In 1934, the company standardized its logo, featuring a bar and a route map in the circle.
Although the official logo was the bar-and-circle, many variations of the logotype were used, in advertising and promotional material and on United¿s fleet.
In 1936, United selected a shield logo in red, white and blue to convey stability, solidarity and familiarity to the American travelers. Two versions were used with either a route map or a star.
United Airlines- A Branding Evolution
A well conceived and implemented logotype and brand demonstrates the importance the company places on managing resources. If the logo and brand are consistent, the company is often considered to be well managed overall. The following is an exploration of one company’s quest for brand consistency, relevancy and ultimately, equity.
United’s first attempt at developing a graphic identification was after the merger of Boeing Air Transport, Pacific Air Transport, Varney Airlines and National Air Transport, when the airline introduced a bar-and-circle logo with the bar containing the words "United Airlines.”In 1936, United attempted to standardize its logo and adopted the shape of a heraldic shield as a symbol in red, white and blue, with “United” presented in a style of san-serif-italic typeface.
The first coherent branding initiative at United was Saul Bass' corporate identity program in 1973. What Saul Bass & Associates found at United was a non-structured identity system spread throughout the company.
This patchwork incoherently communicated United’s philosophy, internally and to the customers. The new service mark was comprised of a stylized red and blue "Double U" symbol as the visual focus and a custom logotype featuring modified Handel Gothic without serif letters to clearly identify the company by name. The selected colors were between the basic warm United Red in equilibrium with the cool United Blue. The famous Double U was later nicknamed "the tulip," which is unfortunate in that it disassociates the symbol with the “U” in United, reducing its positive brand equity. Saul Bass' branding was very successful in the way it unified United's image, especially in terms of logotype and the look of the aircraft. Additionally, Saul Bass' imposition of consistent design criteria to advertising and promotion campaigns is notable, as it frequently occurs the other way around. Other than the reintroduction of the word Airlines in 1979, this branding remained intact for the next 20 years.
A new identity program was ordered by Stephen Wolf in 1993 to give United a more conservative image to appeal to business travelers. Created by CKS Partners, the new identity retained the original Double U design by Saul Bass, but replaced the sans serif logotype with a more traditional serif face and introduced the color gray to project a more serious look to the blue and red. Widespread use of gray and blue pin striping was introduced in United’s livery and architectural environments. The CKS design established a comprehensive environmental identification system for United, rather than logo unification as was the case with the 1973 program. .
Yet another branding campaign was introduced in 1997, this one led by Pentagram Design. Pentagram updated the United logo by introducing new, cropped version of the Double U symbol, a bolder typeface for the company's name and dropping the word "Airlines" from the logotype. Akin to referring to the Double U as a tulip, cropping the service mark has potential negative consequences, as it reduces its brand equity and worldwide recognition.Could you imagine BMW refreshing their logo by cropping it? To distinguish different classes of service within the airline, United's name appears in black, while the name of the service appears in gray. Additionally, the "Fly the Friendly Skies" slogan was replaced with “It's time to fly.”
United introduced their most recent brand freshening in 2004, created by Fallon Worldwide. Marked by a new aircraft livery, the new identity was intended energize the brand as it failed to evolve with the market and fell into bankruptcy.