wasn’t broken

Dubbed the ‘flight symbol’, the new American Airlines logo incorporates an eagle, a star and the letter ‘A’ into one modern graphic shape, rendered in a distinctively American red, white and blue palette – albeit a paler, more sky blue shade than its predecessor. It’s fit for purpose, but lacks the gravitas and confident simplicity of Vignelli’s.

03. KLM

KLM logo

F.H.K. Henrion needed just four circles, a line and a plus to define KLM‘s iconic crown emblem

Like American Airlines, Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij (better known as KLM) was treated to an iconic logo by a world-renowned designer. Where the two differ is that KLM’s is still very much in use with minor tweaks in 1991.

While Lufthansa is technically the world’s oldest airline, KLM . It is the oldest that still maintains its original name. That name translates to ‘Royal Dutch Airlines‘. The airline needs just four circles, a horizontal line and a plus symbol to form the beautifully timeless graphic crown.

04. Qantas

Qantas livery

Qantas has reworked its brand five times since 1944, but kept the essence of its red-and-white kangaroo

Established in 1920, Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services is Australia’s flag carrier, with around 120 airplanes. The addition of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner helped overhaul its well known logo and livery. Best Logo Design Services

Australian design agency Houston Group worked on this latest Qantas rebrand, the fifth time the distinctive red-and-white kangaroo has been updated since 1944. The last rebrand was in 2007, to mark the introduction of an Airbus A380.

Houston Group’s ambition was to give the emblem a more streamlined, contemporary look and feel.  So it serves more as an abstract, ownable symbol than a literal representation of a kangaroo. The updated wordwark which had lost the italicised gave it more room to breathe. Ultimately, it retains the essence of the brand, and just gives it a modern, stylised twist.  It is rather a different tack from American Airlines.


LEVEL livery by Superunion

Superunion’s identity for low-cost, long-haul airline LEVEL subverts all the trends of the sector

International Airline Group (IAG) needed a name and visual identity for its brand new low-cost, long-haul airline. This will stand out in a crowded sector, and appeal to a new generation of global travellers. Up stepped Superunion.

Inspired by the idea of ‘levelling the playing field’ of long-haul travel, the agency decided on a name: LEVEL was born. Subverting the traditional flag motifs of the big ‘flag-carrying’ airlines, the airline sports a simple two-colour square for its logo. The green and blue colours represent the sky and earth.

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This expands into a series of vibrant, animated patterns that carry seamlessly across every brand touchpoint.  The most successful airline LEVEL sold 52,000 tickets in its first 11 hours of business. It may be the newest airline brand on the list by quite some distance, but it’s already proved its worth – and was highly commended at the 2018 Brand Impact Awards.

06. United (pre 2010)

United Airlines branding by Pentagram

Pentagram’s 1997 rebrand of United respected the considerable brand equity in Saul Bass’ tulip

When a luminary designer like Saul Bass is behind a logo, it pays to hold on to that heritage. A pleasingly balanced emblem formed from four beautifully simple graphic shapes that curl around each other at the base. His 1974 ‘tulip’ for United Airlines is instantly recognisable. It replaced a whole string of different ‘crest’-based logo designs from the previous three decades.

While the design of the accompanying wordmark fluctuated – including a stylish rebrand by Pentagram in 1997, above – Bass’ iconic tulip remained constant for over 35 years. That was until United merged with Continental Airlines in 2010 in a ill-advised tradeoff between name and logo. It acquired Continental’s nondescript blue globe and became, briefly, known as United Airlines.

United logo post-2010

Following its merger with Continental Airlines, United decided to sacrifice the tulip in favour of a nondescript blue globe

That’s right: three years before  American Airlines ditched Vignelli’s work and US rival had already binned Bass. And then, as if that wasn’t enough, it rebranded again just three months later. It dropped the ‘Airlines’ to become ‘United’ once again, and changing sentence-case serif for all-caps sans. Unfortunately, the type was the least of their problems. The globe stayed – and the tulip sadly was no more.

Article Source : CreativeBlog

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