Established in 1932, Alaska Airlines is a domestic carrier in the United States (with some Canadian destinations) that began by offering flights out of Anchorage, Alaska to other parts of the state. Today, the airline travels to over 100 destinations — having added 90 markets in the past five years alone — and has a fleet of nearly 150 planes with their hub at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Yesterday, Alaska Airlines introduced a new identity and livery designed by Seattle-based Hornall Anderson.
Update: Hornall Anderson project page now available here.
A micro site dedicated to the new identity can be found here.
“Our refreshed brand really is an evolution, not a revolution, of Alaska Airlines,” said Sangita Woerner, the airline’s vice president of marketing. “Our goal was to reflect the soul of our company, which is known for its genuine, caring service and top-notch performance. It’s now time to show up to our customers in a bigger, brighter way.”
The most visible changes to the brand are the wordmark, the Eskimo icon and a bold, energetic new color palette.
The previous logo was introduced a little over a year ago and hopefully they didn’t paint too many planes with it because that would have been a very shitty ROI. The previous logo smoothed out the edges of the one before it but maintained the basic premise and although the press release touts the change as the “first major brand change in 25 years” this new logo maintains, again, the basic premise.
The new logo is one further step in smoothing out the original but keeping all the visual traits that make it recognizable, including the protruding crossbar of the “A”, the “k” with a kick, and the heavily tilted italic-ness. In this version, there is almost nothing left of personality in the logo and has a much more corporate feel that makes it blend more with other airlines and is less unique. Other than the consistent angle, there is not a lot of pleasant rhythm to the new logo. The “a”s are particularly off-putting and the “s” feels like it’s from another logo. To its credit, the logo looks strong and crisp small (as shown in the magazine cover).
The iconic Eskimo prominently featured on the tail of the plane has been Alaska’s brand beacon since 1972, welcoming customers and guiding employees with a warm, friendly face. His profile has been modernized and new vibrant colors added around his parka trim, which include Tropical Green and Breeze Blue, reminiscent of the tropical regions Alaska serves including Hawaii and Costa Rica. Atlas Blue, which is a cue to Alaska’s 14 global airline partners, is also featured throughout the design.
The more positive change than the logo might be the rendering of the Eskimo. (In a past thread someone pointed out you don’t call Eskimos Eskimos anymore because it’s politically incorrect but I’m not calling the Eskimo Eskimo, Alaska Airlines is, so Eskimo it is.) The previous rendering had its charm in that it looked like something you would find in an encyclopedia or a school textbook and it matched the texture of the logo but as an airline ambassador illustration it was literally too rough around the edges. The new rendering has more clearly defined features and better accentuates that he is wearing a parka while keeping all the moody shadows. The green and lighter blue liven up the illustration and add a spark to the tail of the plane.
Yeah, we still don’t know who the Eskimo depicted is. Despite the almost successful attempt at humor in the video above, it would have been nice for someone to fess up. Nonetheless, it makes for a clever storyline for the airline to play up.
In application, the identity revolves around some swooping, swooshing swathes of blues and greens that, again, are very airline-y. The backgrounds for the ticketing counter and gates do have a subtle way of standing out with the colorful corners but the dependance on blue is just like a dozen others. The supporting font is — guess who? — Circular and in this case it feels very out of place. There is no synergy going on between it and the logo or the Eskimo or the swooshes. It stands out too crisply from the rest. Overall, it’s not a highly inspiring redesign and rather than double-down on the quirkiness and ruggedness of the brand equity established they have moved away to safer territory.
Thanks to Remington Box for the tip.