“I will not be here to make a bet, but this [new logo] won’t last another 25 years.” —Massimo Vignelli
What do you think of the redesign?
It has no sense of permanence. The American flag is great. I’m designing a logo now for a German company, and I’m using black, red, gold, and yellow. Why? Because national colors have a tremendous equity. They’re much more memorable. It rings the bell of identification. But the American flag has 13 stripes, right? Not 11. Did American add only 11 stripes [to the flag on the tail] because they are in Chapter 11? I don’t think two more stripes would have been a disaster. And there are only two colors shown instead of all three. So is it a different flag?
What about the new logo?
Now they have something other than Helvetica that’s not as good or as powerful. Then they did a funny thing: Some may see an eagle [next to it], some may see something else. And they don’t even say it’s the eagle—they say it could be the eagle.
When we originally designed the logo, I designed without the eagle. They wanted an eagle. I said, “If you want an eagle, it has to have every feather.” You don’t stylize and make a cartoon out of an eagle. Somebody else did the eagle, by the way.
You didn’t design American’s original eagle between the “AA”
I refused to do it. We started without it, and the pilots threatened to go on strike because they wanted the eagle on American Airlines. There’s always been the eagle. But I wanted the eagle to be real. As a matter of fact, the post office eagle, I think, is terrific. If you do an eagle, do an eagle with the dignity of an eagle. Don’t make Mickey Mouse out of an eagle. That was my theory at the time. The office of Henry Dreyfuss did the eagle. They were hired to do the interior of the planes. They were the office that originally gave us the assignment of the corporate identity. Dreyfuss was the consultant to American Airlines. The eagle was OK. It wasn’t great. I’m not sorry to see the eagle go.
What were you trying to achieve with the original design?
Legibility, which is a very important element of an airplane. So we used Helvetica, which was brand new at the time. And we wanted to make one word of American Airlines, half red and half blue. What could be more American than that? And there were no other logos then that were two colors of the same word. We took the space away, made one word, and split it again by color. It looked great. The typeface was great. We proceeded by logic, not emotion. Not trends and fashions.
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