Design: Reaction to the Aer Lingus rebrand


Posted 3 months ago in Design

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We asked a number of local brand & design professionals: What are your thoughts on the new Aer Lingus rebrand? Here’s what they had to say.

Bob Gray – Red & Gray

Aer Lingus, more than most businesses I can think of, represents Ireland on a global scale. So when they decide to rebrand, everybody tends to take notice. Rebranding your national airline is a project that needs to display confidence, strength, quality, and reliability.

In truth it’s difficult to fully appreciate the conversations and research that may have been undertaken by New York agency, Lippincott in designing the rebrand. Nevertheless, one could assume the main purpose entrusted to them was to help the airline grow. Like all organisations, Aer Lingus needs to expand operations, increase profits, improve productivity, strengthen traditions and adapt to constant changes in their industry.

From the limited imagery I’ve seen to date, it’s unclear how Lippincott plan on using the rebrand to highlight Aer Lingus’s place in the global airline industry. Nor is it clear how they will address the needs and challenges of the everyday customers in multiple contexts and locations around the world. This after all, is what high quality branding does and we can only hope there is more to this rebrand than what has currently been shown.

What is clear and easily appraised is the visual and verbal language they have introduced. Deep breath… The typography is poorly created and clunky in its application. The logotype has multiple faults across several letters. The shamrock is fine and is an improvement on the previous attempt, but fails to send a confident message. What’s worse is they seem to have decided to copy and paste it across all materials. Not exactly an engaging and dynamic system. Instead it highlights the lack of personality in the work produced. The Mrs Doyle tea cups are possibly an attempt to address this, but feel lazy and hackneyed. Surely this was an opportunity to do something far more interesting. Another misguided decision is the poorly crafted silver icon created for business class. All I can say is that it would be more at home in a Carroll’s gift shop (no disrespect to Carroll’s gift shops). Overall, the aesthetic of the materials produced are neither engaging nor sophisticated.

The typography is poorly created and clunky in its application. The logotype has multiple faults across several letters. The shamrock is fine and is an improvement on the previous attempt, but fails to send a confident message.

Finally, to the aircraft themselves. They’re professional yes, but there is nothing unique about the livery. It mirrors the design of many other airline livery from the last ten years. I suspect, they have been designed to fit in, rather than stand out. I also suspect this is why Lippincott got the job. A quick look at their portfolio reveals two similarly designed aircraft. This, more than anything, shows a lack of confidence and understanding about the value and importance of our national airline. Hopefully there is more to come from the design agency and client alike, but right now, the redesign weakens rather than strengthens the Aer Lingus brand.

Kim MacKenzie Doyle

20 years is time enough to welcome a rebrand. The national carrier who is a world-wide ambassador for the country to tourists and business people alike, often the first touch point to Ireland has taken a pretty safe and un-exciting step in refreshing the brand in an 8+million roll out. Two things disappoint me, the first and most obvious one is why did Aer Lingus not use an Irish design consultancy (eyes may roll at this, I continue) there are world class agencies that could have done an equal if not better job here. The second thing, why use a historical anchor to the messaging (I refer to the prose and poetry woven into the seating and more), is it not cliché at this point in time when Ireland has become one of the most progressive countries in the world. I would have loved Aer Lingus to embrace change, as Ireland has, and been bolder with the design. So, it’s a 8 million ‘meh’ from me.

Simon RichardsRichardsDee

The Aer Lingus brand identity was in need of an update. Now twenty years later, Aer Lingus has embarked on a significant programme to overhaul its brand identity with a more “modern and fresh” image. In the past decade the brand identity had transitioned from a dot.com sales logo to a well presented commercial brand. But it never recaptured the uniqueness, warmth and personality established in the rebrand completed 20 years ago – which was a benchmark in how an airline uses all experiences to reinforce a brands reputation.

Over time the brand identity did look a little heavy, and the new owners obviously wanted to bring the brand inline with their portfolio of airlines, observing the similar structure to the tail fins on Iberia. But, is the refresh one of note, in how branding has elevated the Aer Lingus story or a refresh that warrants little attention as it lacks a compelling story?

Now the brand refresh has been launched how do we assess whether it is good or bad? At RichardsDee our viewpoint is that branding has to create meaningful change, helping brands adapt, motivate, grow and be the best that they can be. Great branding programmes start with real problems, real insights and a strong brand platform of vision, mission, purpose and personality, executed meaningfully across people, products, services and communications – a brand is what a brand does.

One problem that may have existed is getting to understand what Aer Lingus’s positioning was, the brand had been stuck between a value operator and a flag ship carrier, trying to compete with Ryanair or position itself as a great flagship carrier like Swiss or Lufthansa. While the launch video explains the rationale, position and process, little has been written in the press about how the brand refresh will support the business case or assist in repositioning the airline, or how the brand experience will change in offering new products or services that will differentiate and motivate customers to chose them, rather than price. We do know that the new brand refresh is to reflect an international airline that connects, bring to life its value positioning and an airline that is in touch with modern Ireland.

