American Airlines’ Logo Crash Test

Posted inThe Daily Heller
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Questionable redesigns—they happen to the best logos, including Hershey’s, UPS, and countless others. Now American Airlines’ Vignelli-designed double A, introduced in 1967, has been grounded, replaced with a new aerodynamic computer-rendered soaring (boring) eagle, one of a new breed of homogenized airbrush marks that are popular today.

“The best sign of a great design is that you never get tired of looking at it—in fact, it keeps looking better over time,” Paul Goldberger wrote on yesterday’s VF Daily. “That’s what I’ve always thought of Massimo and Lella Vignelli’s designs for the exterior of the American Airlines fleet, which was elegantly simple and powerful: red-white-and-blue stripes running the length of the plane, the rest of the fuselage left in its original polished aluminum, the name “American” in big, clear, strong Helvetica letters atop the stripes, and an abstracted version of the airline’s old logo, “AA” with a stylized eagle, on the tail. For 45 years, since the first Vignelli-designed planes took to the air in 1967, that was it. It felt crisp, distinctive, powerful, and understated, all at once. And it looked as fresh last week as it did four decades ago.”

He added: “Talk about fixing what wasn’t broken. The design of the outside of its planes was the one thing that American Airlines had, hands down, over its rivals.”