Founded in 1895, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) offers merchandise and services to active duty, guard and reserve members, military retirees and their families of the U.S. Army and Air Force. With more than 3,100 facilities — that include over 180 retail stores (like big Walmarts) as well as more than 1,000 fast food restaurants like Taco Bell and Burger King — in Army and Air Force bases in the U.S. and more than 30 countries, AAFES’s majority of earnings are funneled back to the Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR)/Services programs which, in 2009, amounted to more than $261 million. In September of last year AAFES introduced a new logo that reflected a change in name from AAFES to, simply, the Exchange. The identity and update to their retail program was done by Columbus, OH-based Chute Gerdeman.
Graphic artists designed the logo with significant symbolism. The intersecting lines— called “chevrons”—are symbolic for the Army and Air Force branches coming together. Their shapes are used in both branches to acknowledge accomplishment and duty served with honor. “The name ‘Exchange’ embraces the idea that AAFES gives back to the community with every transaction,” said Chief Operating Officer Michael Howard.
— The Exchange Post
The new logo is graphically powerful, instantly identifiable, dimensional and meaningful:
- Two colors suggest the Army and Air Force coming together
- Exchange applies equally to both Army and Air Force
- The logo forms an “X,” which is visual shorthand for Exchange
- Red arrow suggests forward progress
— Press Release
The old logo, a funny cross between the ESPN and G.I. Joe logos, was everything you would expect from an American military operation: red, blue, white, stars and stripes, and executed clumsily to boot. The new one is far more subtle in its Americanism and now looks a lot more like a retail brand and less like Operation Buy Stuff. The “X” icon is nicely done and the rounded corners match well with the softish sans serif below. What I like most about the change is that it became friendlier but without going the full-on “let’s be friends” aesthetic of lowercase rounded sans serifs. This still maintains some needed seriousness but drops the screaming General act.
Update: Photos below of the prototype store at Tinker Air Force Bace, photographed by Mark Steele.