A New Brand Takes Flight at American Airlines
January 17, 2013 ‐ 0 comments

Well 45 years for a brand identity isn't too shabby. That's the tenure of American Airline's current logo designed in 1967 by Massimo Vignelli. Today, that tenure has officially come to a close. A brief history of American Airlines corporate identity:


Although we're a wee bit disappointed BrandCulture wasn't given the nod for the job in light of all the miles we have logged on AA metal, we also acknowledge that American's cozy relationship with McCann Worldgroup was understandably dispositive. In any event, according to its creators from Futurebrand, the new AA identity represents "that most American of ideals: progress." They cleverly call the logo the "Flight Symbol" and signal "the star, “A”, and iconic eagle of American’s past, all brought to life in refreshed shades of red, white and blue." Indeed.

But our initial thought is…we like it.

We're sorry to see AA abandon Helvetica (the best typeface ever) for the custom "American Sans," but this was inevitable. Here's a comparison courtesy of Flyertalk's Brian Cohen, American Sans on top, Frutiger 55 Roman in the middle and Whitney Medium (currently deployed by Delta) on the bottom.

American-Airlines-Logotype-ComparisonsAMERICAN AIRLINES NEW LOOK

The AA Executive Platinum / Concierge Key uber frequent flyers over at Flyertalk are having a field day chomping on the tail livery, but the results of a poll show that only about 1/5 really don't like the new identity, which we would consider a home run when replacing a half century-old icon beloved in the annals of branding. One Flyertalk reader "MileageAddict" did opine that what's past is prologue:


Part of the rebranding change is pragmatic: American Airlines planes livery will shed the distinctive unpainted aluminum look because new planes like the currently maligned Boeing 787 use composite materials in lieu of traditional aluminum. Fair enough. One unabashed fan of the new brand? Potential merger partner US Airways, which pronounced it a "compelling result." How diplomatic. Probably wise not gratuitously offend future bosses/co-workers. What do you think, gentle BrandCultureTalk reader?

Whether the new American Airlines identity stands for another half century of service or if its of-the-moment gradients become dated—or if the American Airlines brand even survives the potential US Air merger—only time will tell.  As antediluvian carpetbagging brand consultants, we'll nostalgically miss our AA Scissor Eagle and beloved Helvetica, but we all know business as usual is simply not viable to keep legacy carriers aloft. As Warren Buffett famously noted:

"The money that had been made since the dawn of aviation by all of this country's airline companies was zero. Absolutely zero. Sizing all this up, I like to think that if I'd been at Kitty Hawk in 1903 when Orville Wright took off, I would have been farsighted enough, and public-spirited enough—I owed this to future capitalists—to shoot him down. I mean, Karl Marx couldn't have done as much damage to capitalists as Orville did."

But today, Futurebrand and AA, pop the Champagne (perhaps if the creditors committee allows, splurge on some Dom Perignon AA  served up front back in the day). And just for a fun trip down memory lane, courtesy of Brantabulous, here's a creepily Freudian ad from an earlier era of American aviation so remote as to be unrecognizable.


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