An Outsider’s View of
Izabel F. Barros
J. Melanie Joh
Table of Contents
United Airlines and the Commercial Aviation Market 9
Design Policy Meanings and Implications 15
Looking for Corporate Identity - The Blue and Red Era 21
Looking for Brand Personality - The Blue and Gray Era 31
Looking for Image Consistency - A New Era? 41
Final Critique and Suggestions, An Outsider Point of View 51
Case studies and reports about design policy has been a task mostly focused on a
individual corporate identity program or on a product development philosophy. In rare Preface
cases, it is possible to find extra data about it’s extensions on the various business aspects
that are affected by a cohesive design policy or about its progress overtime.
Even in big corporation environments, where design is part of their culture, some questions
about the design process and peculiarities are left without answers in the end.
What motivates a company to establish a design policy?
What drive changes in an established policy? How does a concept change when it is
integrated into the company like the central nervous system is in a body?
How is it possible to be done while growth occurs?
Which are the relations between a corporate identity program and its products?
What other factors besides identity does a company have to signal changes?
Those questions amongst others, made us look at the actual market for a company in
which the investigation of their design policy through time could lead to answers. This
search lead us to one of the largest commercial airline in the world - United Airlines.
Most of the research was done through personal interviews and phone calls. Supportive
data was acquired through secondary research.
The primary goal of this case report is to contribute to design literature, by applying the
existing case study methods to understand the design philosophy of a commodity product
Secondarily, in understanding the evolutionary process of a corporate identity and its
perception, both by the internal and external publics, can contribute to the company’s
Since the aviation industry began as a mail delivery function in the early 1900's, United
Airlines has evolved through numerous phases of change in their policies related to
The first major change was Saul Bass' corporate identity program in 1974. It was very
successful in the way it unified United's image, especially in terms of logotype and the
look of the aircraft.
The second change came about in 1994 in an attempt to incorporate United’s identity
into different environmental settings. It introduced flexibility through the use of fundamental
design elements, including the logotype itself, to define the guidelines for an
environmental identity of United. Due to the lack of both internal commitment to the idea
and corporate endorsement, it failed to replace the first identity program completely.
Since United was bought out by its employees in 1994, it has been developing a new
image to represent the “new United”. By so doing, it is hoping to create a new
corporate identity to replace and update the old one. The old image reflects a big
sluggish company. That, despite its efforts in the past, is slow to update, reaching 1997
without a focus or an identity.
At the moment, the company is planning to bring in a new personality that would be used
to create a whole new image for United, hoping to replace and update the company’s
old image smoothly.
and the Commercial
Beginning of US Commercial Aviation Industry
On May 15, 1918, the US Government launched air mail delivery operations between
New York and Washington-DC using Army airplanes and pilots. Soon the task was given
to the Post Office Department and air mail service started between New York, Cleveland
and Chicago in 1919. One year later, the route was extended to Omaha, and from
there to San Francisco in September, 1920.
In February of 1925, the Congress decided that private enterprise should carry out the
responsibility of expanding air mail delivery and approved an air mail act authorizing the
Postmaster General to award contracts for air mail service. Three companies were
awarded contracts and quickly started regular flights covering the main routes in the US at
that time. Varney Air Lines, owned by World War I Army pilot Walter T. Varney, began
operations on April 6, 1926 between Elko, Nevada, and Pasco, Washington. Pacific William A. Patterson in 1926
Air Transport, organized by Vern Gorst, was also awarded the contract to carry air mail
from Los Angeles and Seattle in September 15, 1926. Gorst was short of capital in the
beginning and contacted Wells Fargo Bank in San Francisco. William A. “Pat” Patterson
answered Gorst’s request and authorized a $5,000 loan for Pacific Air Transport at the
same time, becoming the unofficial financial consultant of Pacific Air Transport. The third
company, and the largest, was Boeing Air Transport, which won the route between
Chicago and San Francisco. Boeing Airplane Company designed and built a new
plane, the 40A, to operate faster and more economically. With a cabin for two
passengers, Boeing Air Transport began operations in July of 1927.
Birth of United
It was in this environment of a fragmented mail services industry that, in 1928, Boeing Air
Transport acquired Pacific Air Transport and formed Boeing Airplane & Transport
Corporation. This new organization eventually would become United Aircraft & Transport
Corporation in 1929. In 1930, Varney Air Lines and National Air Transport, which
operated between Chicago and New York, were merged by United, turning the company
into the Nation’s first coast-to-coast delivery system under one ownership.
As a natural consequence of corporate consolidation, United Airlines was founded in
March, 1931 as a management company to unify operations of the four airlines - Boeing
Air Transport, Pacific Air Transport, Varney Airlines and National Air Transport.
In 1933, under the leadership of Pat Patterson as Vice President, United approved the
employment of world’s first female cabin attendants in flights between San Francisco and
Chicago, establishing United’s profile as a visionary company, capable of managing
change in uncharted waters.
In 1964 Boeing 727 made its
debut in airline service through
One year later, United turned into an operating company. Under the leadership of
Patterson, as its first president, United became the Nation’s most progressive carrier,
launching innovations like the first flight kitchen in 1936.
World War II arrived and United became the workhorse of military operations,
particularly in the Pacific arena, establishing a new challenge for the corporation - the
Pacific. It was the first to fly between the US Pacific coast and Hawaii. This experience
contributed to United acquiring the rights for the Hawaiian route in 1946.
In the late forties and early fifties, the US commercial aviation industry expanded on
technology developed for military planes in World War II. The DC-6 was the first military
plane adapted to commercial flights. Later, with DC-7 innovations United was the first to
fly nonstop, coast-to-coast, reaffirming its progressive philosophy and establishing for the
first time its growth through geographic coverage approach.
In 1930 United innovated with
The DC-8, the first civil jet-powered aircraft, was launched into service on September 18, the first team of ‘air-hostesses’ to
attend air-travelers needs.
1959, marking the initial move by commercial airliners toward jet operations.
In 1961, United merged with Capital Airlines, the nation’s sixth largest air carrier at the
time. This merger made United the world’s largest airline in terms of total passengers and
revenue miles flown annually.
In 1963, George Keck, who joined the company as an industrial engineer in 1946,
succeeded Pat Patterson as president. As a result of a corporate reorganization, UAL, Inc.
was born in 1969 with the objective of increasing earnings and profitability. The new
company’s strategy was to supplement its existing products with complementary services.
This expanded their philosophy of growth through geographic coverage to growth through
complementary services coverage as well. To achieve that, the Board of Directors
decided to consider hotels as a strategic addition to the company’s asset portfolio. In
August 1970, UAL, Inc. and Western International Hotels merged . Edward E. Carlson,
the Chairman of Western International Hotels, was named President of the Board of
Directors of UAL, Inc. and CEO of United Airlines. This reaffirmed United’s practice of
choosing strong personalities as stewards of its destiny.
