American Airlines re-brand
The new design for American Airlines is subject to the traditional carping from the online armchair critics. You can be the judge of whether you think it is a good design or not; you don’t need my opinion. But the opinion of Massimo Vignelli, designer of the airlines previous livery, does count for something. He has been quoted as saying ‘It has no sense of permanence. There was no need to change. Every other airline has changed its logo many times, and every time was worse than the previous one. We used Helvetica, which was brand new at the time (1967). It looked great. The typeface was great. We proceeded by logic, not emotion. Not trends and fashions.’
I do really pity any designer or agency following in Vignelli’s modernist footsteps; he is after all a design legend. So, what do you make of his opinion? Is it sour grapes? The mutterings of a grumpy elder statesman? Arguably. But that last line did give me an involuntary shudder. For all the ‘strategic tools’ big projects like this tend to involve these days, are we losing touch with the stuff that really counts? Logic. Expertise. A genuine philosophy about design (as opposed to a glib ‘design philosophy trotted out in the agency creds). A backbone about what makes for effective design and what does not.
All of these things are the result of designers who can articulate their thinking and knowledge. But these days – these more ‘professional’ days – perhaps such individuals are buried beneath a heap of smart agency representatives who can brilliantly sell and frame ‘the creative’, but (because they are not actually designing or able to design) lack the genuine connection to the work. If I am being unclear, I am not specifically talking about the American Airlines project or the folk who did it. I’m wondering if Vignelli is making a point worthy of serious thought for us as an industry. Are we generally writing loads of strategic rationale around design but at the same time losing the plot?
From Vignelli’s homepage is this simple statement:
Given his achievements these are not hollow words. But ones, perhaps, we might all aim to emulate…