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NORTHWEST AIRLINES: A weaker logo for a stronger brand?

New: Northwest's NWA mark and livery

Launched: April 3, 2003

Story in brief:
Which is the world's fourth largest airline? The new NWA identity was positioned as primarily a cost reduction exercise (that's a first!)... intended to lower future repainting costs by 20% or so (simpler design thus less masking, fewer colors, greater durability). More importantly, it's also an assertion: "We're global, not regional; what's more we're very cool, like our best customers... smart, sophisticated, technically advanced and elegant." Livery design was inspired both by the Audi TT, and by Northwest's clean, functional new Detroit home terminal.

Credits:
CEO - Richard Anderson
Identity counsel & design - TrueBrand (John Dieffenbach and Vince Carra)

First Impressions:
This one's grown on me. At first I resented loss of the ingenious symbol designed at Landor in 1988, and I thought the shift to initials was weakening. I sympathized with pilot Patrick Smith's critique, published in his "Ask the Pilot" column at salon.com: "Tragic, ruinous, dismally austere. The previous version, with its thickly layered red and gray, was always a little too rich, but the airline's circular corporate logo was, quite simply, a work of genius. It was an N; it was a W; it was a compass pointing toward the northwest. It was all of those, actually, and a smart and timeless design, perhaps the single best trademark ever created by our friends at Landor. Now it's in the waste can, bastardized into a meaningless abstraction: a lazy circle and a small triangular arrow. And it's not just Northwest Airlines anymore, it's "nwa," in coyly affected lowercase. Only the sleek brushed-silver body keeps it from winning an F."

The new planes, however, are simply beautiful. In a sense the livery itself has become the more important identity expression than the name and circle symbol which now more discretely mark it. Since one goal is to express its global stature, I accept that "NWA" is preferable to the regional (and inaccurate) "Northwest," and inherits some of the "TWA" equity. And the new logo better integrates name and symbol. Too bad it's cluttered with inclusion of "Northwest Airlines," a temporary (and I think unnecessary) crutch.

Overall, the new look better fits the image NWA seeks to support... like its best customers international, cool, savvy and sophisticated. Well done, Mr. Anderson.






















Curiously, the triangle now seems to point down. A correspondent, Monib, suggests this tweak (to restore NW directionality)
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