During the first years of United as a corporation, the basic elements of graphic
identification were present through the works of Zay Smith and Raymond Loewy. In Zay
Smith’s work, the blue and red colors were presented in the shape of a heraldic shield as
a symbol with the name United in it in a typographic style of san-serif-italic typeface. As a
complementary work, Raymond Loewy updated Zay Smith’s work giving it a sense of
modernity. United attempted to have a cohesive image several times, but none of them
succeeded in reflecting the corporation’s integrity.
Above and counter-clockwise,
Raymond Loewy, the corporate
identity he created for United
and the first Boeing 727 painted
Above and right, Zay Smith logo
At this point it is important to clarify what we understand as a design policy for an airline,
its meanings and implications and what constitutes the components of an integral
corporate identity. Of equal importance is the issue of how design can be used as a
strategic tool inside the company. Analysis of diverse eras through a common framework,
creates opportunities for us to learn from the company’s experience and establish a solid
basis for critique and recommendations.
In a corporate environment design policy is used to give consistency throughout the
company’s structure. Whether the consistency be incorporated into four factors of
products , communications, environments, and behavior by Wally Olins, or into three
elements of image, identity and role by Walter Margulies, the ultimate goal for having a
design policy is to achieve the integrity of the company through uniform identity.
Depending on different industry and management styles, corporate design policy could be
divided into four categories: Centrist, Statist, Devolved, and Dirigiste. These categories When company’s perception,
are divided by the manner of control over design and products by the company, and the brand personality and image
consistency are independent from
effect on the company’s product or service in terms of brand image could be very diverse
corporate identity, there is no
in range. Corporate Design Integrity.
Having a design policy for a company may mean different things for different companies,
but the most important advantage of having one is creating the basis for projecting a
uniform image of the company in order to succeed in the market. Once the company
succeeds in creating a uniform image of itself, it can create a culture built around its
Image to improve and consolidate its position in the market.
For design within the company, corporate design policy provides a platform of
fundamental structure that allows design to create new products that create new market as
well as to add values to existing products and market under one uniform set of rules. In
the long run, the company’s philosophy is built around its design policy and embedded in
the products, thereby creating and selling the corporate culture and value instead of
For the design policy of a company to be successfully implemented, the components of
design policy need to be thoroughly defined. Due to the nature of design, not all
components will be tangible; in fact, the intangible elements derived from the tangibles
may be more important in different situations because intangibles are the message
conveyed to the end user or customers through the tangible elements.
To achieve Corporate Design
Integrity it is fundamental to
integrate company’s perception,
brand personality and image
consistency across all tangible
and intangible elements of
Ta n g i bl e s I n t a n g i bl e s
Company Name significance of the name itself customers perception and associations with the company’s name and
its partners such as other airlines, rental cars and hotels
Logo & Typograph y the company service mark the perception of the subtleties and meanings allied to the service
Color Choice the actual colors used in the corporate identity the perception of the actual colors used in the corporate identity
C o m p l e m e n t a ry logo ware, table ware, amenities, general comfort items
Packaging table amenities, foods & drinks
Communications and paper goods, publications, posters, annual reports, signage, website, image makers, message carriers, information on the website and other
Information applied graphics, screens, miscellaneous , advertising publications, privileges codes, toiletry brand choice, food & drink
Fashion Design uniforms dress codes
Environments permanent, temporary, headquarters, Red Carpet®, interior design in virtual environment on the world wide web (www)
Architecture terminals, hangers, offices comfort, style and context
Foods and Drinks menu selection presentation, color combination, brands choice
Entertainment movies, music, on-board programs, onboard programs and magazines choice
Branding Mileage Plus® - Premier® & Executive®, United Express®, Arrivals Owner by others - United Vacations®, Visa Credit Card, Travel agents
by United, Connoisseur Class®, Shuttle by United, Hemisphere™,
United Airlines Travel Card™, Red Carpet Club®
Partners service quality perception of the partners by United’s customers and home country
The Blue and Red Era
Carlson’s arrival at United coincided with one of the most significant crises of the aviation
industry. The market was unstable, with the entire transportation industry suffering the
counter-effects of the oil shock. Wall Street was reacting both to the constant rumors and
to what seemed to be a never ending rise in oil prices. As a result, the airline industry
was also in financial trouble and United’s had shown a record loss of $46,000,000 in
the year before.
In order to understand the company’s reality, Carlson traveled 186,000 miles in one year
talking to employees and inspecting United’s facilities. As a result of this effort he learned
that the corporate structure was considered bureaucratic and somehow seen as inefficient
Edward E. Carlson in 1975.
- which was not completely false. Moreover, the customers’ perception of UAL’s products
was vague and incoherent.
Due to the established cycle of rapid acquisitions and consolidation in the former air-
transport and mail service industry, the corporate image was a chaotic non-
complementary patchwork at all levels. Without any core story to steer UAL’s evolution
towards a first-class passenger airline, the several attempts to communicate its innovative
and progressive philosophy to customers did not succeed .
Based on what he saw and heard, Carlson initiated a corporate reorganization program
to revive the company. This program clearly reflected his understanding that strategy
should address both corporate weaknesses and strengths with change implemented from
top to bottom.
Two central ideas forged the main changes at United in the early 1970’s : internally, loss
control and externally, image coherency. To minimize loss he divided United into 1,700
cost centers throughout the country. In doing this he sought to develop responsibility for
profit and loss at each level. This policy change generated internal cost control efficiency
and allowed targeted and strategic revisions in corporate plans. However, in the area of
corporate image coherency and perception he was unable to solve the problem internally.
At that moment, the company did not dispose internally of professionals with the specific
expertise to develop a comprehensive and coherent design policy. Besides, he preferred
an outsider that would objectively “read” the company, understand its “personality” and
better “translate” it into a new Corporate Identity.
United’s growth model and it’s
influence in the formation of
As a result, Carlson commissioned the design firm of Saul Bass & Associates “to develop
an identity program that would organize a plan of communications to help people clearly
perceive United as it really is...”
The hidden goal of the program, though, was to attract the family vacation and pleasure
travel segments, helping to reverse the discouraging trends in the aviation market at that
time and hopefully eliminate United’s loss trends. Although it is not clear why this segment
was chosen, targeting the family vacation segment was perfectly coherent with the
partnership of the Western Hotels.
Since 1946 in the market, Saul Bass’ name was intrinsically linked to innovation for his
ability in developing works marked by his personality, especially in the movie industry.
"Symbolize and summarize" were the words Bass lived by, and his careful choice of single
images quickly set the tone for films and different designs he was involved with.
Bass was the author of storyboards like the shower scene in Psycho and of the title
design in West Side Story. Bass’ cinema golden era lasted well into the mid-sixties when
he turned to corporate design. With his firm, Saul Bass and Associates, he put his stamp
on the corporate world.
