Say It Isn’t So!

Last year United and Continental Airlines (the third- and fourth-largest U.S. carriers respectively) announced they would be merging, creating the largest airline in the world. While the media focused on numbers of flights, ramifications for shareholders and what will happen to customers’ frequent flyer miles, I couldn’t help but wonder; what’s going to happen to the identity?

As I see it, United has always had the cooler, hipper personality with its Saul Bass-designed tulip icon and Pentagram-crafted wordmark (and livery) as well as its lovely mid-00s TV advertising campaign by Fallon. Continental, on the other hand (and despite its original globe logo having a Saul Bass origin) is, well, bland in comparison. Competent, but boring. Last updated by Lippincott in the early 1990s, making the globe more refined and the typography more formal. So how will these two identities come together? Well, rather painfully.

The abolishment of the United tulip icon is downright criminal. I mean, I still haven’t recovered from the rape and pillage of the UPS identity when they did away with the classic Paul Rand mark and replaced it with some remnants from the dot-com era hot-glued together in a shield (and don’t even get me started on “What has Brown done for you lately!”) These classic icons, created by the godfather of graphic design deserve some protection, and for that matter some respect! A friend of mine described it like “stepping on Superman’s cape.”

Well, the public outcry is now in full swing. There is even a Facebook page dedicated to the plea to bring back the tulip. And in a truly classy response, Pentagram (United’s brand and design partner for over 15 years) has dedicated a page on their website to their history with the airline. That is, until they apparently took it all in-house and up in flames.

Posted by: TAWD on April 4, 2011

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