Digital touchpoints should be as beautiful as they are useful

People build a curious devotion to the look of their favorite airline brands, and airlines have invested billions over the years to ensure that their liveries and cabin interiors live up to expectations. But today, digital touchpoints are as critical to brand identity; one might even argue that they are a first-priority.

Austrian Airlines showed this week that it understands the importance of digital branding by updating the look of its smartphone app and its smartwatch app at the same time that it announced a refresh of its livery and check-in desks. The airline announced updates to all of its digital channels, which will drive the design of its aircraft and other physical touchpoints—thereby turning the traditional design process on its head with a digital first approach.

In fact the new design of the logo is intended to be “more easily and clearly recognizable on mobile devices and smart watches.”

The font has been updated so that it is both more modern and bolder. The logo was made thicker so that each look sharper, and more vibrant, regardless of the size of the screen on which they are viewed. Color contrast is used to maximum advantage, with the red background and white text making smartphone and smartwatch apps easier to read in different lighting conditions.

The airline states:

“Austrian Airlines is making itself fit for the digital world and is further developing its branding. Small-scale adjustments are being carried out against the backdrop of the planned relaunch of the website and the app at the turn of the year 2018/19 as well as the stronger internet presence being planned. The aim is to meet the demands of the digital world and thus be more modern.”

Andreas Otto, member of the management board and CCO of Austrian Airlines explains the reasoning for a digital-first re-branding approach.

“Digitalization is changing our lives. Our products, our brand and our company are also making themselves fit for the digital future. The realignment of our branding is another important step in this direction.”

Austrian Airlines’ updated digital and physical brand image is a subtle evolution of the existing brand and not likely to come through as a shock to brand fans, as recently experienced by its partner airline Lufthansa.

Blue I’m blue

When Lufthansa recently chose to strip yellow from its aircraft liveries and change the Pantone of its royal blue tail to a more somber shade of navy, the airline suffered some backlash. In response, Lufthansa released a video detailing the thinking behind its new appearance.

Lufthansa also focused on digital touchpoints for the redesign. Designers explained that the changes made to tone and font were “vital for the digital world” with “a typeface that works on all touchpoints.”

They acknowledged that the new color scheme was contentious, even among the design team, but explained that yellow will still play a role in its digital and IRL customer touchpoints.

Designers explained:

“It’s important for a brand, a corporate design, to have a leading color. We decided to make blue Lufthansa’s leading color. But that doesn’t mean that we are losing the color yellow—we would never give up yellow!”

In this case, yellow on digital channels may not have been enough to satisfy everyone, but as Devin Liddell of the design-firm, TEAGUE, explains:

“The public can have really visceral reaction to brand changes. That’s typically a reflection of a good thing. It reveals that they felt a sense of ownership—don’t change it I love it!”

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