When Saul Bass & Associates arrived at United they found a completely non-structured
identity system spread throughout the company in all different media and at all levels. This
hodgepodge communicated an inappropriate and indefinite corporate character.
According to Carlson this was the natural outcome of the growth process that both the
company and the industry had experienced.
The result of Saul Bass’ consultancy was a new Corporate Identity Program based on a
Above, Saul Bass in 1968.
new service mark and identification system that transcended the boundaries of graphic
Below, the new Corporate
design. It dictated guidelines for marketing strategies and interior design. Identity to be implemented by
United in the early seventies.
Saul Bass’ take on United’s identity reflected his philosophy through a symbolic
representation of his own understanding of the company. His vision of design policy was
established by a rigid corporate identity manual.
The first United design policy was then launched in 1974 with a message
“The program has the potential of solving most of
from the CEO, Edward Carlson, expressing his commitment to the proposal
the Identity problems we have encountered as a and demanding that employees be partners in its success. Considering the
result of our growth.” high level of decision-making involved and the participatory process that
Edward E. Carlson brought about the proposal, the Corporate Identity Program was well
President received inside the company, with employees highly motivated for change.
The Corporate Identity Program consisted of a new service mark, an identification system,
a series of established parameters and recommendations of use and application. It also
established a network of specific responsibilities to be developed by area and the
expected roles of the different levels of management.
It is important to note that at that time design was perceived by the company as an image
driven tool to solve United’s lack of identity. Despite that, it established a sense of
cohesiveness in its whole and complete approach.
The new service mark in red and blue was composed of a symbol as “the visual focal
point of the service mark” and a logotype “which clearly identifies the company by
name” . As a means to identify the company with its target market, the colors were
chosen between the basic and warm United Red in equilibrium with the cold United Blue,
giving a sense of “fun” in harmony with the Black modified Handel Gothic typos without
serif that tend to be more informal yet professional looking.
The new service mark and its
application in stationary The program covered the application of the service mark on aircraft, miscellaneous interior
materials. materials and items, interior modular secondary signing standards, exterior identification
and signing standards, facilities and signage, ground equipment, stationery and forms,
advertising and promotion, and miscellaneous.
It took a year to implement the new identity in all components except aircraft, which had
a five to six year painting cycle.
Although this program was very detailed, it is curious it did not consider some of the
basics of corporate identity’s programs, such as uniforms. Specifically, it included the
application of the service mark in uniforms, but left fashion design considerations
completely open. Despite that, the innovative approach of imposing consistent design
criteria to advertising and promotion campaigns is remarkable. Normally the impositions
come from marketing to design and not the other way around. Once more, upper-
management‘s commitment to the program was decisive, allowing this reversing of
Fly the Friendly Skies
According to the responsibilities guidelines, there were two major decisive players in the
policy implementation and consolidation process: The Interior Design Review Committee
and The Identity Committee. The Interior Design Review Committee was in charge of the
establishment of a policy for corporate identity applications and was the final authority in
corrective action for major deviations. Proposals for changes and revisions, as well as
contacts with Saul Bass & Associates, were responsibilities of Chairman of the Identity
Committee, who was the Manager of Facilities Design.
The responsibilities division developed a curious company culture to look at their design
policy on two separate levels: Image and Identity. Image covered advertising, marketing,
perception, services and pricing, and Identity related to the service mark application in
facilities, aircraft, architecture, interiors and stationery materials.
By the end of 1985 United’s
aircraft were a cohesive example
Curious as it appears to an outsider, this division seems to have worked quite well while it of the applied Corporate Identity.
was based on personal relations, when John Ruhack was the head of advertising and
Don Duff was in charge of architecture facilities. Notwithstanding, when John Ruhack
left, the informal link was broken and the cohesiveness guaranteed by this relationship
was gone, imposing an unequal pattern in the decision making process. In the end, the
policy became a question of internal “policing.”
“Without upper management re-enforcing identity, The policy model imposed centralized design implementation and tightened
my job is difficult... Sometimes I feel that organizational control. The use of the service mark design standards as a
“bible”, putting aside several other important components such as aircraft
I became the “logo cop’ ...
interior, lounges and uniforms dictated a disruption in the internal and
That’s how people know me inside the company!” external corporate perception. The absence of guidelines for different
Don Duff components exposed serious shortcomings in what was hoped to be a
Corporate Architect and “logo cop” comprehensive and integrated design policy.
As part of Saul Bass’ Corporate
Identity Program, facilities and
signage parameters were
established in the Corporate
Centered mainly on image consistency, Saul Bass’ Corporate Identity Program set
standards for recognition and visual order but had no assessment or evaluation
mechanisms. Because of that, it failed to establish brand personality and mechanisms for
enhancing the company’s perception by its various publics.
The lack of evaluation of the Corporate Identity Program implementation process and its
effects in increasing competitiveness did not allow spontaneous corporate refinements in
the policy. This prevented the development of new possible strategic actions in different
areas of the company that could correct trajectory, aid growth in new markets, or
maintain existing market positions. On the other hand, it gave unexpected flexibility to
some areas that contributed negatively to the cohesiveness of the Corporate Identity.
Corp orate Id entity Program Goals
On the other hand, the US deregulation act of 1978 had a profound effect on the whole
airline industry. It caused a major shift in the way airlines communicated their image to 1. Project the image of United as a warm,
the public. Airlines were required to market themselves aggressively. However, the same contemporary, efficient and people-oriented airline.
was not true in Europe until the formation of the European Economic Union. This is
causing the liberalizing of airline regulation and landing regulations as well as influencing 2. Increase awareness of United as a leader and
airlines’ marketing and design strategies. innovator in the airline industry.
Airlines’ identity at airports had to become stronger. The interaction between airlines and
passengers in both visual and verbal communication had to become clearer. Each 3. Unite the airline under a single umbrella.
transportation product needed to be clearly distinguishable, making it easier for
passengers to find their way. This should be an added benefit of establishing brand 4. Communicate United’s spirit and momentum in a
identity. Deregulation has changed the role of design for the airline industry. consistent manner.
The implemented Corporate Identity Program - CIP, was perceived as effective by United
but was never assessed in terms of concrete data from the market. Despite this, some The four Corporate Identity
Program Goals were established
adjustments were made in the CIP in the 1977 and 1979, based on revisions and/or
and endorsed by United’s
policy changes. chairman in the Corporate
In general terms, Saul Bass’ Corporate Identity Program achieved the proposed corporate
goals and marketing objectives in what concerns the service mark. However, the lack of a
corporate design policy distorted the corporate identity. Despite the CIP’s dictatorial
approach contained in the Corporate Manual, United’s corporate culture itself was a
disruptive element. There was a clear discontinuity in many tangible and intangible
elements of the design structure inside United.
