An Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-800, newly painted in the airline’s 2016 refreshed brand, is ready to be revealed at the airline's maintenance hangar in SeaTac, Washington on January 25, 2016. This month, Alaska Airlines revealed the most substantial updates to its brand in a quarter century. Beginning Jan. 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 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.”
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…
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
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.
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.