American Airlines (1967)
Original logo design by Massimo Vignelli
Massimo Vignelli (born January 1931 in Milan, Italy) is one of the 20th century’s legendary design greats. He has helped shape the world we know today through his work. He has said, “If you can design one thing, you can design everything,” and this is reflected in his broad range of work.
From 1957 to 1960, Vignelli visited America on a fellowship, and returned to New York in 1966 to start the New York branch of a new company, Unimark International, which quickly became one of the largest design firms in the world. The firm went on to design many of the world’s most recognizable corporate identities, including American Airlines (which forced him to incorporate the eagle, which Massimo is always quick to point out). Vignelli is also responsible for designing the iconic signage for the New York City Subway system.
The American Airlines logo was proudly carried for over 45 years and became one of the most iconic logos of the 20th century. The original rebrand was initiated by Henry Dreyfuss, the legendary designer who was a consultant to American Airlines. The half red, half blue logo in plain type underscores the professional, no-gimmicks attitude of the company in the colors of its home nation. This was one of the few worldwide logos that needed no change.
Vignelli used Helvetica, a brand new font at the time. He wanted to make one word of American Airlines, half red and half blue. What could be more American than that? No other logos at the time were two colors for the same word. Vignelli designed with logic, not emotion, sidestepping trends and fashions.
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