Thursday, April 7, 2011

United Continental: Handshaking Planes

A couple days ago, the above image was posted to Quipsologies as a point of interest for those monitoring the tragic, slow-motion, mid-air collision between the United Airlines and Continental brands.

At first blush, these handshaking tail-sections have a degree of cleverness and craftsmanship that has been all too absent from their brand merger thus far. But frankly, once the first impression faded, this graphic just pissed me off.

Firstly, handshake aside, the brands are literally opposing one another, not flying into the sunset together as you might hope from a congenial merger. Whether the gesture is friendly or not, this image essentially illustrates an actual collision between two planes. Who thought that was OK?

Secondly, the orientation of the planes requires the United “tulip” to be backwards. I get it. Their name is United, so it should go first. And granted—if you want to ignore that Pentagram redesigned United’s liveries about a decade ago (feeling sucker punched P’gram?)—the mark would be oriented this way on this side of the tail. But, when you consciously choose to have the death rattle expression of Saul Bass’s iconic logo be backwards, those well-manicured hands might as well be slapping you in the face.

Lastly, I’ll just say this, rarely am I given the opportunity to identify a Pr*tty and Sh*tty thing in the same design, much less one so small and simple. The United logo is sublime. The Continental logo is an ugly piece of shit. Why mince words? It is, quite simply, one of the most banal, poorly executed, heinous airline logos ever. And I am embarrassed for everyone involved in the decision to keep it in favor of the tulip mark. Or in favor of something altogether new.

Now there’s a novel thought: design in lieu of reckless mashup.


  1. Handshakes, light bulbs, and the planet earth (amongst other things) used in any kind of visual communication is bleh. Its lazy solutions like these that make things uninteresting.

  2. Don't forget that they are shaking with the wrong hands...

  3. good observation dave. totally agree with you!