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Airline Visual Identity: 1945–1975

4 May 2015

Airline Visual Identity: 1945–1975

Airline Visual Identity: 1945–1975, M.C. Hühne, 2015, ISBN 3981655001, 436 pp.

Airline Visual Identity: 1945–1975 by M.C. Hühne

Airline Visual Identity: 1945–1975 by M.C. Hühne

This book is an insight and education beyond measure. Matthias C. Hühne can only be an inspiring author since he is an art connoisseur as well as professional developer—both characteristics requiring deep knowledge combined with expansive as well as interpretive thinking. Airline Visual Identity: 1945-1975 shows his talent and dedication to an unsung but fundamental force in the airline industry—branding identity. After an insightful and delightfully concise (the words which are needed and no more) preface explaining how today’s brand identity strategies differ from yesterday’s singularly dimensional advertising campaigns Hühne gets right to it.

His thorough research yields an impressive book not only in size (~12” x ~18”) and heft (~14 pounds) but in detail and unbiased coverage. There is no reaching only for the low fruit here. Airline Visual Identity: 1945-1975 may first appear as if it is firmly in the coffee table section of the local bookstore, and it would enhance anyone’s coffee table considering its production values, but it also fits equally well in the same caliber as the Oxford English Dictionary with its unbiased presentation as well as interpretation of this important era of airline development as well as advertising paradigm shift.

Prior to World War II the airline industry flew propeller driven aircraft laden with affluent customers. Hühne wonderfully describes how Juan Trippe (the driving force behind Pan Am) set the mold for the airline industry which still predominates today with uniforms, jet airliners, wide-bodied airliners and opening the customer base to all economic niches. He also interestingly, and kindly, notes how Howard Hughes nearly ruined TWA by moving too slowly to jet airliners. There is so much more and Hühne’s encompassing path takes us through these chapters:

Pan Am TWA United Airlines
Continental Airlines American Airlines Braniff International
Canadian Pacific Airlines Japan Airlines Aeroflot
Swissair Air France Lufthansa
British Airways                              Maps and Statistics


Each chapter is filled with information about branding identity decisions (e.g., adding a new airliner type to the fleet), artists, visual technology and changing economic perspectives. There are more airlines to be sure but Hühne has selected these representative thirteen of the industry of the times. The last chapter has eye-opening as well as enlightening drawings of the airline routes through the decades not to mention the passenger statistics by airline through time. Airline Visual Identity: 1945-1975  has a fantastic number of artful posters as well as excellent photos where needed as well as a thorough index.

A sample showing the variety of posters in Airline Visual Identity

A sample showing the variety of posters in Airline Visual Identity: 1945–1975 (clockwise from upper left – 1947 poster for Pan American Airways, British Airways Concorde poster 1975 by Negus & Negus, United Airlines poster in 1974 by Saul Bass & Assoc., American Airlines poster 1959 by Walter Bomar) – images provided by Callisto Publishers


Callisto Publishers (based in Berlin Germany) is a well known and leading publishing house for the arts and has matched Hühne’s passion and dedication with production values far beyond the norm of book publishing. Colors are spot-on accurate (some images require more than one printing), several varnishes and not one but two foil printing techniques. The price of the book is in keeping with these production values, as well as the work of Hühne. Airline Visual Identity: 1945-1975 is a powerful and standard setting book which belongs in commercial art, commercial photography, marketing curricula  as well as college libraries — as well as an historian’s personal library since the advertising paradigm shift so closely parallels the evolution of the jet age in the airline industry and as Hühne eloquently shows their paths are as closely intertwined as the twigs of a bird nest.

Air France poster by Roger Excoffon in 1964 – image provided by Callisto Publishers

Air France poster by Roger Excoffon in 1964 – image provided by Callisto Publishers


Callisto Publishers loaned a digital file of this book as an opportunity for an objective review.

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