As a consequence, some other programs were developed inside United without any
reference to corporate brand and personality, image consistency and the company’s
perception. A good example of that happened in the late sixties and early seventies when
red carpet rooms were designed without any link to image or identity.
The goal of consistency of corporate image across the entire range of United’s products
and services was undermined by the divergent design expressions through non-integrated
lounges, architecture, environments, interior of aircraft, among others. United’s corporate
identity, and its goal of presenting “united image” to its customers would continue to be a
The Blue and Gray Era
New Scenario, New Approaches
In 1978, Carlson retired from United and became the chairman of UAL, the holding
company, inviting Richard Ferris from Westin Hotels to take his place.
Ferris decided to apply a new marketing strategy for United by introducing the hub-and-
spoke system. It also included the addition of secondary main “‘hubs” in Denver, San
Francisco, and Dallas. In addition, Chicago O’Hare airport was chosen as its central
Expansion through coverage on flights and services continued and in 1985, United
acquired Pan Am’s Asian route rights for $715.5 million. This move was critical to
United’s long term strategy of becoming an international airline company.
Still in 1985, United lost the number 1 position in passenger volume to American Airlines
in the US market. In 1987, UAL changed its name to “Allegis”, a name that combined
the words “allegiance” (alliance) and “aegis” (shield). Allegis’ goal was to become an
integrated full service travel company with United Airlines, Westin Hotel chains, Hertz rent-
a-car company and the Apollo computerized reservations system. However, Allegis’
strategy encountered problems and Ferris’ failure cost him his job. In order to deal with the
problem, Frank A. Olson was named as chairman of Allegis and Stephen M. Wolf was
named CEO of United.
These tumultuous events occurred in the turmoil scenario of the eighties and early nineties.
After the economic boom in the 80’s, the US economy began to slide into a recession in
the beginning of the 90’s, which in turn reduced the demand for air travel. Concurrently,
fuel prices rose sharply during 1990-91 Persian Gulf crisis. Consequently, UAL
Corporation reported a net loss of $331.9 million in 1991 along with losses at other air
carriers. Also, major US carriers were often being threatened by “fare wars” launched by
now bankrupt airlines such as TWA and Continental. In 1992, United simplified its fare
structure into a interestingly four-tier program, following American Airlines to eliminate “fare
wars”. However, United was not discouraged by these industry trends and saw the
situation as an opportunity to expand. When the new CEO and chairman Stephen M.
Wolf came to United in 1987, he decided that United should continue on the path of
becoming a big international airline.
The dispute that began in the 60’s between UAL and the three major employee unions at
United was settled in 1991 by Wolf’s administration. This allowed United to proceed with
further equipment growth and international-route expansion. As a result, United’s order for
$22 billion worth of new airplanes was concluded. Also in 1991, United purchased six
Stephen Wolf in 1990 when
announcing the deal with Pan of Pan Am’s routes to London for $400 million as well as a portion of Pan Am’s Latin
Am. American line for $135 million. Interestingly, after this great flurry of route acquisitions,
United still remained in the number two spot after American Airlines.
Within a year, however, United increased its international travel almost two-fold and
regained the number one airline status from American. Though United was winning in
international flights, American’s domestic traffic out of O’Hare increased from 8.6 million
passengers to roughly 8.8 million while United domestic travel decreased from 12.6
million to 12.2 million. The competition with American became fiercer with both setting
their aim at the business travelers from Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. In spite of the fact that
business travelers make up just 30% of the passengers flying, business travel accounts for
70% of airlines passenger revenue. Therefore, O’Hare, America’s busiest airport, where
more domestic flights originate than in any other city, is an extremely important
battleground for both United and American.
By an aggressive effort of United and Wolf’s administration to keep Chicago as United’s
hub, and consolidate its image as the major player in the business air travel sector, Wolf
initiated a new Corporate Identity Program that would give United a more conservative
image, better suited to the preferred carrier for the business air traveler.
The New Corporate Identity
The new identity program was ordered by Stephen Wolf in 1993 and the design was
created by a design firm called CKS in San Francisco. The new Corporate Identity
Program kept the original logo design by Saul Bass, but changed every other detail that
comprised the comprehensive original Corporate Identity Program. The guideline
produced by CKS was called the “Graphic Guidelines for Environmental Identification”,
emphasizing its aim for establishing a comprehensive environmental identification system
for United rather than mere logo unification which was the case of the first program done
by Saul Bass.
Because of the fierce competition at O’Hare with American and other carriers, United
recognized the importance of the airport terminal environment as a valuable visual
extension of the United Airline Identification.
Design elements were developed to provide environmental identification when used
flexibly with the United logo. Utilization of compatible design elements serves the purpose
of visual presentation consistency of the organization. This is achieved at all levels through
standardized and consistent use of fundamental design components - the logotype, the
symbol, the blue-on blue bands and the tri-stripes.
When United purchased Pan Am’s London route, in 1991, it was pursuing the goal of
becoming a major player in the international business travel market. However, this put
United in direct competition with British Airways , which has been one of United partners
in European routes. As a consequence, United’s Stephen Wolf severed the alliance with
CKS Corporate Identification
British Airways, and now faced direct competition from one of the world’s most dominant System defined as primar y
global business air travel carriers. components: a new ‘serif ’
logotype, Bass’ symbol and blue-
on-blue bands. The tri-stripes and
Now, in a turbulent moment, United turned to “design as image” as a means of helping
special ‘Worldwide Service’
support a market strategy. According to Wolf’s approach, a new corporate identity was lettering function as second
necessary to identify United with its business travelers in an adequate business style. By components.
incorporating new elements into existing symbols, United hoped to update and modernize
the company’s image as well as compete with British Airways in the competitive, but
lucrative global business travel market.
The new Environmental
Identification Program should
establish a ‘business like’
atmosphere in all internal and
external United’s environments.
Dressing the Environment in a Suit ?
This Corporate Identity Program’s emphasis was on the environment created by
incorporating and combining different elements with flexibility for different surroundings.
The fundamental design components consist of the logotype, the symbol, the blue-on-blue
bands and the tri-stripes.
The logotype was changed from a sans serif type to a serif type giving a more traditional
notion that fits the airline’s new image of corporate business airline. The symbol,
originally designed by Saul Bass in the 70’s gained a new color - orange. Other new
additions are the blue-on-blue stripe bands and the tri-stripes, in blue and gray, which are
typically used as background for the logotype and the symbol.
When the elements are used all together, they become the “signature arrangement” with
relationships between the elements presenting each component clearly as a part of a The new ‘suit’ dressed the airport
cohesive unit. The color gray was applied as a means of projecting a serious look to the terminal environment for ‘more
market share in less real state’ -
“fun” translated through blue and red. As part of adjustments in Saul Bass’ Corporate according to the Graphic
Identity Program, orange came into the logo in order to give movement to it. guidelines for environmental
identification of November
The application of the environmental identity program was presented according to 1993, page 8.
different physical environments rather than as individual elements itself because each
element does not work alone. Applications are mainly divided into signature
configurations, banded formats, and secondary signs. These applications are defined
again in specific situations such as the ticket counters or gate lounges and other
applications such as aircraft exterior or ground transportation.
