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10 observations on the new American Airlines logo

American Airlines logo

1. Fresh paint won’t fix American Airlines. Flying American is like a trip to the Post Office, with long lines, frustrated customers, and dated-looking equipment and facilities. American acts like a dead airline walking, eking by with the bare minimum standards of service until U.S. Airways inevitably takes it over.

2. The new logo is not as good as the old logo.

3. Which is not to say that Massimo Vignelli is right. He’s the guy who designed the original logo in 1967. In an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, he said, “Styling is very much emotional. Good design isn’t—it’s good forever. It’s part of our environment and culture. There’s no need to change it. The logo doesn’t need change.”

4. Almost nothing that looked good in 1967 looks good today. That’s why we change things.

5. Most big logo launches receive harsh backlash these days, and American should have expected it. But this one was particularly painful, with cultural forces conspiring to make it cool to beat up on a new airline logo.

  • The Helvetica font in the old logo has been made trendy by a cult following of people obsessed with design trivia.
  • It’s generally fashionable for people to reclaim cultural detritus, and old airline logos (like TWA and Pan Am) are easy pickings.
  • Movies like “Catch Me If You Can” and “Up In The Air,” and shows like “Mad Men” (and its canceled knockoff “Pan Am”), romanticize a bygone era of high-class air travel.
  • People feel more empowered to boss around brands thanks to social media.
  • And yet people feel more disillusioned about big businesses after the financial crisis.

American, which hired FutureBrand to design the new logo, could have preempted some of the criticism by making even a trivial effort to engage airline enthusiasts, fans of old logos, or its social media followers in the rebranding process. But nope.

6. The font. (Seems to be a form of Lina.) It has the feel of a clueless corporation trying to be friendly, like a quarterly newsletter from the gas company. Or, as Armin Vit says on the Brand New blog: “It looks like an Adobe InDesign document that couldn’t load the fonts.”

7. And yet, the tail design on the new livery isn’t bad. It’s kind of bold, actually.


8. Americans would love to love American Airlines. The only thing we love more than American stuff is American stuff that flies. We put a man on the moon, for Christ’s sake! We hate that Air France and British Airways put our airlines to shame. Emirates will sell you a suite with a door. A whole freakin’ room on an airplane! Why didn’t America do that first? On American you’re lucky to get a cup of Diet Sierra Mist and a tiny bag of off-brand pretzels. This is America; we should at least be able to get the snacks right!

9. American could have pulled off a really exciting, interesting rebranding. Or they could have just gone with a subtle and frugal refresh—one that brought the brand up to today’s standards without requiring the expense of repainting all the planes. Instead they gave people another reason to gripe while we’re enduring an endless layover in Miami or Dallas.

American Airlines is a company we want to be proud of, but it’s so mediocre we aren’t. The same thing happens when proud financial institutions like Bank of America and American Express mail us dumbed-down and manipulative credit card solicitations. It’s how we feel about every entertainment-telecom conglomerate delivering us brainless action movies, artificial pop stars, sucky cable boxes, and inept service people. Or like agribusiness giants we barely know anything about inventing new ways to sell us corn. And even when big American companies suck, at least they make money! American Airlines (which lost $1.9 billion in 2012) even fails at that!

10. Most people don’t even notice logos.

— By Daryl Lang. Filed under Logos


  1. I’ve got to say it’s incredibly bland and the old one, while not exactly spectacular, has at least earned a certain status due to its longevity. But the first point is clearly the most salient: “Fresh paint won’t fix American Airlines.”

  2. MIKE HICKS says:

    The tail treatment is good, looks American, is distinctive. The logo does not. Reminds me of a bank, but a strange bank. How about the concept of no logo? Just go with the tail treatment, select an unoffensive font, and go with it.

  3. Brennan says:

    I dont hate the new icon, i actually kind of like it. You get the image of a airplane tail with and impression of the the eagle from the old logo. Maybe if it didn’t have the gradients and highlights, and was just more of a positive/negative color block effect. But i do agree that the typeface is pretty generic.

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