In regard to the new brand refresh there has been a lot of emphasis on the execution rather than how the brand is defining the future of how customers will experience Aer Lingus and how its reputation will be maintained. The shamrock takes centre stage, it retains it warmth and emphasises the hearts which is a good idea. The style elevates a consumer centric carrier rather than premium leader. The symbol features a 3D effect, but the shadow and depth of colour already looks dated, and when is a tilted shamrock not a shamrock falling over? Unfortunately the brand refresh is lacking a bigger idea, the shamrock seems to be the idea and is placed everywhere and has become a shorthand to “an Irish welcome” even on the front of door that is usually hidden? The font for the logotype brings a contemporary twist to the logotype, but the restyled ‘g’ does look awkward and unbalanced with the rest of the characters.

Unfortunately the brand refresh is lacking a bigger idea

The new brand removes one of the brand most distinctive assets which is the heavy use of green on the livery. The new livery is lighter and falls in line with fellow IAG stablemates Iberia, and may be a potential design direction for Finnair and BA. The new livery is efficient and modern, but the design has little personality or confidence. Futurebrands rebrand of American Airlines created an own able and dynamic retake on American symbolism without being overtly patriotic.

Overall it is a credible and consistent brand identity, it is true to its past but the refresh does little to communicate their values of strength and confidence, the refreshes go little further than addressing the cosmetic elements of the brand and helping the brand to look less like a national flag carrier and more accessible to a wider range of travellers. This was an opportunity to use the brand refresh as a principle to communicate clearly a focussed positioning, establish a leadership stance in introducing new innovative products and services and create a sense of purpose in the brand for the employees.

In contrast to this refresh Alaskan Airlines went thorough a similar refresh, but the the launch established why, how and what the new brand will do for the business and customers.  Alaskan Airlines grounded the refresh with research and in-depth conversations with flyers, they were clear in the goal the the brand needed to make them look bigger, the brand became a lens to curate each travel touchpoint, they led with clarity in how the travel experience will become better including locally inspired food and craft beers. And, they went back to their roots, to the native artists in how their symbol of the eskimo become modern, yet was respectful. The refresh wasn’t about revamping the identity is was making it relevant for “Today” – all supported by research to ensure that the refresh changed perceptions the brand.

Maybe, the real brand story is not about the shamrock, nor the brand refresh, but that Aer Lingus is moving away from a national flagship brand to positioning itself as a value operator with great connecting choice. Aer Lingus should be more than a brand that uses the shamrock as a short hand, it is a brand where the warm, friendly welcome of Ireland runs through its people, and that the airline is an international player with Ireland at the centre – helping to connect and bring people together. If this is the case, then the discussion around the new brand ident should focus less on a stylised tilted shamrock and more on the positioning, the personality of the people in the brand and the progressiveness in how the brand will define the future experiences – unfortunately the brand has departed.

Conor ClarkeDesign Factory

I find it frustrating to be asked this question now, as I’m sure do many of my peers, after the horse has bolted. Our opinions would have added real value to the branding process through our sharing of decades of brand and visual identity experience for national institutions, transport, utilities, culture and industry; as loyal customers of the airline; as lifelong students of design; as advocates for design in Ireland; as designers with international reputations; as educators; as designers with an intuitive sense of our cultural and commercial place in the world and as designers with an innate sense of how we look and sound best. Too late now, the job is done and the new Aer Lingus identity will become part of the visual landscape for the next 20 years. Once again an opportunity has been missed. The opportunity to craft our own image in the world has been left to others.

I find it frustrating to be asked this question now, as I’m sure do many of my peers, after the horse has bolted.

Éanna O’SheaImage Now

Looking at this Aer Lingus rebrand, I remind myself to think of the hard-working design team and the client behind the project because I know a lot of work, effort and time goes into these projects. I can hear words and phrases like ‘dynamic’, digitally-focussed’, ‘friendly’, ‘less Ireland, more international’ echoing over boardroom tables as I read over the rebrand rationale and browse through the refreshed collateral. In my mind, yes it does probably tick all those boxes but has this box ticking exercise created a brand that is trying to do too much?

I love that it is refreshingly clean and minimal but, when I look at it as a whole, something is not sitting right with me. The structured typography with Celtic nods is friendly but definitely means business. Green has taken a back seat and teal is now the dominant colour and, when you look at its application on the website, it feels quite cold. Then, you have a very playful shamrock that is bright, obviously filled with heart and purposefully youthful. While all the pieces are visually pleasing they feel slightly at odds with each other. It’s like an energetic kid in an office, the workers aren’t exactly pleased and the kid definitely doesn’t want to be there. I am also not a big fan of brands using obvious heart shapes to literally tell you ‘we have a heart, we care’, It seems to be a very popular trend in brand mark-making, especially in the aviation industry (not looking at you Cork Airport). Are we at a stage now where we have to be that literal in order to tick a box and appease our audience?

I love that it is refreshingly clean and minimal but, when I look at it as a whole, something is not sitting right with me.

Do I like the rebrand? Yes, don’t get me wrong, I love that it’s clean, enjoys white space and is easy on the eye. Will I miss anything from the old branding? Yes, that lovely strip of refreshing green that travelled down the plane… i’ll miss that the most.