Along with United’s effort to recreate the environment for United’s new perception as the
business travel carrier, the United terminal at O’Hare was designed separately by architect
Helmut Jahn. This structure depicts more of a futuristic sci-fi image that seemed to clash
with United’s more conservative new look. Jahn’s architecture was used as a means of
defining United’s image as a cutting edge modern flyer, an image which United was
Below and from left to right, the never successful in achieving. Yet the new corporate identity design was focused on a
new signatures on light and dark more traditional conservative look and image that would appeal more to corporate
backgrounds and its application
customers. Once more, United’s lack of a comprehensive approach through design
in different elements.
confuses its customers’ perceptions. Larry Clark, the vice president of facilities at United,
once said, “ Universal customer understanding of the corporation was lost in architecture
[of Helmut Jahn,] but found in marketing.”
Personal skills, Personality, Power and Commitment
It is common that a Corporate Identity Program is influenced by the management head at
the time of change. The personality of the decision-maker, power structure, and personal
skills are the main factors of influence. Those three factors that influence a company’s
design policy, personal skills, personality, and power, were no exception for United and
Stephen Wolf. The identity often expresses the person in power through the personalities
of the designer and the decision maker - the CEO. The new environmental plan designed
by CKS was implemented and controlled by Stephen Wolf. The design plan was not
officially endorsed by the corporation. People charged with implementing the new
design policy within the company had no participation in the new identity program and
did not cooperate with Wolf or CKS in the process of defining criteria for conceiving the
new identity. This led to a lack of commitment to the imposed changes.
Above, the ‘Connoisseur Class’
service when it was launched in
Since the new program was not endorsed, either formally or informally, by the 1991.
corporation, it was not successful in changing the company’s image as intended. The
result is much more like a confusion of corporate images. The new corporate identity
designed by CKS is displayed mixed with the old image designed by Saul Bass.
Considering the cycle of five to six years for painting the fleet, the exterior of aircraft is still
in the process of changing to new identity, which will be completed in 1999.
Stephen Wolf left the company soon after and as a result, the new identity program
remained still in a confused stage, without any leader committed to it.
Beside and from left to right,
competitors ‘tails’ of American
Airlines, Southwest Airlines, British
Airways and Virgin Airlines.
The lack of commitment also played an important role in the failure of implementation of
the new corporate identity. The policy initiated by Stephen Wolf never succeeded in
diffusing into every level of the company so that the new identity could replace the old
completely. It seems that making decisions in the higher level of the company without
consulting others in the company, especially those responsible for carrying out the task, is
not very effective when it comes to implementing the decision.
Stephen Wolf’s dream of global domination was expressed, in part , by his decision to
change the corporate image, but the responses from both inside and outside the company
were weak. Again, the lack of understanding of the company’s problem in addition to the
lack of evaluative and review systems did not allow people to properly identify what and
where the problems were. Without the capacity to share common understanding of the
dynamics of the problem, as well as clearly communicated solutions, any new design
policy implementation would be unsuccessful and ineffective.
Changes in Command, Changes in Perception
It is in this context that the most important corporate structural change occurred. In May
1994, United Airlines pilots and mechanics union pensions bought 55% of the airline for
$5 billion dollars. The new shareholders named Gerald Greenwald as UAL, Inc. new
Chairman and CEO. Greenwald was a former Chrysler Corp. executive and replaced
Stephen Wolf as Chairman.
Greenwald had the unique task of running the largest employee-owned
“Greenwald tries to manage through consensus and
corporation in the US. The top down management and design
implementation strategy used by his predecessors was not to be his style. puts a high premium on employee loyalty and job
He brought a new vision to UAL, Inc. with his participatory philosophy and security.”
different experience-based background. Fortune, October 14, 1996
Having gone through so many structural changes obliged United to analyze its future and
foresee its position in the market. A decision was made, by a Senior VP of marketing, to
look at all of UAL in the context of the overall airline market. It is important to notice that
never in United’s history had they taken such a probing look at themselves.
Today, according to market data, United is the largest airline in the world. The
employees, now owners, take pride in their airline. Brand identification and a strong
persona has given people confidence and route definition.
Carlson’s “trip-around-the-company” was somehow replicated by Greenwald. It is time
again to have an attitude towards a new company organization and a cohesive
Corporate Identity Program.
When Wolf went away, he left behind his unfinished identity program co-existing with
Bass’ CIP. Once more the Corporate Identity is a “ chaotic non-complementary
patchwork”. The giant corporation needs a comprehensible image to work with and to
help its various customers perceive United as it is.
Business is the Target
Projects in the past had succeeded in giving definition to disparate areas, without
connecting them to the whole. For Example, Helmut Jahn’s O’Hare terminal is on the
cutting edge of design while other terminals are dreary and out-dated.
In order to deal with this dichotomy, the marketing department initiated a research study of
United through Chicago based Cambridge consulting. Considering that still nowadays,
business travelers are responsible for 70% of the revenue from air-tickets, their research
focus was on this segment of the market. The results created a set of criteria for United to
use for developing a marketing and operational strategy.
According to United Airlines’
Strategic Planning Presentation, Since 1994, United has targeted business passengers. Business travelers, traveling often
there are four factors that at full fare and on long hauls, prefer business and first class accommodations. In that
influence the choice of air
segment the margins are higher and their baggage less. The fight for low fare vacation
travel has been given over to Southwest. United’s actual main competitors are American
and British Airways.
The marketing study exposed United’s strengths in key markets and the strong following
of their frequent flyer program among business passengers. It also pointed out a problem
with the product. Business travelers were not pleased with United’s not always on-time
flights, cancellation rates, or lost baggage records. Those are known problems at United.
United’s Senior VP Planning, Rono Dutta, pointed this out in its institutional strategic
planning video presentation and then moved on to other topics. This video was
presented to the different levels of decision making and management inside the
corporation as part of their participatory strategic planning approach.
Developing a strong product should be their top priority. However, despite the knowledge
evidenced in the video, their decision was to attack other subjects. Scheduling, perks
and a larger presence in targeted markets are now their central focus.
On the other hand, United has been rated as one of the “most annoying airlines” buy its
customers, according to Conde Nast Traveler annual survey: “United, meanwhile , rode
the latest dip in its see-saw history down to one-star territory. Besides being later than
average to twenty of twenty-seven major airports, the carrier mishandled more baggage
than any of its competitors.”
