Interview with Virgin Australia’s livery designer

Virgin Atlantic inspiration mosaic.jpgFor the livery of the newest Virgin Group airline, Virgin Australia creative director Hans Hulsbosch took inspiration from the Group’s oldest livery: the 1984 scheme that debuted on Virgin Atlantic’s Maiden Voyager.

“I went all the way back to the origins of Virgin and then leapfrogged, hopefully, to another era,” Hulsbosch says on the Sydney airport tarmac last Wednesday after his livery was unveiled.

The era he mentions is the re-branding of Virgin Blue and its individually-named subsidiaries to “Virgin Australia”. Hulsbosch’s task was to do more than make a cosmetic change: Virgin management reckoned its old look could not promote its new business class and spiffed-up economy class without passengers thinking of the airline’s low-cost heritage.

Virgin Atlantic Maiden Voyager.jpgTo signal that change, the carrier centred its look on the asset that has associated Sir Richard Branson’s companies with service and quality: the Virgin brand. “The focus is very much on the name Virgin, very much, more so than ever before because that is the brand and it is one of the most powerful brands in the world,” Hulsbosch says.

“The key was to keep it really simple,” he says, acknowledging there are also cost benefits of a simpler scheme. “When I think of Virgin, I think white, pure, simple.” He forwent a modification of Virgin Atlantic’s new livery to instead draw inspiration from Virgin Atlantic’s first Boeing 747-200, painted white with a red cheatline and a conspicuous large white Virgin logo on a red empennage.

VH-XFB SYD.JPGHulsbosch created what is possibly the first airline livery crescendo. “The red shape starts to build,” he says looking at the newly-liveried Airbus A330-200 a hundred metres in front of him. “I’m looking at a plain stripe on the engine that gives it a sporty kind of feel, but then it goes to the wingtip where there’s more colour, then it ends up on the tail.”

And what a tail it is: the Virgin logo stretched vertically for the first time in the Group’s history. “It doesn’t get any bigger,” Hulsbosch laughs.

“I wanted it to be seriously bulgy. We needed to make a real statement. Tell the world we’ve changed.”

Indeed, the only lingering in Virgin Australia’s new fast-paced advertisement is at the 53 second mark where there is a closeup of an A330 tail emblazoned with “Virgin”.

Virg Aus Flying Lady szd.JPGThe Flying Lady also received a makeover. Gone is the skimpy beach outfit in favour of what Hulsbosch terms a more “sophisticated”, one colour emblem. “If I were to stick the old Flying Lady on, it would jar like you wouldn’t believe,” he says. “It is still the basic concept Richard Branson had in the early days: absolutely purity.”

Hulsbosch brought continuity to the Group by using Virgin Atlantic’s typeface. “It is about the time the brands align somewhat but not totally. Each one can still have its unique details.” Instead of Virgin Atlantic’s large, billboard titles Hulsbosch opted for smaller ones, saying, “The focus was right on Virgin. Everything else plays a smaller role in the overall design.”

Last week’s unveiling with Virgin Australia chief executive John Borghetti, Branson, and the media was the first time Hulsbosch had seen his work. “It’s frightening,” he jokes. “When you see it for the first time in 3D, in real size, in real time you think right. Okay. The baby is born.”

The unveiling capped the year and a half Hulsbosch said he had “from word to go” to execute the project, a curious timeline since Borghetti had been in office for less than a year and Virgin announced Hulsbosch’s appointment only last September.

Joining Virgin was a change to his last airline gig: updating Qantas’ logo. But Hulsbosch handles the irony diplomatically. “They’re two different brands. One is a national brand. One is a global brand,” he says.

Does he have a favourite?

“I do currently.”

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2 Responses to Interview with Virgin Australia’s livery designer

  1. cowboy May 13, 2011 at 4:07 pm #

    I dont like the Livery, looks like its been created in word…sorry

  2. Barry Muller May 14, 2011 at 1:00 am #

    A boring uninspired livery. Nice try, but it’s lacking and to my eye looks uncomplete.

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