Established in 1974 — but dating back to 1950, known as Gulf Aviation Company, and owned by British Overseas Aircraft Corporation — when the states of Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Oman, and Qatar, purchased all its shares and turned Gulf Air into their national carrier. Today it is the national carrier of the Kingdom of Bahrain serving 42 cities in 25 countries spanning three continents. It currently has a fleet of 28 aircraft but will be adding 39 more in 2018 alone. As part of this expansion, Gulf Air recently introduced a new identity designed by Saffron.
Gulf Air’s iconic falcon has accompanied the airline from its very beginnings and is rooted in the Middle East’s psyche. A symbol of courage, perseverance and freedom, the falcon embodies the pristine and innovative service with the emotion and raw beauty that make Gulf Air more than just an airline.
We embarked on an exploration of the anatomy and movements of falcons in their natural environment. By studying the grace and elegance of the falcon in its natural environment, we were able to truly capture the essence of this iconic bird. We then commissioned experienced illustrator Martijn Rivjen, whose considered craft and understanding of natural form helped to bring this vision to life. The logo’s features run through the entire identity.
The old logo wasn’t great or bad but stuck somewhere in between, with a falcon drawing that looked dynamic enough and a wordmark that was mostly bland but used some diamond shapes to make it feel ever so slightly special — its color combination was probably the worst part about it, with that blue clashing with the gold. The new logo features a much more majestic falcon drawing, soaring in the sky and drawn at an angle where it makes the viewer feel as if looking up at it (whereas the old one looked it was near the ground about to grab its prey). It’s a cool drawing with a nice interplay of light/dark and positive/negative. I’m not a huge fan of the line shading in the icon as I think it clashes with the more organic feel of the eagle. However, I do like the line shading in the wordmark as it gives it a slight added dimension but, as a however to this however, I also think the wordmark could have done without it. One very cool thing about the icon is that its silhouette is shaped like an airplane’s tail, which allows it to fit perfectly in the livery and once you notice it, I think it gives the falcon an extra layer of coolness.
At the heart of the new visual language is Gulf Air Sans, a distinct and ownable typeface which echoes the shape of the falcons claws, beak and wings. To add depth and texture, we also incorporated shading which evokes finer details of the feather. The typeface is designed for Arabic and latin scripts and comes in three different weights, which was achieved using the experience of type foundry Letterjuice.
The wordmark extends into a full type family that adopts the common extended structure of airline typography but adds some falcon-ness to it in the way the serifs flair ever so slightly and as an ink-trap detail. These gestures add a lot of personality to the type and yield something that feels familiar within the airline industry but establishes a distinct visual style.
The iconography relates back to the curves and lines of the falcon logo. Each icon is itself a skilfully designed illustration, adding a layer of richness to the normally mundane act of wayfinding.
The identity introduces an abstract pattern that can be used bold and colorful as in the stationery above or more subtly as in the cards below, all while giving the logo plenty of room and letting the falcon be the center of attention.
The identity has a nice range, where it can be more classy and stately through the use of gold, black, and white, but it can also turn more playful through colorful illustrations and bold photography, all while maintaining a connecting thread through the type family.
As the flag carrier of Bahrain, Gulf Air is a source of national pride and an ambassador to the Kingdom. We captured the warmth and friendless of its people and trailblazing attitude through the brand idea “smart with heart”, which guides every touchpoint of the Gulf Air experience.
The delicate balance of warmth and modernity is seen in the fleet’s new livery, which celebrates the airline’s impressive heritage.
The old livery felt very heavy and dated and the color palette made the plane look cheaper than it should. Other than the odd swoosh where the tail meets the fuselage, the new livery is great. The wordmark looks strong and elegant on black and the icon sits so nicely in the tail. The gold turbines are a nice touch.
The cabin interior colour and material palette is inspired by the fine materials and craftsmanship of Bahrain’s artisans and the traditional sport of falconry, as well as reflecting the modern elements of Bahrain, its sights and culture. Rich brown leathers, evocative of a falconry glove, a distinctive feather pattern and elegant gold accents reinterpret Bharani tradition in a contemporary fashion.
Overall, this is a great update that gives Gulf Air a modern, elegant look that is more in line with the upscale notion of business and leisure travel to the Middle East.