There are three aspects of the thinking behind the new British Airways identity that make it more interesting than most, despite the contradictory information its spokesfolk have been peddling.
First, it is part of a genuine vision for the future by an airline that takes a positive view of change and is bold enough to harness it to take its business forward in a highly competitive sector. BA has already shown itself to be one of the few UK companies to put its faith in design to deliver the promise to customers and beat the competition. Take its award-winning First seat created with Design Acumen which seeks to make the first-class customer more comfortable as well as to boost the bottom line.
Second, the new identity is one of the most enlightened pieces of patronage so far in the Nineties. The artworks are one thing – and their cultural significance makes up my third point. But the bringing together of so many creative agencies, with Newell and Sorrell as lead identity consultancy, is impressive and could be on a par with Orange’s seminal identity programme for its comprehensive approach. With so many design groups on its books, BA will have to do a lot of briefing if it is to take them all with it as the identity rolls out. On the face of it, it has been very mindful of that need.
Finally, there’s that artwork – and photography – collection. Other identities have drawn on the art of Henri Matisse rather too blatantly; this one shouldn’t date as quickly, if only because of the variety of work involved.
We can’t assess the result until the design has settled in and BA proves its commitment to the promises it’s making. New identities often draw flack simply because they’re new, only to become classics later on. But it would have been good to see BA push its vision to the limit, especially with its logo. With such a radical shift in its thinking, why settle for evolution and the gimmicky “speedmarque”? Wouldn’t a simple and more elegant typeface have done the job, letting the artworks tell the real story?