May 1, 2007

delta dumbs down; good goes away

Delta Airlines emerged from bankruptcy yesterday. Delta has always been one of my favorite airlines, and I was glad to see the news, especially after recent hostile takeover attempts by other airlines. As part of their solvency news, they also announced a re-branding of the airline. The new Delta brand will make it hard for me to view them as my favorite airline any longer.

Delta has now joined the likes of UPS, AT&T, and Chevron by taking beautiful classic clean logos and dumbing them down by making them look 3D and adding unnecessary dimension and gradation to them, simply because they can. In addition to making the Delta triangle "widget" 3D, they have made it all red. On their plane livery, the red widget is turned on its side and placed in a blue field. All I see when I see the plane is the Citgo logo. The new Delta typography is nice, but looks strangely like a second-rate clone of United's typography. While their upper and lower case serifed "Delta" may not have been as strong, it did stand apart from the typical all-caps sans-serif airline type that most airlines use and helped to project Delta's "friendly" image. I admit that much of my disappointment in their new "brand" is how unnecessary it was, and that it replaces a beautifully executed existing brand, especially regarding their plane livery. Several years ago, Delta adopted a visual identity whose hallmark was flowing fabric in red, white, and blue. They beautifully applied this to their planes to create one of my favorite tailfins anywhere. Any company that can clearly brand itself without having to even use their logo has made a bold statement. Delta's current look achieved that on everything from its planes to signage to its website. Delta has decided to walk away from that confidence in favor of a more flashy alternative. The company's fact sheet is clearly defensive about dropping the existing identity. Two thirds of the facts defend the new look as requiring fewer paint colors, less time to paint a plane, and even requiring 171 pounds less paint - equivalent to one passenger, they say. I suppose they figure favorable figures for beancounters are a reasonable justification for bad design.

I'm glad that Delta's business has allowed them to return to the black and stay in existence longer, but I'm sad that the beautiful airline is gone, and were left with a bunch of Citgo planes.

  • Delta logo history (not including the new logo)
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