Think Work Observe was invited to produce a contribution for the Rethink section of the British Icon Magazine n.149 (October 2015), one of the world’s leading architecture and design magazines. Designers are invited to redesign anything they think to be worth a better visual, or a better concept.
When thinking about the visual identity of our national airline, Alitalia, we felt that the real potential of its brand had never been fully expressed: it’s graphic language should involve the cultural and historical background of a nation as well as the communicative strength of the brand itself. We decided to refer to the rational approach that formed such an important strand of Italian graphic design from the 1960s on, as exemplified by Massimo Vignelli, Bob Noorda and the abstract experiments of Franco Grignani.
We chose the typography to refer back to the midcentury modernism of the International Typographic Style – in Italy, this was present primarily in Milan, where major Swiss and Italian designers, such as Max Huber and Albe Steiner shared both influences and knowledge. New Rail Alphabet, far from being strictly related to a specific country, was a choice towards a rational sans serif very close to Helvetica style of the time, but updated.
We then explored a new corporate identity through studying the first Alitalia logo and other early examples of visual communication that used Italian historical symbols or elements of our visual culture. We designed the star as an element that could be used by itself, without the logo. The star is evident in various aspects of Italian visual identity, most notably as the main element of the Republic’s emblem, adopted in 1948. It was also used in works by the important 20th-century graphic designer Franco Grignani. The letter A – actually a part of the star – is constructed optically by three stripes. These stripes are reminiscent of the Italian flag and of the Roman Winged Victory statue, as well as acting as a metaphor for the wings of an aircraft.
We redesigned various collateral items, picking modernist influences that related to this new visual identity. For the aircraft’s exterior, we created a more elegant distribution of elements, working with dark shades of blue and gold – the result is a wiser identity that looks to the past, yet speaks of a forward-looking and successful national airline.