The Designer of the Old American Airlines Logo Really Doesn't Like the New Design

aa_logos.jpg
On the left, an example of powerful yet understated elegance. On the right, pure and undiluted crap, at least according to the designer of the one on the left.
In 1967, back when Helvetica was still brand new, American Airlines recruited Italian designer Massimo Vignelli to develop what would become the carrier's logo for the next 46 years. It was simple, straightforward, and instantly recognizable: a pair of A's, one red, one blue, separated by a stylized blue eagle.

Bloomberg Businessweek caught up with Vignelli last week in the wake of American's announcement that it would be jettisoning his creation in favor of a newer, more modern look.

Suffice to say, Vignelli is not impressed.

"It has no sense of permanence," he told Bloomberg. "The American flag is great. ... But 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 colors shown instead of all three. So is it a different flag?"

MassimoVignelli.jpg
Wikipedia
Massimo Vignelli
His critiques cut deeper than the new paint scheme, however. The redesign reeks desperation, which marks a stark difference from the process that produced the original logo, when his team "proceeded by logic, not emotion. Not trends and fashions."

"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," he said. "Otherwise it becomes a wolf camouflaged by sheep. It's still the same company that's not going to be successful. They're not going to solve their problems, they're just going to increase their costs."

We also get the tidbit that the eagle from the old logo? Not Vignelli's idea.

"They wanted an eagle. I said, 'If you want an eagle, it has to have every feather.' You don't stylize and make a cartoon out of an eagle." So, "I'm not sorry to see the eagle go."

(h/t Dallas Business Journal)


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13 comments
Mervis
Mervis

The #1 reason for AAs new look is that the 787 Dreamliner is made from composites and not skinned in aluminium which is a huge part of AAs look.

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

This is like discussing the ballroom decor on the Titanic.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

Old man doesn't like change.

Big surprise.

Very, very few products or companies can get away with using the same logo for 45 years. It's he's such a great designer he'd realize that a refreshing was long necessary rather than being butt-hurt about his mediocre work being retired. I don't love the new look, but the old one has been dated since I was a kid.

Lakewooder
Lakewooder

The flying public doesn't give 2 shits about logos.It's all about cost, service, routes & equipment. Manage those 4 successfully and AA can paint 2 dogs humping on the tail of every plane.

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

Someone should probably alert that designer that without the eagle logo, it would appear that the planes belonged to a very patriotic chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous.

That said, American Airlines still sucks. Unless I'm going International I won't touch them. Virgin and Southwest are far better.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

So, then. The original design was two adjacent capitol A's, one red and one blue? Earthshattering design there, Vignelli.


Mind = Blown

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

wow breaking news, the designer of the logo that will no longer be used hates the new one.  Wow, who would have thought that.  lol  anyhow, he is right about needing a president that needs to know how to run the country, i mean company. whoopsie...gooddaytoya

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@bmarvel yeah except that this one wont sink, its a viable operation now after taking millions from employees and screwing over vendors

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

@Scruffygeist Union Pacific Railroad: Same logo for well over 100 years. Same paint scheme on its diesels for 60 years now. Few logos and looks have been so successful.

The purpose of a paint scheme and logo -- since we're talking about both here -- is to catch the eye and stick in the brain. Designers and CEOs just love to fiddle with them. It gives CEOs the illusion that they're putting a new stamp -- their stamp -- on things. And it gives designers work. But a new look and a new logo do not by themselves "refresh" anything. And American needs considerably more than refreshing. The new look will catch the eye, perhaps, but it will stick in the brain only if customers associate that new look with a positive experience.  

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

@bmarvel Yeah, I took marketing classes in college too, I know. But since the old look was one, nothing special, two, really old, and three, the look they drug into bankruptcy, it's really is a low risk, high reward move to try and associate a new look with their claimed new airline. The irony will be if they repaint their ancient, awful Super 80s with the new look.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@bmarvel @Scruffygeist they wont from what I hear, they will just phase out.  And as for the new look, its a great time to try it at least, you got an order for 600 planes coming in, so new interiors, new exteriors, new leaner company, it worth the try, the old look was associated with a failure in the end where the product looked much like the planes, old and dilapidated.  And new crop of flight attendants are coming on too

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