Shake Your Tailfeather: The Paint Behind the New American Logo


This is a guest post by Mandy Miller.

Ah, new logos. You don’t have to have 10 or 20 years of business experience under your belt to know logo development is no walk through the park. Scale that to the magnitude of a brand like American Airlines. Unchanged since 1967, American made quite the stir as they unveiled their new logo in January. Now, while branding experts and business analysts may look at this as “a changed customer experience” (I can’t say a logo has that effect on me, but this is why I’m not a branding expert) and talk about how this marks a milestone for the company and its future, I’m more interested in the paint behind the logo, quite literally.

American got creative with this one. They named the new logo “Flight Symbol” (how original!) and it “contains the eagle, the star, the ‘A,’ and refreshed shades of red, white and blue. Together, they represent a clean and modern update to the core icons of our company.” Colors to match the American name. Refreshed. Modern. Icon. Cool. Focus in on that last part, specifically the “clean” part. I have a different interpretation of that, so keep reading.

Tune out all of the background noise of a new logo, improved services and shift your attention to the news of American’s new poster child, a beast of a machine called a B787-9 Dreamliner. American is adding 42 of them to their fleet. As many airlines strive to become greener, the overall eco footprint/efficiency of an airline is a hot area of discussion in the airline industry. At its core, this new addition is an efficient aircraft and does fit the mold for the company’s vision to be cleaner (if we’re talking efficiency). When active, this new fleet will take on the logo/new paint scheme for American (see photo-please note that the aircraft pictured is NOT the Dreamliner).

Now, look at the rest of American’s fleet – it sports the old logo and paint job. I’ll admit it. It’s iconic. American was known for the simplicity of their logo/design. Nostalgia aside, a brand has to be consistent, right?  While a massive painting overhaul won’t be completed overnight, the entire fleet has to match that new paint scheme of the Dreamliner eventually. That means each plane has to be stripped of its current look, which involves LESS paint, and be plastered with the new design which involves MORE paint.

It may not seem like a big deal, but that paint is weight and weight is waste. Think about lugging around five cans of paint – that weight you carry is transferred to the object you paint, planes included. For the talented Captain and First Officer flying that aircraft, weight is everything and they watch their weight like a bride a week before her wedding. Careful calculations go into every flight – my plane weighs this much and has to go this far and at this speed – how much fuel do I need? The heavier the plane is, the more fuel inefficient it is.

Rewind – remember that part about the change being a “clean update.” If you connect the dots, it appears the company has recently announced the addition of its flagship efficient aircraft and switched its logo/paint scheme, only to make the rest of its fleet more inefficient. Wasted fuel means more emissions. Higher fuel costs mean higher ticket prices. Blah. Blah. Blah. Bummer.

This is merely an observation, but as I pieced together everything, it was quite the funky path to follow. Further, Boeing’s Dreamliner family has experienced some electrical troubles in recent weeks and it’s possible it could be grounded until the problems are targeted and fixed – quite the messy situation.

A logo is more than a fun and cute design. It can communicate a lot about a company and is an important part about how a brand is positioned in the market. A fancy exterior can catch your attention, but remember that even the best gifts and surprises don’t always have fancy wrapping.

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