Soaring Symbols
Global Traveler|Class Act 2020
Whether landscapes or wildlife, airline liveries tell a story from nose to tail.
DEBRA BOKUR

Way back when, Leonardo da Vinci made a written, slightly dismissive notation that a poet would likely be overcome by sleep and hunger before being able to describe with “mere words” what a painter or artist could convey, in a single instant, through an image. Over the ensuing centuries, this sentiment has become a staple in the world of marketing — including the aviation industry, where meticulously designed liveries deliver a quick flash of branding-meets-possibility.

In 1911 newspaper editor Tess Flanders expanded upon Da Vinci’s rhetoric when she was quoted as saying, “Use a picture. It’s worth a thousand words.” A few years later, in 1927, Fred R. Barnard used the phrase in the advertising trade journal Printer’s Ink (later called Marketing/Communications), driving it firmly into the global psyche of branding.

The adoption of liveries was a natural progression not only in the evolution of brand awareness but also in the concept of using the body of a plane as a canvas. The French early embraced the painting of planes, introducing camouflage colors and patterns to confuse enemy pilots in World War 1. Later, custom nose art, often depicting voluptuous pin-up girls, appeared on wartime aircraft, serving the dual purpose of intimidating foes and boosting the morale of comrades in arms.

Today, any traveler gazing out the window of a plane at craft lined up at gates or queuing for runway time can see how this concept has taken hold in the aviation industry. Plane liveries have become a convenient way to provide not only brand recognition but also a quick visual link to a destination. Examples include TAP Air Portugal’s use of the country’s national colors — green and red — and Icelandair’s stunning visual recreation of Icelandic natural features including waterfalls, glaciers and the mystical northern lights. The eye-catching livery of Icelandair’s Hekla Aurora plane wreathes the body of this singular aircraft in a simulated northern lights experience, a move that provides a titillating hint of what’s waiting to be discovered there.

“We try to embody the spirit of Iceland from the moment you see our planes and step on board,” stressed Michael Raucheisen, communications manager–North America. “All of our planes are named after volcanoes, and there is a large selection of Icelandic treats and in-flight entertainment selections on board. It is a great way for Icelandair to share the spirit and beauty of Iceland with the world.”

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