Often, logos have a long history and change from time to time. The American Airlines logo too has undergone some significant and some not so significant changes since its inception. Its meaning and evolution has been in line with what the country symbolizes and wants to showcase to the world- growth, progress and unity.
About the American Airlines Brand
The first American Airlines flight on April 15, 1926 was one that carried mail from Missouri to Illinois. After almost eight to ten years of carrying cargo, the airline moved to ferrying passengers. The first commercial service took place in a D-C 3 plane on June 25, 1936 from New York to Chicago. It was after World War II that American Airlines flew its first overseas passenger flight, to Europe.
American Airlines is part of the American Airlines Group and started commercial service in 1936. But we should point out it was formerly known as American Airways. Over the years, the airlines merged with other companies and even purchased some. In the 1960s, American Airlines partnered with IBM to launch the Semi-Automated Business Research Environment (SABRE) for efficient reservation and other data processes. In 1970, American Airlines merged with Trans Caribbean Airways.
The airlines got its one-billionth customer on March 27, 1991. Ten years later in 2001, American Airlines gained Trans World Airlines.
When measured according to fleet size, revenue, profits, the number of passengers carried and passenger revenue per mile, American Airlines is the world’s largest airline operating in about 350 destinations across 50 countries of the globe. It is also the founding member of the Oneworld Alliance (an airline alliance founded on February 1, 1999). This is the third largest airline alliance in the world and its aim is to become the first choice airline alliance for frequent international flyers.
American Eagle is the name of a regional branch of American Airlines. Nine regional airlines operate under this branch. The ten operating hubs of American Airlines are Chicago, Charlotte, Dallas, Miami, Los Angeles, New York (JFK), New York (LaGuardia), Philadelphia, Phoenix and Washington.
American Airlines Logo Design History
Pilots and flight attendants working for American Airlines have for a long time been seen as heroes of the sky and being associated with the airline has been been a matter of privilege for everyone. The American Airlines logo has been an iconic symbol of flying pride. The winged “AA” logo of American Airlines has been its identity for many decades.
Colors and Significance of the Original American Airlines Logo
The famous American Airlines logo was created in 1967 by Italian graphic designer Massimo Vignelli. Thirty years later, in 1997, American Airlines bought the domain name AA.com and branded the company website with its emblem.
This logo had the letters AA (one letter in red and the other in blue) in Helvetica font (which was new then), with an eagle in between.
The red color represents passion, energy and vitality while the blue signifies duty, trust and care. The eagle, a popular American symbol for the country’s growth and great leaps of progress has been part of the American Airlines logo since its inception. This has been a solid symbol of American Airlines for over 45 years.
American Airlines Logo Design Evolution
Constantly changing your brand design does not give customers a feeling of permanence or long-term association. That is the reason most brands stick to one specific logo design for a long time. It helps them be identifiable to their clientele. A brand’s logo is the company’s trademark that is to be printed on everything- from boarding passes to stationery. It is crucial to a brand’s graphic identity. And if it works well, there is no need for regular logo changes.
American Airlines too used the same popular logo for more than 45 years, building trust and loyalty amongst flyers.
Since the airline started, the American Airlines logo has been changed five times, the most recent re-branding being in 2013.
Logo Changes Over the Years
The logo created at the outset had the symbol of an eagle perched on the surface of the earth, with the letter A written behind it on each side of its wings and a red diagonal strip in the middle, all in red. This whole emblem was on a blue background inside a red circle.
In the second version, the color red had completely disappeared and so had the outer circle. Now it was just a blue eagle with the letter A on each side of its wings.
The word American or Airlines was not included in the first two logos.
The third change just had the word American written below the earlier symbol. The entire symbol along with the word was blue inside a red-colored sphere once more.
The fourth version was the most noteworthy. It was created by Massimo Vignelli and one that the company did not change for almost five decades. The circle was omitted; the letter A and the word American in the left half of the emblem were red while the letter A and the word Airlines in the right half of the emblem were blue. A blue eagle with upward pointing wings sat between the two letters. Vignelli did not want the eagle in the logo at all. It was Henry Dreyfuss who made the eagle a part of the brand’s fourth logo.
This emblem was simple, attractive and had almost no curves. Many believe redesigning it was not necessary at all.
It may be noted that the first logo ever had an eagle that facing to the left while all the other logos have had an eagle facing to the right.
The logo that is currently in use was created by the FutureBrand Group and was unveiled in January 2013 as the airline was emerging from bankruptcy. The aim was to give the logo and livery a fresh, new feel. The new logo, known as the “Flight Symbol”, incorporates all the colors and symbols typically associated with America and American Airlines.
The new livery has bold stripes on a silver painted fuselage. Also, the livery only mentions the word American, not Airlines. There are blue and red stripes on the tail which is an abstraction of the American flag with no eagle.
FutureBrand Group has simplified Massimo Vignelli’s iconic symbol and created a slim diagonal logo that creates a bird’s head using the negative space between each of the red and blue wings.
Every logo of the airlines, since inception, has had the eagle symbol in it, although the current American Airlines logo uses a stylized version of it, it is less than subtle and one needs to observe carefully to notice the eagle in flight and the letter A that seems to form automatically.
This emblem appeals esthetically, but it diverges in a big way from the original symbols that have been part of the American Airlines logo. The words American and Airlines are no longer in the Helvetica font either.
Though the group suggests that the logo includes a stylized A, a soaring eagle and a star, the first two are quite simple to spot, while the star is not easily noticed.
The current logo shape looks like the tail of a plane is perfect for an airline company.However, some people also feel that having a bird represent a flying company is quite a cliché. Also, people relate it to the eagle that has been a part of the American Airlines logo for so many years. But the current version could be the head of any bird, not necessarily an eagle.
Although the colors red, blue and white that represent American Airlines have been retained in the current logo, there is a color gradient that is noticeable instead of the basic blue and red used in earlier emblems. The bottom part of both wings looks darker than the top. The eagle’s head is a bit gray rather than white.
The FutureBrand Group believes that the new symbol truly portrays the essence and spirit of American Airlines, while honoring the airline’s heritage at the same time. But a large number of people are of the opinion that redesigning the brand logo was not really necessary and that Massimo Vignelli’s 1967 emblem was the best and most instantly recognizable. It takes time for people to accept a change as big as this after having seen a brand close to their heart stick to the same emblem for more than 45 years.
Nevertheless, the American Airlines logo has received widespread acclaim for its elegance, subtlety and the feel of movement or progress it gives because of its eagle in motion.
Featured Image: Image via Flickr