American Airline New Logo

One upset designer (rightfully?)

American Airlines is one of a handful of brands that are considered true american icons, its namesake gives a sense of possibility, inspires deep loyalty and today, the company also invested in that most american of ideals: progress. Two years ago American Airlines decide to redesign their iconic logo and marketing products. As every rebranding process, it was a slow and methodical push for change that was accepted and welcomed by the management. The branding agency picked to execute this was Futurebrand,who strived to create a modern look for the iconic brand.

Early this year the new logo was unveiled. This as an ambitious rebranding and marketing campaign called “A New American,” a reference to the new look and a new spirit as the company has emerged from bankruptcy. American Airlines has adopted a new minimal logo, dropping the overt eagle for a more seamless design.

AA New Logo by Futurebrand

This is the corporation’s first rebrand in over 40 years. The original logo was created by designer Massimo Vignelli, who designed for high profile clients like IBM and Bloomingdale’s. The design legend is not a fan of the new corporate identity that replaces the one he created 45 years ago, since the logo is intended to be a sort of 21st-century amalgamation of many of the elements of Vignelli’s much-loved marque: the eagle, the letter A, the red, white and blue livery, and the star. Indeed, Vignelli recently told BusinessWeek that the FutureBrand version “has no sense of permanence” and that the replacement for Helvetica “is not as good or as powerful.”

AA Vignelli's Logo

AA Vignelli’s Logo

He also said:

“There was no need to change. It’s been around for 45 years. Every other airline has changed its logo many times, and every time was worse than the previous one. This is the typical mistake that company presidents make: “I’ll change the logo, and the company will look new.” What you have to have is a president who knows how to run the company, and in that process knows how to evaluate the brand identity. Otherwise it becomes a wolf camouflaged by sheep. It’s still the same company that’s not going to be successful.

“The American flag has 13 stripes, right? Not 11. Did American add only 11 stripes [to the flag on the tail] because they are in Chapter 11? I don’t think two more stripes would have been a disaster. And there are only two colours shown instead of all three. So is it a different flag?”They’re not going to solve their problems, they’re just going to increase their costs. As you know, one of the great things about American Airlines was that the planes were unpainted. The paint adds so much weight that that brings an incredible amount of fuel consumption. For some reason they decided to paint the plane. The fact is, weight is weight. Design is much more profound. Styling is very much emotional. Good design isn’t—it’s good forever. It’s part of our environment and culture. There’s no need to change it. The logo doesn’t need change. The whole world knows it, and there’s a tremendous equity. It’s incredibly important on brand recognition. I will not be here to make a bet, but this (new logo) won’t last another 25 years.”

What do you think about American Airlines rebranding? Do you think Vignelli is rightfully upset? How do you feel when a company rebrands your material?