Some of you may have spotted London Luton’s rebrand announced last month. London’s second smallest commercial airport is famous for it’s low cost network and leisure routes served by charter airlines. Situated outside of London its often had to deal with a negative mindset of its travellers. Its personally our least favourite airport of all 5 London airports, due to its difficult access, and myriad of dark and uninspiring gates, as well as predictably ridiculously early morning departures.
The new brand image, designed by Ico Design and new typeface from Atipo would on the surface inject colour and inspiration into the environment, offering a family friendly environment, which would suit the demographic that frequents the airport. However, it’s not as clear cut as it seems in our opinion.
Whilst the visuals show beautiful light corridors, with large typography and bright bold coloured signs aiming to help guide passengers around the airport. However, this less conventional approach seems to have its drawbacks, and seems a little unconsidered. This new look is going to be increasingly diluted. Why so? Well, as far as we can remember, we’ve never received any airport stationery when travelling through, never seen an airport business card, or letterhead, and infact, very rarely seen an airport logo apart from on an airport website.
Frankly, when was the last time you looked at an airport website? Most travellers now book direct with an airline, the only real interaction with the airport, is the traveller journey, which comprises check in, (notoriously features the airline colours or logos), and then a bland security channel, followed by a myriad of shops, each with their own brand, and then an airport gate, where we sit and relax.
Here’s another problem with Luton, or LLA’s new brand. These beautiful images of large gate signs, would work perfectly in a standardised airport environment, but if you have a look at Luton from above, you’ll notice, it’s a mismatched jigsaw of buildings, all with different height ceilings, corridors, dark corners and confusing gates, where seating is very much limited due to the boarding process of most airlines that use it. Whilst most gates could support this new graphical treatment, what about the low cost gates, that are just long lines in a waiting area usually crammed to the gills with low cost passengers vying to get on the plane first to lay claim to their personal space (see below).
As such, these large wall graphics will be either obstructed by passengers, or confusing due to their placements. Infact, the only real branding will be seen as these gate signs, as most will see nothing else apart from a few images of destinations and coloured walls.
Don’t get us wrong, we love the fact the branding agency has added colour to the space, and really tried to bring some life to this jigsaw of an airport, but this branding, whilst looking great on paper, needs to work very hard to translate to an enjoyable passenger experience.
As proof in point, this icon set, which looks great when all sat together makes visual sense, however, we ask you to look at an individual icon, maybe one of the more obscure ones, and ask, what does the sign actually mean. The point of iconography, especially in an environment that has moving, stressed and international viewers, is to create and easy to identify message in all languages, and as such, as an exercise, ask you to recite what each of these icons below means within 5-10 seconds.
There is scope for this new brand, however, it needs to go beyond a pop up stand, some branded stationery and a few coloured walls. It needs to address the problems of the airport experience, which is unique to each airport, based upon the demographic of the passengers it attracts.