United may be coming out ahead in the merger between two of the world’s largest airline companies, but Continental seems to have won when it comes to the new company’s airlines logo design. Although United is the official name of the new company, the image next to this name is undeniably that of its new partner in crime… er, air travel.
United has kept one aspect of its previous travel logo, namely the font. However, the rest of the logo design is undeniably Continental’s. The color scheme has a simple Continental royal blue rather than United’s more complex black writing with blue and red image. The image is Continental’s latitude and longitude crossed globe instead of United’s ‘tulip’ of stacked U’s. Even the livery of the actual airplanes seems to be maintaining Continental’s look more than United’s. It seems hard to declare United a winner in this merger, even if most industry experts seem to agree that they indeed are.
Did Continental have a nicer look than United? More important, did they have a more winning brand? The companies’ pasts seem to indicate just the opposite. In fact, there are good reasons that the merged brand will use United’s name alone, the foremost being that it has a better image among customers. United certainly won the name game, and they also will be keeping their headquarters while the Continental name and buildings are being permanently closed. However, the logo design seems to deny this. It may prove difficult for these customers to see Continental and say United, but this is exactly what the new identity asks them to do just as the new logo for the new Airbus.
There is also the issue of longevity. The United Airlines logo has been in continuous use in one form or another for decades, while the Continental logo is the result of a rebrand in the nineties. The United logo was designed by world renowned logo designer Saul Bass. Ironically, one of Continental’s logo designs was also designed by this icon, but it was abandoned long ago.
Airline logos are an interesting topic, one that we have written about before. They must convey a variety of things to customers, including safety, comfort, and reasonable cost. More upscale brands or ones offering alternative sites or amenities must incorporate these elements into their brands and visual identities as well. Every customer is looking for a slightly different package, and the airline brands must be flexible to the point of “one size fits most.”
Often, when two companies merge it is like an episode of Survivor. The elements that move on to the next round may not be the best; they are merely the ones that survived that particular challenge on that particular day. This logo design and the merger that it represents is not unlike this at all. Every day brings new announcements and a new balance between the two companies as they are crammed together in a single corporate box. We will wait to see if this is the final United-Continental logo or if another permutation of the two iconic designs is released.