Meanwhile, a new Senior VP of marketing arrived in Chicago by way of London. David
Coltman had previously been the head of operations in Europe. He was presented with According to United Airlines’
the task of evaluating and identifying United’s personality in the market. He was also Strategic Planning Presentation,
challenged with developing strategies and changes through various components of service delivery, physical cabin
and on-time performance are the
main airline preference
The challenge was to absorb Cambridge’s results and translate then into a new cohesive
and efficient corporate marketing strategy. His strategy to deal with this challenge was to
change United’s advertising agency and hire a design firm to define a new brand
personality. At that time, the corporation ended its long advertising relationship with giant
Leo Burnett and hired two medium sized firms.
The initial goal of the design strategy was to express the company’s pride and strength as
well as to add zip and modernity to its look. A cohesive package should define the
product in the eyes of the shareholders and the public.
Notwithstanding, some components of the design strategy had to be pre-defined based
on cost-benefit analysis. A decision was made to keep repainting the planes with ‘Wolf’s’
design and colors. It takes 4-5 years to repaint aircraft and the expense in changing it
now would be daunting. The logo developed by Saul Bass was also to be retained.
In what concerns the red-carpet rooms, that were designed location by location by
independent designers with no coordination, a designer was assigned to the task of
giving unity to them. Naomi Lett, an interior designer in New York, was hired in 1995
to develop a concept for all red carpet rooms. In 1996, however, Pentagram was
contacted to develop a new corporate identity package. The old and new designs were
to be incorporated into Pentagram’s work.
“In actual fact, it has been British Airways that has Pentagram’s London and New York offices were charged with the task of
undertaken the most sophisticated user-centered identifying and creating a cohesive design concept to represent United to
design innovations in aircraft seating of any airline in the new owners as well as the customers. The retired head of advertising,
John Ruhack, has been retained as a consultant to work with United and
the world. . . it’s strange that Pentagram
Pentagram in this new image development. Considering Ruhack’s
are ignoring that and giving this rather dowdy old familiarity and knowledge of United, his role as the “liaison” man is
lady image for British Airways when in fact fundamental to the process.
it’s streaks ahead of United!”
John Heskett Pentagram’s first step in defining United’s personality was a study of its
own. They looked at United’s primary domestic and International
competitors. Pentagram described American as “masculine”, Delta as the
“Southern Belle” and British Airways as the “Queen Mum”. United was
defined as “Sophisticated”.
From left to right:
The ‘Masculine’ American
The ‘Southern Belle’ Delta
A new concept was introduced based on two old time film stars to express United’s
personality. They suggested Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers as a metaphor to express
sophistication, allied to the value of team work. By so doing, they believe they are going
to be showing fluid motion and a coordinated performance effortlessly. Ruhack stated that
the concept was preliminar y. Although the initial presentation to the marketing committee
was not thoroughly understood, recent prototypes were better received. It was expressed
by many who had seen the initial concept that it was too esoteric.
Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers
in Carefree, 1938.
The unveiling of the new prototypes took place in the London offices of Pentagram in early
April, 1997. The areas under re-design are uniforms, interiors of aircraft, business class
tableware and headrest covers, amenity kits in business and first class, and boarding area
graphics and check in counters. The new design has not been fully accepted as of this
writing and is still in development.
From left to right:
The Queen Mum’ British
The ‘Sofisticated’ United
Corporate Culture And Behavior
Whatever results come from Pentagram’s consultancy they would have to be implemented
somehow. Because of historical influences, there are two implementation paths at United.
The first is the marketing profile used in advertising and promotion of the company. The
corporate identity becomes a background to the message and personality displayed. The
second is in facilities and architecture, the physical incorporation of identifying colors,
logos, typography, architecture are perhaps easier to define.
Saul Bass’ Corporate Identity Program shaped this heritage in the corporate culture - or
was it the corporate culture that could never be re-structured in other ways? From the
perspective of this study, since the implementation of Saul Bass’ program the design policy
The perceptual map above has been managed through this division of Image and Identity: Image as a marketing
shows the corporate culture and responsibility; identity as an architectural and environmental subject. This fragmented view
behavior in what concerns to
distorts the internal unity of design.
their different design policies
An illustration of this fragmented idea is offered by Don Duff, who is still the Chief
Architect for United. He is respectfully known as the “logo cop,” as he is responsible for
the signage, interior design and coordination of all architectural elements for the
corporation. Duff had not seen the proposed image and had no idea as to its impact on
his department. One thing he understands from past experience is the need to have the
executives believe in and endorse the concept. The rumblings of some as to the non-
acceptance at the initial meeting was troubling to him. His job is difficult enough, and is
only made worse with no internal support. United’s corporate culture continues to be
impermeable to changes brought by the new administration. It looks like United’s
personnel need to be involved in different levels of the decision process to feel committed
and responsible for any proposed change.
Motivation For A New Change
The corporation entered this era focusing on marketing issues and positioning itself
globally. The big idea of seamless travel, passengers who can travel around the world
on one ticket, has long been the goal at United. Because business is no longer confined
to regions, it is a most interesting market segment. There is an undefined global market for
the taking and a lot of business travelers are trying to get to their destinations as hassle
free as possible.
United focused all its energy on the business class and first class passengers because this
is the market they want. The typical business traveler books tickets on short notice, flies
weekdays, to major hubs, pays full fare and flies the premium classes. The typical
business traveler therefore evaluates the airline based not on price but service, schedule,
amenities, mileage awards, food, seat comfort, ease of connections, airports served According to United Airlines’
Strategic Planning Presentation,
directly, relative distance to connecting flights...
these are the results of a survey
amongst United’s and its
competitors’ customers, in the US
market of shuttle flights and
Concerning seamless travel, Larry Clark explained that this was a goal but logistically it is
a problem. Due to historical liaisons United is tied to some carriers that are no longer
partners. An example of that is in JFK Airport, in New York. There United shares a
terminal with British Airways, while their international partner, Lufthansa, is building a new
terminal on the other side of the airport. If United is locked into British Airways terminal,
how do they provide “seamlessness” across the real-estate at JFK? This is not as much an
marketing issue as it is a design problem.
United is planning to bring in this new image in 1998 on top of an already confusing
identity and design process history to fortify its marketing strategy aimed at the business
Finally, is it coherent to change its corporate identity just because of the new ownership
by employees program?
Is the change going to be effective if it is done once more without integrating it into a
larger action in terms of corporate design integrity as a whole?
What are the hidden goals that even the corporation cannot read?
Are they being addressed by this new attempt to give United the face it deserves to have?
According to United Airlines’
Strategic Planning Presentation,
there are four elements of the
marketing mix that an airline can
utilize for positioning itself.
Final Critique &
An outsider’s point of view
A Strategic Moment for Change
Having had its design policy established throughout its history by personal skills,
personality, and power, United seems to be trying once more to target its giant market
with superficial and inconsistent changes.
