Meet Air Pacific. For 60 some years it has been the national airline of the tiny island country of Fiji. Of course, you wouldn’t know exactly where it flew by its name. That’s why its planes had to feature the country’s name painted at random around the body.
Yes, that is an island painted on the side of their plane like a bad watercolor.
And its logo took on a motley cut and paste look of design by committee.
I’m not sure what an island in the sky is. But whatever it is, I don’t think I want my plane flying into it.
Confusing branding and copy was the rule throughout. Here are the names of the two main classes on their planes. Pacific Voyager Class & Tabua Class. Which is the better one? Wikipedia says Tabua is the polished tooth of a sperm whale. So, there’s that.
Behind the scenes, things were just as bad. The airline featured an array of aging aircraft that was frequently broken and delayed. It steadily reduced its list of destinations and fell prey to low-cost competitors. Between fuel costs, a downturn in global tourism during the recession, ordered aircraft from Boeing that never came and more—the airline lost close to $3 billion USD in 2009.
In 2010, they started their turn-around. A new CEO was hired. Old orders were cancelled and new planes were bought and actually delivered. And profits returned. But the biggest change was a rebranding only just finished this year.
The Air Pacific name is gone. The generic font is gone. The rainbow is gone. The watercolor island is gone. The random printing of the country name in strange places is gone.
What has replaced it is a cohesive work of beauty.
Meet Fiji Airways, proud owner of one of the coolest fonts anywhere.
Actually, they have a couple of cool fonts. That one there is just for the logo. Nothing else is written that way. For headlines, they made something better.
Look closely. The lines on the B and the U and everywhere, really, are not quite straight. They appear hand-carved. Wooden. Authentically Polynesian.
Which is right on theme. Look back at the logo. On the left is their new symbol. It’s not a rainbow made in PowerPoint. It’s a local design made by an actual Fijian artist. This woman, to be specific.
And the design is one of a handful they’ve chosen to feature throughout their brand. Here are the rest.
Why have so many? Because when you put them together, it makes their new uniforms look terrific.
Of course, they used a local designer for these too.
You could call it a theme. Their brand finally has a theme, a voice, a point of origin. “Air Pacific” was notable for what it didn’t mention. In light of the new design, the old brand seems foreign and aloof. Why was it ashamed of its roots? Why was it about what the planes flew over and not where they landed?
Yahoo! has made a lot of noise of late with their new logo.
They spent a month explaining how they decided to drop a serif. They released 29 alternates that mostly seemed like slow scrolls down the Microsoft Word font menu. This, we are told, is what modern branding looks like. So long as a social media campaign creates buzz, it doesn’t matter what the new look is. Maybe they’ll change it next year by a Facebook poll.
By contrast, this is what the new Fiji Airways planes look like.
Every aspect of their brand is different now. And for a reason. The new brand has a purpose, a story, a reason for existing. It might not get much acclaim, but this is what thoughtful rebranding looks like.