Brand Mergers and Logos in Transition

Posted inBranding & Identity Design

Sitting in the lounge at Hong Kong’s airport, waiting for a flight to Frankfurt recently, and I experience my first sighting of a jet with the Continental logo on its tail, and the United logo on the side of the fuselage.

I did a double take.

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Is this a merger in transition? A kind of interim brand?

After a quick Google detour, I find out that this is no interim solution—-although it looks like one—-and that , indeed, this is how the two major US airlines will now display their livery to the world.

I thought it was a case of temporary visual accommodation until a newly integrated airline created its own visual identity. Sort of like when we do a redesign that the publisher decides to introduce slowly, one bit at a time (not my favorite, I do believe in the big bang “here we are, world” approach). It is more direct, more strategic and makes a point: this publication is changing, it is on the go, and here are the results of what we have been doing to make it better for you.

But the sighting of this Continental/United jet reminds me of days gone by, when newspapers would merge: a morning daily would blend with the afternoon title. It was not always a friendly visual merger on the nameplate when you combined words like Journal and Constitution, or Telegraph with Gazette, or, as in Fairbanks (Alaska) News-Miner. I always thought that it would be better to give them one name, and go with it. In all these mergers, one title dominates, anyway, so why not go for that one name?

Anytime you see a newspaper with names like News-Record, Star-Tribune, Gazette-Journal, chances are, whether there is a hyphen in between or not, this was a case of a merger years ago. When newspapers first began to merge—and I remember this era rather well—we as designers were always asked to maintain the visual identity of both brands on one masthead. You can imagine how difficult that was, sort of like the United/Continental livery on its fleet.

A little visually senseless, in my view.

Today, however, those merged newspapers have learned to live with each other, and smart art directors and designers everywhere have used one font to unify what was once two titles. It will be interesting to see how United and Continental get along.

**All of Mario’s posts are courtesy of the Mario Blog.