As Air Canada’s revealed its new livery reveal, we raise the question, has the continuing trend of ‘Eurowhite’ liveries started to draw to a close? It was actually back in 1965 that Braniff International launched their ‘End of the plain plane’ advertising campaign – pointing out that their brightly coloured aircraft and Pucci uniforms were a unique selling point in the market.
While the past few years has seen a wave of simplified liveries join the skies, many have attributed the paired back designs as a result of cost cutting. It’s not that different paints cost dramatically different dependant on the colour, but it is the complexity of the designs that adds extra time to the painting process, meaning aircraft are on the ground for longer, not generating revenue for the airline.
Other factors come in to play as well. Light colours reflect heat, while darker colours absorb, so APUs have to work harder on the ground to cool aircraft in hotter climates. Lighter colours show dirt more, and need more regular attention to keep them looking clean.
There has also been a recent consumer trend across all industries to simplify the visual language. Some of this can be attributed to the clean utilitarian UX and visual language of leading brands such as Apple. Anyone who remembers the apps from a few years ago, will remember their reflective, almost 3D icon designs. All brands are quickly adapting to Apple’s new, flat, simplistic design language. There is no doubt that consumer trends are reflected in the graphic design – and therefore – liveries of late.
But as Braniff tried to buck the trend back in 1965, could it be that we are about to see a new wave of more colourful, playful, regionally inspired liveries fly the skies once again? Design led airlines like Virgin continue to boldly fly metallic colours, large billboard type and this bold brand identity is reflected in their onboard product and ground product too.
But perhaps the most exciting region to look at is the Pacific rim for bold identities, where small ’boutique’ carriers are vying for the attention of potential consumers. Fiji Airways, Air Calin, Air Tahiti Nui, Air Calédonie, PNG, and even Alaska Airlines, are all embracing local design inspiration, and using their aircraft like Birds of Paradise to work hard for their marketing efforts – especially when their budgets are much smaller than the legacy carriers that fly straight across the Pacific.
There is some excitement that Hawaiian Airlines have announced they are soon to reveal a new livery, and we hope that the airline continues to honour their local routes, bright, pacific heritage and reveal a stronger, equally colourful design that doesn’t continue this rising trends of ‘Eurowhite’ liveries around the globe. After all, if it isn’t broken, why fix it?
With a sea of similar looking liveries, similar ground and onboard products and safe, smart uniforms, brands are becoming diluted, and it’s becoming harder to distinguish brands and what they stand for. It is now, more than ever, that airlines need to embrace their differences, celebrate what makes them unique and broadcast that to the world with exciting, colourful designs that reflect how exciting the industry truly is.
The employment and trust of a design director is one way that airlines can truly adopt a design language that differentiates and resonates without being diluted by board approval. A singular strong voice and brand image that speaks up in a highly competitive landscape is the key to bringing the end to the ‘Plain Plane.’