(Published in The Produktkulturmagazin issue 2 2018)

It has long been known that colour plays a major role in our everyday lives and ultimately also influences our sense of wellbeing. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe published his most comprehensive work "Theory of Colours" (“Zur Farbenlehre”) back in 1810. He attributed colours higher order characteristics which have an impact on every aspect of our lives. So, it should come as no surprise that companies in particular put a lot of thought into colours and their impact when looking at their corporate design. One of the world’s best-known logos is the Lufthansa crane and – on the occasion of its 100th anniversary – it has now had a makeover. But it is not just Lufthansa’s logo, but also its entire corporate identity that has been given a new, contemporary appearance – something we can look forward to seeing when we next visit a German airport. Lufthansa head designer Ronald Wild spoke to us about his work and the importance of blue and yellow.

Mr Wild, the Lufthansa logo is one of the best-known logos. With what do you personally associate it?

The crane is one of the symbols that accompanies us Germans from childhood onwards. It’s simply part of life in Germany. I hold it very close to my heart, just like many other people. As a designer, this symbol later took on a completely different dimension. It is one of the very oldest and best-known logos.

What does the famous crane symbolise? What is the philosophy behind it?

The crane stands for happiness and longevity. It is majestic and elegant, its movements in flight effortless and confident. The Lufthansa crane was designed by Otto Firle back in 1918. It is still very apparent that it simply flowed from the designer’s hand. It is not geometric or construed, but it does have very human characteristics. The crane has a clear flight direction, always knowing which way the wind blows.

What was the incentive for reworking the corporate design? 

The crane is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. A fantastic reason to check whether the Lufthansa corporate identity is still contemporary and continues to communicate what the brand represents today. We last revised the design constant 30 years ago. Since then, society, technology, the media – and of course also Lufthansa – have all changed. Today, our everyday lives are determined by digitalisation and networking. Digital change is influencing how we live. And we must react to this not only with regard to products, but also in terms of design, which is why we are not just overhauling our corporate identity, but the entire brand.

The redesign has taken several years and involved more than 800 designs. What is it like working on a project of this kind?

There were more than 800 designs for the aircraft paintwork, that is true. However, the ‘aircraft’ application is just one of many. We want our passengers to feel they are with Lufthansa for the entire journey: from booking their flights at home, the experience at the airport, in the lounge, at the gate, on the aircraft – all the way through to arrival. The corporate identity has to be present at all touch points. Here, the design direction follows a clear further development of the branding strategy. We approached this huge task in collaboration with internal and external specialists and, above all, considerable humility and reverence. You have to try out lots of things and – if you want to create something new – you also have to let go. There were lots of scribbles, sleepless nights, lively discussions – overall, a really intense period of collaboration.

What team did you put together for this? How many people worked on the project in total? 

There were many people involved, of course. The whole project is a team effort, and has by no means been completed yet. All in all, it will take several more years until we have rolled out the new design throughout the company.

What have the greatest challenges been with this project? 

There have been many challenges. But letting go was probably one of the most important things, clearing our heads. This is the only way you can create something new. I managed to do that using the time factor, above all. I took the designs home with me, hanging them up in my kitchen and allowing them to work on me in peace and quiet. We were always very aware of the fact that we are further developing an icon, and of course you don’t change those frivolously or radically.

It is conspicuous that you have moved away from the Lufthansa yellow. Why was this decision made?

The yellow is not disappearing completely, it is being given a new significance. Good, coherent corporate design requires a lead colour. To date, blue and yellow have often assumed this role in an indecisive and conflicting manner, too frequently resulting in a poor colour contrast between blue and yellow. Now we have a lead colour – namely blue. The new deep blue perfectly expresses Lufthansa’s understanding of the premium. Although the yellow is being scaled back in terms of quantity, it is being upgraded quality-wise, featuring in uniform accessories, for instance. Yellow is the colour of the dialogue with our passengers and is activating within the digital context. It remains the colour closest to our hearts. 

Please describe the new design in 3 words! 

Timeless, clear and high-end. 

Colours have a major impact on our moods and wellbeing. What are you hoping to effect in your passengers with the new colour scheme? 

It has long been known that the colours around us have a tremendous influence on our mood. Blue, for example, brings out our understanding of the premium, while yellow is the colour of discovery and symbolises emotional moments. The high ratio of white in our colour scheme communicates clarity and safety. 

How will the new design change in the cabins?

Our cabins will further develop within the context of the natural cycle. The new design will be rolled out ‘on the fly’, so to speak. The new ‘Colour Breeze’ concept has already been implemented in the A350 Economy Class. The new Business Class, which our passengers will be able to experience from 2020 onwards, will also be featuring much of the new design. Countless in-flight items – ranging from safety cards, crockery all the way through to the packaging – are currently being redesigned. And our entertainment systems’ user interface will also be adapted, of course.

What else can we expect from Lufthansa in the future?

The brand will also continue to steadily develop in the future. As in the past, we will attempt to provide our identity with plenty of functional and emotional value added on behalf of our passengers and to remain on the cutting edge, knowing which way the wind blows.

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Designer Ronald Wild, born in Ulm in 1973, has been navigating the world of Lufthansa’s corporate identify for almost 18 years now. He is responsible for the design and the further development of the corporate design system. He worked for Busse Design USA in San Francisco before joining Lufthansa AG as a corporate designer in 2001. The communication design graduate completed his studies at Augsburg University of Applied Sciences.

Picture credit © Lufthansa

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