Although the reason for change was always valid and sound for United’s situation at the
given time, people in the intermediate level of the company who were in charge of
actually carrying out the program saw the changes as personal issues, mainly related to
the personality and the power of the head of the company.
Another interesting point to take into consideration is the corporate identity
“Confusion and clutter are failure of design, not of the partners and its cohesiveness with United’s own corporate identity
attributes of information. An so the point is to find and perception by its customers. Such analysis seems not to be relevant for
design strategies that reveal detail and complexity – the company.
rather than to fault the data for an excess of
The importance of sharing the same value was not well communicated
complication. Or, worse, to fault viewers for a lack of
among different functions of the company, making it more difficult to
understanding.” implement the programs coherently.
Airlines are marketing driven and involve numerous outsiders to develop and maintain their
image. The integration of independent design firms must be coordinated internally and
managed so as to present a cohesive concept. Clearly expressing an airlines personality
is probably the most effective but difficult goal to achieve.
Soft drinks, juices & snacks Today, given the employee ownership program and some important changes in its
providers are intrinsically related
organizational behavior, would be a perfect moment for change. The responsibility
to the way customers perceive
United. implied in being an employee-owned company goes beyond empowerment and trust. If
it does not generate a strong sense of participation and commitment among its employee
owners, there must be something profoundly wrong.
The central problem is that another Corporate Identity Program in the mold of the first, or
even second one won’t satisfy the corporations needs any longer .
The scope of any move towards a cohesive and coherent design strategy should
consider the corporation as a whole. A clearly defined design policy is required to
definitively position the company within its internal and external public.
“A new identity never starts with a blank sheet of
Despite top level professionals involved in different "eras", the lack of
paper. It takes as its raw material the strengths of
coherency in corporate image and perception is a constant throughout
United’s history of design policy. the company, existing associations, competitive
positioning, probable uses and applications and the
needs and perceptions of the target audiences.”
Raymond Loewy, Saul Bass and
CKS tried to establish a cohesive
design integrity for United. Now
Pentagram UK is using Fred &
Ginger metaphor to achieve it.
Learning From United
In the Blue and Red era despite Saul Bass’ effort to establish links and responsibilities to
the program, it is not possible to trace what happened with the convergence of objectives
that could have led to the re-affirmation of the corporation’s dynamic mission and its
“United was redesigned by CKS partners in 1994 CKS arrived with a new corporate identity proposal based on
environmental design, reflecting Stephen Wolf’s own vision of the
to make it look more global.”
company, without feed-back from United’s diverse publics.
Now Pentagram is using Fred & Ginger to give a new “personality” to United’s brand,
contributing to its kaleidoscopic image. Everywhere a customer looks he, sees a different
image: the gray suit behind the check-in areas, the sci-fi walkway at O’Hare terminal, the
lack of personality at the waiting area, the all-eras service marks on different aircraft, the
unexpected interior of airplanes, and the United standard on-board service.
United’s identity and image are controlled under separate functions. The identity is
controlled by the facilities department and the image is controlled by the marketing
department. The personality of the company, which is the combination of identity and
image, has never been clear to outsiders, its customers, or to most insiders - the people
working at United.
It appears that in its exponential growth, the corporation lost congruence in objectives,
while the responsibilities for it dissolved into various areas of the giant organization
According to John Ruhack, Besides, some other factors had influenced the definition of the actual corporate image
Pentagram is using Fred &
Ginger’s image as a metaphor to
show that team work makes
Goals were marketing driven but not physically possible. The airline’s identity at airports
had to become stronger. The interaction between airlines and passengers in both visual
and verbal communication had to become clearer. Each transportation product needed
to be clearly distinguishable, making it easier for passengers to find their way. This
should be an added benefit of establishing brand identity.
Most of the times, airports are negative public spaces, an area most people would not
choose to spend time in. As a result, the activity of departing, arriving and transferring
must be made as stress free as possible, enhancing product perception. As airports are
typically controlled and owned by local government, the ability of airline companies to
customize and personalize their gates, check ins and customer service areas are limited.
Making these areas as adaptable simple and straight forward as possible is the goal of Brand and personality are
established according to the
the landlord. This airport design policy makes it difficult for airlines to express their design
user’s perception of tangibles and
and identity statements. intangibles design elements
It is not clear what happened with The Interior Design Review Committee
and The Identity Committee in United’s long run. “Maintaining and updating a corporate identity may
seem expensive, but in relation to its potential return
The five to six years painting cycle of aircraft should be taken into it an be cost effective. In fact, design at the airport
consideration in any proposed change. Today, in 1997, there are aircraft can be used to build an identity with a visual
flying with different identities in their bodies, contributing to the confusion
personality to reinforce the airlines key values”
and misunderstanding of the corporate identity.
Moreover, there is no link between public relations and design policy in terms of carrying
a uniform , integrated, and focused message. Public Relations mainly deals with press
releases and customer service related issues, which may include topics related to design
policy. But it is not directly involved in promoting United under the conformity of its design
policy like the facilities and marketing departments do.
“The airlines, however need to express their identities Some airlines built their own terminals, as Delta at Los Angeles International
Airport and United at O’Hare. This customization of environment through
and their values in the airport: to instruct the architecture and interior facility gave strength to their identity and influenced
passengers and build their confidence, and to the perception of the airline by its customers. Unfortunately, this is only
differentiate themselves from their competitors. possible in major hubs and when there is a clear confidence in the
An effectively implemented identity system will show longevity of the airline. As for United, the terminal at O’Hare, designed by
Helmut Jahn, is the only one that has the distinctive elements, and there are
passengers where to go and what to do
no other cities in the world with the same elements making it difficult for
inside the airport.” United to express the integrity of the company throughout the world.
The research United conducted on the market and the competitors reveals another hole in
their strategic planning.
They have a comprehensive analysis of what they call four weapons - schedule, product,
price, and placement. In this analysis the item where their weakness is highest is product.
Amazingly, they seem to intentionally ignore it. The fact that they are not putting enough
effort into understanding their users is the first sign of this intentional oversight. It is not
possible to enhance your product if you do not know and understand your users’ needs
and wants. There is no apparent strategy to attack the central problem - create new and
unexpected values for their users.
It's no surprise that a survey conducted by Conde Nast magazine rated United as one of
the most annoying carriers in terms of customer satisfaction.
Also, the inertia against change exists in every large and established company. United is
no exception. This inertia is leading United to have once more a marketing driven
product, without paying attention to their central problem - not knowing their users' needs
According to the Air Transport
and wants and not designing for these customers.
Association United was the
number one in terms of
passenger miles in 1993. It is difficult for the insiders to see their faults and shortcomings with an objective point of
view; therefore, the outsiders must distinguish between which are good and which are
unnecessary. If United wants to develop a corporate design integrity that could last for
the next twenty years, it should start considering the existence of a new generation of
business travelers. Instead of focusing only on the current market of baby-boomer business
travelers, it should start looking at the generation X of business travelers. This new
generation has a completely different set of values, a new ethic, and exposure and
comfort with technology.