Sean MongeyPost

I find it pretty hard to get excited about rebrands like this lately and I’m always surprised by the column inches they garner outside of design media. Generally they’re a spectacle of what went wrong not right. So… for me, the new shamrock is fine in it’s single colour variant, livery is clean if a little generic and the typeface (a mistreated version of Diodrum) doesn’t feel right or well made especially with the custom ‘g’ shoehorning some Irish in. Either way these rebranding exercises are meaningless unless there’s a commitment to real improvement beyond applying a shiny new veneer. I don’t know about you but as soon as I see a press release with the likes of “adding a tilt to symbolise dynamism and speed” my eyes tend to glaze over. To plagiarise The Brand Gap, “It’s not what you say it is, it’s what they say it is”.

James Kelleher 

It’s been interesting to watch the public backlash to Lippincott’s work. Interesting and counterintuitively reassuring, if you work as a designer – so often people can have an almost anaphylactic reaction to any hint of change in a brand that’s played a large part in their lives, but it’s good to be reminded that people feel a sense of ownership, and can still react to design in such a visceral way.

Disclaimer: anything I have to say here is a personal reaction – any opinion will always be half-assed without sight of the original brief, the fraught, messy process that followed, the impossibly tight deadlines, or the foresight to know how the brand meshes with imperfect reality over time.

I think the shamrock mark is a significant improvement on what’s gone before. The heart motif is more explicit, the overall shape is crisp and lively, with that aerodynamic lean giving it a little bit of spring in its step, and I quite like the hint of depth in the edge accents.

The tweaked colour palette is good too – when you see the new tailfin alongside the old, that extra bit of contrast between the teal and green makes the shamrock sing. The aircraft livery – inevitably the bit that everyone will be most interested in – is probably the best part of the whole rebrand, with a few nice touches on the wingtips and engine housings.

That wordmark though. While it’s better than the previous iteration (which I never got used to) it’s still a missed opportunity. It looks like a cartoonish simulacrum of modernity, a jumble of neither this nor that. None of the letters seem to quite fit together as a cohesive set and no matter how much I squint, I can’t see how that ‘g’ is supposed to resemble any sort of gaelic script. Maybe it’ll grow on me.

Nik Dillon – Alkamee

We watched the recent unveiling of the Aer Lingus rebrand with a degree of anticipation – who doesn’t love design applied at this scale on an aircraft? Despite there being a genuine dearth of interesting work in this territory for quite some time, it’s still an arena that holds a degree of nostalgic allure.

In the build up to the unveiling Aer Lingus stated that they wanted a creative partner who knew what it meant to be Irish, so they appointed Lippincott… from New York. Obviously this is a disappointment for our indigenous industry, but in taking this approach Aer Lingus are not exactly alone, Eir went to Moving Brands of London, the National Gallery went to an agency from Manchester! It’s not that our companies and organisations need be patriotic, but in a nutshell, we have huge homegrown talent here, so the reasons for choosing certain agencies seems to come down to a very literal approach. In this case “Have the studio designed aircraft carriers before?”, rather than how great a job will these guys do? and the results are there to be seen in an ever diminishing series of returns.

We have huge homegrown talent here, so the reasons for choosing certain agencies seems to come down to a very literal approach. In this case “Have the studio designed aircraft carriers before?”, rather than how great a job will these guys do?

The Aer Lingus work by Lippincott, is very professional, its clean, inoffensive, slightly modern and the warmth & hospitality coming through in the shamrock didn’t need explained.

Overall its an inoffensive body of work, but it tells us little, it doesn’t appear to have a broader arsenal of elements so its hard to see how it will grow and flex, it doesn’t seem to have a voice especially amongst competitors on the runway and in truth lacks overall integrity and true authenticity. In a word its.. nice and nice is a terrible word when it comes to creativity.

Max Phillips – Signal Foundry

It’s hard to judge a branding system fairly without knowing about the brief, the client input, or the schedule, but this doesn’t look like a win. I think the white-bodied planes do seem crisper and more current, but also more generic. The spurless sans has a 90s-corporate vibe. The bevel on the shamrock also seems like a 90s move. I think the shamrock’s more effective on the printed matter, where it’s used flat. The ‘g’ in Aer Lingus seems to be a compromise between an insular form and a modern grotesk, but, as with the rest of the wordmark, I don’t think it’s drawn well enough to succeed.

A client testimonial on Lippincott’s site commends them for doing the work “in an incredibly short time,” so maybe they were rushed.

Overall, this doesn’t say ‘modern,’ ‘friendly,’ or ‘heritage’ to me, or much of anything else. It just looks cautious and a bit dated. A client testimonial on Lippincott’s site commends them for doing the work “in an incredibly short time,” so maybe they were rushed. They’ve certainly done strong programs for clients like Delta, which has a confident, tightly integrated presence and one of the handsomest liveries around. With all the branding talent on offer in Ireland, it’s a shame that big Irish institutions always seem to send these jobs overseas. I have to wonder whether we couldn’t have done as well or better at home.

 

 

 

 

Compiled by Richard Seabrooke

 

 

 

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