Despite the fact that many travelers will choose their carrier based on price, routing, and departure convenience, branding and marketing is big business for airlines. In the United States alone, airlines will spend more than a billion dollars on advertising, according to Statistical to research.
Although this figure almost halved during the 2020 recession, the sector is starting to rebound. Worldwide, it is estimated that aviation spent more on marketing in 2021 than in 2019. But without a strong brand identity to support those marketing messages, that money would be wasted.
One of the most important interactions a passenger will have with an airline brand will be their logo and livery design. This sea of airplane tails that you see at any busy airport represents months of research, development, testing and decision-making by some of the world’s most renowned marketers.
Edmond has had the pleasure of bringing several airline and travel brands to life. Photo: Transfer Media
Meeting with Edmond Huot, creative director at Transfer media, to find out exactly what goes into creating a new airline image. As the creator of the brand identity and livery for start-up Northern Pacific Airways, Edmond offers a new and uplifting vision of the role of creative designer.
For most creative professionals, aviation is probably not their first choice of discipline to pursue. Both internally and externally, the development of an aircraft livery is hampered by strict regulations and technical challenges, leaving the designer’s hands somewhat tied. But for Huot, a lifelong avgeek at heart, those challenges were relished.
Growing up in rural Canada, Huot was drawn to aviation from an early age. He said,
“I was lost in thought, creating entire storylines and visual scenes with model airplanes I was building, playing with outside, and ultimately crashing into a snowdrift! I spent countless hours drawing planes on discarded paper bags and acting out scenes from Arthur Hailey’s airport in my bedroom.
Huot has been playing with planes since a young age. Photo: Transfer Media
Although Huot has worked on non-aeronautical projects throughout his professional career, when the opportunity to work on a branding and livery project for an airline arises, he doesn’t hesitate. Prior to working on the Northern Pacific project, Huot worked on a new livery design for a small Honolulu-based inter-island carrier – Island Air.
This project was a quick emotional experience, but taught Edmond and his team some valuable lessons. He noted,
“Airline marketing is really akin to tourism campaigns. Because airlines are often such an important point of contact for customers, tone and messaging often evoke a larger idea. We weren’t just designing a brand or a livery; we were designing an experience, an experience that had to speak authentically to locals, not tourists. »
The Island Air project taught Huot and his team a lot about working with airlines. Photo: Transfer Media
It was a key learning that he used in his work with Northern Pacific. While the track record for these two airlines couldn’t be more different, the dynamics were strikingly similar – remote, isolated and in need of a brand that would resonate with local audiences and tourists alike.
North Pacific livery design
As Huot explained, an airline livery project is very different from the general world of advertising and graphics. For starters, these projects are rare beasts and don’t show up all that often. Most notably, there’s a whole other level of risk involved when you’re talking about painting an aircraft worth tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars.
Nonetheless, when Forward Media had the opportunity to work with startup Northern Pacific on their brand identity, they were up for the challenge. The first part of the journey was to understand the client, as well as getting to know the communities they would serve. With future passengers located in various geographies – Asia, low 48 and Alaska – it was no easy task. Huot explained,
“Unlike large full-service multinational companies that have the ability to cover more ground in terms of research and analysis, our agency is a smaller, more boutique company. We had to act quickly, be resourceful and quickly prioritize the fundamental issues. I worked closely with the client to better understand the importance and hotspots of Asian culture. At the same time, I was also speaking with the local Anchorage team to highlight any concerns about the misrepresentation of their local Indigenous communities.
Huot had to weave together the messaging required for all of these different demographics, as well as regulatory and commercial audiences. This began to form a thematic story, which Huot titled “We Are All Navigators.” This premise carried over to much of the subsequent design, including colors, typography, and even the name of Anchorage’s future lounge – the Navigators Lounge.
The final result
The Northern Pacific branding and livery were revealed in all their glory at a glamorous event in California last month. The event, orchestrated by Edmond himself, was an experience in itself, with thoughtful brand elements at every stage of the journey and a wonderful vibe that combined class and celebration. Believe me, ambiance is not an easy thing to create in a vast WWII hangar!
A very involved creative director, Edmond personally orchestrated the glamorous reveal event. Photo: Transfer Media
The event brought together around 300 guests. Photo: Transfer Media
The design itself has been carefully crafted to represent the stark beauty of the Alaskan wilderness. The snowy white background is dramatically offset by the black hues of the design, and the soft gray tones are a nod to the mountainous terrain with its ice and snow.
Photo: Joanna Bailey | single flight
But it’s not all monochromatic, as on the wingtips and on the vertical stabilizer, pops of bright turquoise and green bring a taste of the Northern Lights to the design. In a fun twist, the cockpit has been given a painted ‘mask’ treatment, adding charm to the plane’s ‘face’ and eliciting puzzled looks from fans of the Airbus-branded ‘Zorro’ mask.
The finished item is simply stunning. Photo: North Pacific
For Huot, it was a dream project to work on, thanks to the openness and flexibility of the Northern Pacific team. He told us,
“The Northern Pacific Airways team, starting with its CEO, has given me the rare opportunity to do a good job. This level of autonomy, for me, is rather sacred, as it requires a greater level of trust and respect. In my experience, you can’t put a price tag on that.
Huot is already working on his next aircraft design project. Photo: Transfer Media
As for what’s next, well, Edmond is already working on a concept for a new startup airline. Going back to its Canadian roots, this one is a premium regional airline looking to connect communities across Canada. For this airline, its journey has only just begun. For Huot, the journey continues, with likely many more beautiful liveries to come.
Why Northern Pacific Airways chose the Boeing 757
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