Brand Refresh Unveiled for Alaska Airlines

ther than this minor update of its logo back in August of 2014, the new brand of Alaska Airlines is the first major change in 25 years; and the brand refresh unveiled earlier today to a crowd of approximately 1,800 employees shows a streamlining of the logo and the livery of its fleet of aircraft.

Here is a video with an explanation of the new brand for Alaska Airlines by Sangita Woerner, who is the vice president of marketing for the airline:

The Eskimo Lives On — But Who Is It?!?

The Eskimo face on the tails of the fleet of the aircraft — which first appeared in 1972 — will live on and not disappear. There was an apparent attempted to retire the Eskimo face back in 1988 in conjunction with a new logo for Alaska Airlines, according to this article in the Los Angeles Times — but it proved to be unpopular with many Alaskans.

“It may not be the best representation of an Eskimo, but it’s our Eskimo,” said Tim Kelly, the late state senator for Anchorage. “(Alaskans) feel an affinity with the airline. Alaskans feel it’s their airline.”

Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-800 new livery 2016 eskimo

This is the Eskimo face on the tail of an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-800 aircraft — newly painted in the airline’s 2016 refreshed brand — which is ready to be revealed at the airline’s maintenance hangar in SeaTac, Washington on Monday, January 25, 2016. This month, Alaska Airlines revealed the most substantial updates to its brand in a quarter century. Beginning January 25, Alaska fliers will see the visual updates in new signage at the airport, an all-new airplane paint job, a refreshed website and mobile app, and more. Source: Alaska Airlines.

The same probably holds true today, as that Eskimo face has a rich history. It was thought to be the portrait of Chester Asakak Seveck — a reindeer herder and an Eskimo dancer who greeted deplaning tourists at Kotzebue for years as a tour guide for Wien Air Alaska, the first airline in Alaska and one of the first airlines in the United States — who died on Sunday, January 18, 1981 at the age of 91

…but according to the official Internet web site of Alaska Airlines, that face painted on the tails of the fleet of aircraft is also thought to be the portrait of Oliver Amouak, who was “an Inupiat Eskimo who was hired by Alaska in the late 1950s to perform in a traveling stage show called ‘It’s Alaska!’” and died in 1987.

We may never know the identity of the person on whom that Eskimo face is based — but we do know that he now has highlights of color around him in the new logo, as “his profile has been modernized and new vibrant colors added around his parka trim, which include Tropical Green and Breeze Blue, reminiscent of the tropical regions Alaska serves including Hawaii and Costa Rica.”

I can also see that the Eskimo face is overall more stylized and less realistic in the latest branding scheme. Some of the differences are seen in the hair and in the shadow over his mouth, as two examples. I personally prefer the former portrait over the current portrait.

The Logotype Changes — Again

Wordmarks and logotypes of Alaska Airlines.

Source: Alaska Airlines.

Smoothed in August of 2014 in a slight refresh from the logotype which gave that rustic impression of the Alaskan wilderness, the logotype underwent another transition with the brand refresh where it has all but lost its serifs, further streamlining its look.

As for the latest logotype, I do not necessarily dislike it. However, the intent was to give it a cleaner and more sleek appearance; and it succeeds in doing just that — but that success is actually a failure to me, as it is the most boring of the three logotypes, in my opinion. I still prefer the rustic look of the rugged logotype from before August of 2014. To me, that says Alaska better than any of the other logotypes displayed above…

…and what is with that clunky typeface known as Circular which spells Airlines underneath the newest logotype? Similar to the intermediate logo, the font size should be smaller; while the tracking of the letters should be increased.

What I personally would have done is kept the Alaska part of the logotype in a rugged form whose mere appearance immediately suggests Alaska, as if it were not for the retention of the Eskimo face, I would be convinced that the new branding of Alaska Airlines had lost its heritage; and I would have italicized the word Airlines in a less conspicuous yet more modern sans serif typeface with either a light, book or medium weight — perhaps Avenir or Futura as a couple of numerous examples which are superior choices to the current font.

Summary

Alaska Airlines has been growing beyond its largely regional presence for quite some time; so I can understand the need to refresh the brand to incorporate its growth and the increasing number of destinations it serves into its brand.

I have no argument against the addition of accent colors to the refreshed branding — in fact, I agree with it — but Tropical Green and Breeze Blue just do not work for me. It is like Hawaiian Airlines incorporating the colors of winter destinations into its branding. I would have instead used colors which emulate Alaska — or even the Arctic — such as a deep yet brilliant Iceberg Blue, for example.

It is not a terrible branding scheme — I thought that the latest iterations of the branding of US Airways was an abomination and amongst the worst in airline branding, quite frankly — but it could have been better, in my opinion. The branding is just too clean — and somewhat sterile — for an airline which is supposed to evoke Alaska.

Regardless, I wish Alaska Airlines plenty of success for its future.

Source: Alaska Airlines.

4 thoughts on “Brand Refresh Unveiled for Alaska Airlines”

  1. Ghostrider5408 says:

    Minor changes but like anything “it’s what’s under the hood” that counts and that’s where Alaska is having issues. Today’s Alaska is not what built it’s long line of loyal customers, I counting myself as one. I sincerely hope they get on it and soon, as there are many of us out there that are grumbling.

    On the flip side I have enjoyed immensely the past 15 years of AS travel, nearing a million miles.

  2. Joe Byrnes says:

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. The rustic tones of the original livery were perfect to cement brand identity. There’s nothing wrong with an update, but this was a poor choice, like some high school kid’s art project. It’s another casualty to the Eurowhite trend with the tail a busy knockoff of Hawaiian Airlines. Alaska Airlines had a great brand image, this is almost as sad as the loss of the United “tulip.”

  3. Justin Dillon says:

    “I still prefer the rustic look of the rugged logotype from before August of 2014. To me, that says Alaska better than any of the other logotypes displayed above…”

    I think your point is valid and I feel that your comment embodies WHY the airline wanted the refresh. While the state of Alaska holds the roots of the airline, they serve a growing international community and don’t want to be defined by their history. The cold, icicle font says “Alaska” (the state) and it seems that they want you to think of the airline and the spirit of the people that make it such a success.

  4. Captain Kirk says:

    I agree with your assessment. I don’t dislike it, but it could have been better. I think it is certainly better than the US Airways logo change in 1997 was horrible. USAir had a certain ease to saying it and while the shades of blue and red weren’t the greatest, it spoke to the idea of the United States and the colors that define the country. Going from USAir to US Airways was dumb. Making it longer to say, removing the red and blue in the logo, and using a cheesy attempt at a U.S. flag was lame. This Alaska refresh is no where near as bad as that. I think the colors could be a little better like you said, but it is certainly not offensive and is easy on the eyes.

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