We recently showcased Gulf Air’s striking new brand image. Brought to life by design studio Tangerine and brand consultants Saffron, the new image for the carrier is certainly contemporary, encapsulating the very best of aviation design trends. Mixing heritage, sense of locale, modernity and simplicity are a sure fire recipe for a long-life brand that can impart a human component to ensure brand loyalty.
The bigger challenge for the airline, which goes beyond the brand positioning, is the delivery of what this image represents, a modern and progressive Bahrain. Even though we’ve travelled on Gulf Air not that long ago, we hope that the brand isn’t just skin deep and represents a deep-rooted desire to change the culture within the airline too.
When the airline was created in the early 1950s as one of the first commercial airlines in the Middle East it was seen an innovative trendsetter. The airline “spearheaded the Kingdom of Bahrain’s transformation into a top travel hub and set a high bar for luxury and glamour in the skies.”
In this recent rebrand, the roll of the airline’s new livery and brand identity fell to Saffron, while tangerine brought the cabin interiors to life.
Commissioned by experienced illustrator Martijn Rijven, whose considered craft and understanding of natural form helped bring the most iconic part of the brand – the falcon logo – to life. The logo features throughout the entire identity and holds the brand image together across the multitude of touch points.
The falcon was created to make a “timeless” design, that on closer inspection, reveals intricate feather details, creating shading and nuance. “The new livery also provides a more cost-effective solution for maintenance and upkeep, all while keeping the high impact of its predecessor. The small touches of gold have helped reclaim the colour’s rare and precious quality,” states Saffron. Metallic finishes always add drama on an apron, and the engines will shine in the sunlight.
At the heart of the new visual language is a brand new Gulf Air Sans, a distinct and ownable typeface which echoes the shape of the falcons claws, beak and wings. To add depth and texture, Saffron also incorporated shading which evokes finer details of the feather. The typeface is designed for Arabic and latin scripts and comes in three different weights, which was achieved using the experience of type foundry Letterjuice.
When it came to the aircraft’s interior, Saffron worked in partnership with international design consultancy tangerine to radically transform the customer experience inside Gulf Air’s aircraft, across the business and economy class cabins.
“We wanted to express opulence and sophistication, which for us, was all about detail,” says tangerine Creative Lead Daniel Flashman. “Every touch point visible to the passenger has been carefully considered, almost to the point of obsession so that the overall effect transforms the platform seat into a luxurious flying experience.”
Tangerine added raised privacy panels to the suites to divide the business class cabin on the B787, creating more private, intimate zones. The design studio worked closely with Boeing to ensure these were as high as possible whilst meeting tight line of sight visibility regulations for the crew.
The panels feature a 3D sculpted surface, inspired by the iterative geometric forms found in Bahraini architecture. When the cabin lighting strikes the surface, it casts shadows onto the textured surface, dappling the light to create an intimate and relaxing suite.
“The suites themselves,” Flashman continues, “are defined by a sweeping almond gold trim, that draws the eye, and subtly echoes the falcon wing tip developed by Saffron for the branding. As you get closer, finer details catch your attention, repeating visual elements, so that everything is tied together.”
Small strategic modifications allowed the tangerine team to make large improvements to the business class seat, without compromising the delivery schedule. The entrance way to the window seat is dramatically improved by incorporating a flip-down foot rest, which utilises a specially-sourced magnetic latch. This also significantly improves the bed space for the window side passenger.
The economy class cabin still features the same colour palette, reflecting “Bahrain’s artisans and the traditional sport of falconry,” says tangerine Head of Colour, Material and Finish, Emma Partridge. “We’ve given these influences a modern twist to reflect the contemporary Bahrain; its culture and the sights of the country.”
While the blueprint for a successful, dynamic and attractive airline has been clearly laid out by these two design agencies. Only time, and experience will tell if the airline can match the service and soft product to match the grand ambitions of the hard product and new brand image found on the 787. With stiff competition across their route network by the nearby ME3, it will be key to see how the airline can bring the important human touch to these striking interiors and fresh new brand image.