The company must be open to outside opinions and criticisms in order to change and
grow. Especially, it must critically consider customers’ and consultants’ opinions to
consolidate its place in the commercial aviation industry as the leader in business travel.
Despite all efforts during its history, it seems that the core objective of United is still the
same: have their customers perceive them as they would like to be perceived. As an
airline with standards of excellence in equipment and service it has first to develop
coherent products for its niche markets. Only then will it be possible to develop an
integrated design policy that would organize a plan throughout the company’s different
tangibles and intangibles designs that will help people to clearly perceive United as it
Instead of trying to create an image for projecting itself as a warm, contemporary,
efficient, people-oriented airline, United should organize itself as a warm, contemporary,
efficient, people-oriented airline. Doing so would allow their corporate design integrity to
arise from their actual services and products, instead of trying to cover up their weakness.
In order to achieve this, though, they must first recognize the power of their products.
According to United Airlines’
It will not be through Fred & Ginger image association that United will be able to “be a
Strategic Planning Presentation,
profitable airline that can support sustained revenue growth,” without an adequate these are the revenue and margin
product. Even when the Fred & Ginger image is related to Frank Gehry’s new building in growth of their main competitors.
Prague, it is used as a metaphor for a very contemporary, technologically advanced
structural system. Using any new design policy through image with a weak product will
be no metaphor but wishful thinking.
United should approach its design policy with a user-centered point of view. Doing so
would allow the corporation to have a coherent image in products and services, at the
same time as to provide customers with improved and fulfilling products and services.
Consolidation of their incoherent design policies, both formal and informal, in order to
give consistency to their brand and personality as well as to reduce costs and support
company's growth in their cash cow and star cities is absolutely vital at this point.
Given the decentralized structure of United, the establishment of a flexible and dynamic
Corporate design policy would permit a better development of different activities amongst
the tangibles and intangibles of its components, insuring the dynamic cohesion it sought.
Although the actual moment is highly positive for change, with the new
“We talk of integrity in a person as being a total
employee ownership program, the establishment of new partnerships and
quality of what a person is, expressing what they the seamless concept being explored, it seems that, once more, there will
are, and without it, there’s a gap.” be disharmony between Corporate Integrity - and here it means brand
John Heskett personality, projected image and identity consistency; and internal and
external perception of the company itself.
It requires understanding of what the organization is, what it delivers to its customers, and
what it projects both internally and externally. By doing so, it is possible to develop a
really powerful weapon: the corporate integrity expressed through design. On the other
hand, if design develops an image that is not consonant and cohesive with the reality of
the product, it’s only going to generate suspicion, mistrust, and disbelief.
ERAS PRE DESIGN POLICY RED & B LUE B L U E & G R AY FUTURE
time 1928 - 1973 1974 - 1993 1994 - 1997 1998 - ?
target Mail delivery & passengers US air-travel market in general International business travelers National and international
slogan The friendly skies of your land Worldwide Service ?
Fly the friendly skies
criteria for choosing Enlarge geographic coverage Achieve international Seamless international travel
partners coverage and enlarge geographic
designer Zay Smith & Raymond Loewy Saul Bass CKS Pentagram UK
head of the corporation Pat Patterson Edward E. Carlson Stephen Wolf Gerald Greenwald
motivation for change Organize image through a To become ‘sophisticated Employee owned company
coherent Corporate Identity & business-like’
driven by Organizational need Personality and power Corporate internal changes
analogy ‘Putting things together’ ‘The blue and gray suit’ ‘Team work’
looking for Corporate Identity Corporate Identity and Unity Brand Personality through Image Consistency
scope of change Logo & Typography applied extensive list of elements, from signs & environmental identity uniforms, aircraft interiors,
to diverse elements stationary to aircraft new typeface and colors boarding areas
implementation level partial, with anterior identity expected to start in 1998
integral competing with the new one
1 United Airlines Corporate Identification Program, 1974 - revised in December 1979.
2 ibid. p 2.3
3 ibid. p 2.3
4 Fortune Oct. 14, 1996 v134 n7 p212(2)
5 Flight test: how annoying is your airline. Conde Nast virtual magazine.
http://travel.epicurious.com/travel/planning/07-flight test, 1997.
6 Tufte, Edward. “Layering and Separation,” Envisioning Information.
7 Solberg, Carl. Conquest of the Skies, A history of commercial aviation in America. Little,
Brown and company, 1979.
8 Gunston, Bill, ed. Chronicle of Aviation. Chronical Communications Ltd, 1978.
9 Morrison, Steven A. and Winston, Clifford. The Evolution of the Airline Industry. The Brooki
10 Zukowsky, John, Building for Air Travel, Architecture and Design for Commercial Aviation. A
Institute of Chicago and Prestel-Verlag, 1996.
11 Hemispheres April 1997.
12 Carlson, Edward E. UAL, Inc. New York: The Newcomen Society in North America, 197
13 Lynn, Matthew. “Battle of the Atlantic,” Management Today, Nov. 1991, p.48.
14 Kirk, Jim. “American, United wage dogfight over Chicago,” Adweek Eastern Edition, v
n29, July 15, 1991, p.35.
15 Woolsey, James P. “What big United can do: traditionally a domestic carrier, the giant is
making a major effort to secure a commanding international footing,” Air Transport World, v
n2, Feb 1992, p.24.
16 Underwood, Elaine. “Clipping ads to boost service,” Adweek’s Marketing Week. v33, n22
June 1 1992, p.1.
17 Heuslein, William. “Managing for the long haul,” Forbes, v149, n1, Jan 6, 1992, p.176
18 Underwood, Elaine. “New flight plans,” Brandweek, v38, n10, Mar 10, 1997, p.32.
19 McDonald, Michele. “Airline industry reports strong results for second quarter,” Travel Wee
v54, n66, August 21, 1995, p.10.
20 Unknown. “1996 Readers’ choice awards,” Conde Nast Traveler, October
21 United Airlines Graphic Guidelines for Environmental Identification, 1993.
22 Giovannini, Joseph. “Fred and Ginger Dance in Prague,” Architecture, February
23 Rau, Leonard. ‘Deregulation and Design: The Changing Role of Identity at the
Airport’ in Zukowsky, John, Building for Air Travel, Architecture and Design for
Commercial Aviation. Art Institute of Chicago and Prestel-Verlag, 1996.
1 Larry Clark, Head of Facilities at United. Interviewed in April 1997, at the
head office of United Airlines in Chicago.
2 Don Duff, Corporate Architect at United. Interviewed in March 1997, at the
head office of United Airlines in Chicago.
3 John Ruhack, retired Head of Advertising at United and actual ‘liaison man’ for
the new Corporate Identity Program. Interviewed in March and May 1997, by