Lufthansa’s brand identity change 2018, the reason they’ll never tell you why they dumped the yellow

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The yellow as originally conceived by Otl Aicher in 1963 has finally vanished from Lufthansa’s livery and will also slowly but inevitably go from its overall corporate look. From Airports to uniforms, magazines to apps, you can say goodbye to the yellow.

You can largely ignore everything Lufthansa will tell you about what the new livery without the yellow truly symbolises, most of it is hype and PR speak and has next to no validity for ordinary passengers.

With 100 years coming up and the controversial 5 Star airline award for a business seat that won’t even be in use until 2020, Lufthansa felt they wanted to move on.

Lufthansa have fans. What airline doesn’t? Lufthansa have fans who are not you’re every day. They have design fans, people who love simplicity, directness, efficiency, standards and reliability, continuity, minimalism and yes, to be fair, people who don’t want to fly on Ryan Air, or Eurowings or easyJet – indeed they’d rather walk than use any of them.

The word that most Lufthansa fans use – especially frequent flyers on Lufthansa – and I’m one of them, regularly racking up around 40 flights a year, often more, is consistency. Wherever you are the service, the lounge, the seating, the facilities, they are, almost alarmingly consistent, and not just at branding level. Every stick of furniture, every coffee machine, the types of fruit and cereal in the business lounge, the sofas, the floor tiles, nothing escapes them.

Lufthansa has a reputation amongst detail freaks (again I accept the charge), for being absolutely on point no matter where you are.

The elegance of the blue and yellow tail, the simple, but bright white, the timeless font, the light, contrasting greys, it’s all ageless. There seems to be no reason to stop using it.

And there wasn’t, if it had only been an aircraft livery.  The first reason the livery and corporate looked changed was that branding has gotten too out of hand. It has, inevitably in the 21st century, been forced to diversify away from the original print on paper formats. The yellow has to adapt to screen settings – no two ever the same, internet pages, app covers, – and Lufthansa has several, some using blue on yellow, some black on yellow, some white on blue, it was all getting fractured.

The company is not what it once was either, it’s now a mega-airline and a vast, sprawling company spanning the globe with a list of subsidiaries that are as long as your arm, and that’s not including the subsidiary airlines.

In more ways than one, the only way to bring that branding back in line was to do what it didn’t really want to do – start again. What better time to do it than near the airlines 100th birthday.

And yet there is another reason. There is a core of elitist thinking about Lufthansa’s current branding that the company isn’t happy about. Over many years, the writings of people like Tyler Bruleé – whose obsession with Lufthansa is legendary, have made the yellow the precise opposite of what it was originally intended to achieve. It was all about inclusion, warmth, openness. It became synonymous with exclusivity, privilege and distance.

Ironically the Eurowings brand has helped the process along, emphasising further the distance Lufthansa can at times appear to create between its branding and why its customers fly on it. Most just want to go from A to B, sometimes via Z. For some its much more than that. The Hon Circle and Senator card holders are fastidious about their hard-won privileges, for them the top-tier of Lufthansa must not and cannot be diluted.

Lufthansa felt it had drifted too far from the majority of its fliers, its branding fractured across a myriad of on-line and physical formats, the time had come to simplify, to seem less elitist and golden and more day-to-day and down to earth. Enter the silver/white. Enter a new brand identity.