running words around
design education and visual communication
authored by chris m hughes

A Virgin Makeover

Saturday, 31 July 2010

Amongst some of the more recent high-profile brand makeovers, the jury is still out on Audi's corporate identity changes in 2009.

But earlier this month, London-based Design agency Johnson Banks, in collaboration with the Virgin Atlantic in-house brand design team, announced an updated livery for the Virgin Atlantic Fleet, and the results are terrific.

Virgin Atlantic 747

This sort of corporate identity job is a dream project for any design team, working with a huge brand, a decent budget, and producing (literally) huge results.

Clearly the remit has been to retain the essential visual elements of the original branding, but to tweak everything so that the airplanes look sleeker and more exotic than their rivals. This has been achieved by simplifying each element of the design.

The Virgin Atlantic name, which was previously on the front end of the fuselage (above the passenger windows) in a lowercase italic sans serif font, is now emblazoned large across the whole front side the aircraft in a cleaner roman version, in dark purple.

The undercarriage now features the Virgin Atlantic logo in the same dark purple, making the aircraft more easily identifiable when taking off and landing, and the winglets are now red with the Virgin script on the inner side, visible to passengers on board the plane.

And the tail now features a lighter-weight Virgin logo, and the blue edging on the fin has been removed to give a dramatically more steamlined feel:

The new livery also uses an entirely new paint system which is unique to Virgin Atlantic and has been specially developed to achieve a gunmetal metallic colour that renders 'airplane white' instantly obsolete.

The overall effect is one of sleek minimalism, a world away from the busy muddled feel the fleet definitely had before.

As part of their launch campaign, Virgin has also released a really cool time lapse video showing a Boeing 747 getting those aforementioned changes - requiring 450 litres of paint and 3000 man hours' worth of work:

Virgin Atlantic
Airline Liveries @ wiki

Flipboard for iPad

Tuesday, 27 July 2010


It hasn't taken long for the first really interesting buzzword to emerge from the world of iPad.

I've just been checking out an iPad app called 'Flipboard', which allows you to compile your own customised magazine by grabbing content from social networks and selected newsfeeds.

The brainchild of former Apple iPhone engineer Evan Doll and entrepreneur Mike McCue, Flipboard takes normal RSS feeds and configures them as a newspaper layout, showing headlines, runners and ultimately the full story. Additionally, Flipboard displays Tweets about each article and allows you to add your own comment.

As the term infers, navigation between sections of content is done by 'flipping', just like browsing through a magazine.

Flipboard has a set of nine pre-built curated “boards” which serve as your magazine sections. These can be customised. You can, for example, import Twitter lists.

By all accounts it's addictive and makes brilliant use of both Twitter and Facebook - a surefire way to ensure its popular takeup. Flipboard is free to download on the Flipboard website.

Check out Flipboard in action:

Here Comes Aktiv Grotesk

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

International Font Studio Dalton Maag have just released a new typeface called Aktiv Grotesk, designed to replace what their Managing Director and Type Designer Bruno Maag considers to be a 'poorly crafted and overused' design atrocity, namely Helvetica - the world's most popular typeface.

In support of the new typeface, the Dalton Maag website features a nice type tool, where you can write a few words and select the variants of Aktiv Grotesk to see how it looks. Here's Aktiv Grotesk Bold:

Aktiv Grotesk Tool

And in 'Helvetica Killer', an interview with Creative Review's editor Patrick Burgoyne, an infuriated Maag discusses Helvetica's faults, its mis-usage and its mis-quoted heritage. The interview also appears in Naturalis x 7, the latest of GF Smith's promotional booklets for its Naturalis paper range, typeset in Aktiv Grotesk:

Aktiv Grotesk

The new typeface borrows from Helvetica and also from its more erudite cousin, Univers, (itself a re-imagining of Akzidenz Grotesk, created back in the late 1890's).

Maag sees the rise of Helvetica as 'accidental', and cites the big budget backing of Helvetica's Foundry, Linotype, and its overuse during the American advertising scene of the 1960's as the key perpetrators.

Aktiv Grotesk

He also compares Helvetica to Julia Roberts and Vanilla Ice Cream, and has time to criticise Gary Hustwit's film 'Helvetica', in which he is 'galled' to hear none other than Massimo Vignelli describe Helvetica as a 'Modernist Typeface'.

Maag is clearly a purist, and he knows his stuff, but it's all in the name of commerce, and one hopes it's mostly ironic.

Everything that makes its way into the mainstream is always a diluted form of some superior original. Maag admits this but insists that it shouldn't have happened to Typography.

But designers are still in love with Helvetica because it works so well. The shapes, lines and proportions come without the shackles of an inflection or a style.

Helvetica is ubiquitous and commercial, and that's why it's as happy in a car saleroom or on a pizza box as it is on the front cover of Vogue or in an experimental double-page spread about some exhibition at Tate Modern.

In fact, to continue with Maag's analogies, if Helvetica was an actor, it would use the Method - formally trained, hugely versatile, sometimes phoning it in, occasionally sensational, and always imbued with a reliable quality that does what you ask it to do.

So now we know. Helvetica is actually Johnny Depp. Or Vodka.