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JAL’s crane logo resurrected

Not the first time we’ve seen organisations revert to previous logos, but at least Japan Airlines stood by their redesign for longer than a few minutes.

JAL logo

“This month JAL announced that it will go back to the original red crown crane logo that it had used for more than 40 years, beginning in 1959. In Japanese culture, the crane is viewed as a symbol of long life, prosperity and good health, and red is the color of happiness. That’s why for weddings, anniversaries and other auspicious occasions, the custom is to decorate with a thousand origami cranes to express good wishes.”

Via JAL Crane Logo Flies Again, on @issue

Sure, there are a lot of birds in airline logos, but the crane holds particularly appropriate symbolism for the Japanese company, so it gets my vote.

JAL logo
Previously-used crane logo, image courtesy of FrequentFlyer

The logo will be introduced from April 1st (I kid you not), and will gradually be phased in over the next few year.

“Still, with Messrs. Inamori and Onishi conceding on Wednesday that they may not be able to raise another much-needed $608 million (50 billion yen) in fresh capital by the end of this fiscal year, as originally planned, it should perhaps be noted that if they do succeed in turning the troubled carrier around, perhaps a phoenix would have made for a more suitable logo than a crane.”

Quoted from the Wall Street Journal

More here: JAL unveils revamped crane logo, on Business Traveller.

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38 appreciated comments

  1. Makes you wonder why they changed it. Infact it makes you wonder if changing your identity has any value whatsoever. Perhaps the branding isn’t the problem? Perhaps the brand is? Or the user experience? Design can hep in many ways, but all too often the branding is changed and nothing else is. A bit like BP, and look what happened to them.

  2. I reckon the “new directors, new identity” projects keep a lot of designers in business, Lee.

  3. Lai

    I like the big red circle on its tail more.

  4. Kevin Foley

    I like the idea of them going back to the crane, but the new livery design as a whole is just too bland.
    The over-simplistic “Japan Airlines” logotype just doesn’t have any personality.
    I think they should have brought back the 80′s / 90′s era logotype as well.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:DC10-40_JapanAirLine_JA8549(20010728KIX).jpg

  5. AL

    That version on the picture is much better (typography and bird’s head).

  6. Are we sure this is not an April fools??

    The original logo gets my vote. The redesign is awful to say the least, it seems almost meaningless.

  7. jp

    I’m always left scratching my head when redesigns go from something so expressive and meaningful, to something that seems drab (second logo). The Crane and the letter-form stand out and have cultural significance…it shouldn’t have been changed anyway.

  8. I like the revert. And it makes me wonder if going back to ‘the old logo’ will become a corporate fad.

    When Pepsi re-branded within a month, ads were running promoting their ‘throw-back’ can designs. Brand confusion at its best.

  9. I fell in love with the vintage JAL iconography a few years back and recently created a faux-airline collection of handbags, and even some Fine Art that harkens back to the good old days of JAL.

    http://www.majestysecret.com/updates/2011/1/20/art-imitates-life-japan-airlines-brings-back-crane-logo.html

    The new logo is not an improvement over the old. It seems almost identical. But if this company wants to succeed once again, it should look to its old brand message of Japanese hospitality, the beauty of their culture, seeing their company spirit once again renewed. In trying to be like every other airline, they lost themselves much like the culture of Japan today.

    I agree that a Phoenix would have been a better, more evolved choice. Perhaps I need to design it as the next interpretation of what could be for JAL (or maybe they’ll call on me to do it).

  10. Don’t fix what’s not broken.

  11. Michael Cousins

    [lee] + [kaishin] You hit the nail on the head. But on the flip side it does contribute to buisness for designers [David]

  12. I guess it comes down to whether you believe in the project or not. If you are briefed on something and you know it’s wrong, would you try to persuade the client to do what you believe is right, even if it’s not what it briefed? Do clients always know what the real problem is? How can you do this without looking like an ‘arrogant designer’?

    I’d be interested to see the responses to this.

  13. Agreed. Original logo = win

    On a different note, I wonder if the city of Phoenix was inspired by the original crane logo. They’re quite similar. I was about to cry fowl (pun intended) on the “new” JAL logo as copycat before I realized it was actually the original and has been around much longer than the city logo.
    http://phoenix.gov/index.html

  14. Kevin Muldoon

    I like the revert as well, but the designers really missed out on a opportunity to clean up the lines and truly bring it into the modern age. The off centered, reversed out type should have been ditched entirely. Too bad really.

  15. Rob

    I agree with the other posters here who preferred the original (first Crane design). The type in the newest versions seems clunky and awkwardly placed. I’m thinking it might be nice to separate it from the crane altogether and let the two elements breathe, apart. It looks kind of crowded and crammed the way they have it now.
    On a side note, I can think of many, many other companies who would be doing well to follow this lead and ditch their present logos and go back to the superior classics.

  16. I can see why they went back, I think the re-design looks a bit standard and dated now, whereas the old logo doesn’t look as though it could be used for years to come. It has great unity about it. Perhaps moving the JAL out of the symbol and using a modern typeface would be a nice change though. The red works really well, it’s a good hue.

  17. ‘…the old logo DOES look as though it could be used for years to come.’

  18. I agree with the old logo being a whole lot better than the redesign. Wonder why they even redesigned without the bird. Seems like it wasn’t really thought through, they just went with a gradient-logo which probably was somewhat cool at the time it was made. How about just refining the old logo symbol a little bit instead?

  19. I can remember it changing and thought the new logo looked awful and meaningless. I’m glad it’s changing back.

    By the way, I’ve never been to a wedding here in Japan – or similar auspicious occasion – with a thousand origami cranes, either (including my own).

  20. MJ

    The old logo may not be very aesthetic, but it definitely works better than the new one, which is too random and not as specific. This experience portrays the danger of uplifting a logo without studying it well. A brand identity is vital and fatal, it should not be a playground for experimentation.

  21. Old is gold. They could have created a new one without changing the basics of the old one. That’s been the trend in many latest redesigning of famous logos..

  22. Obviously, a mistake from 2002 to 2011. If you have an icon that can stand the test of time (nike, coca-cola, etc), you’re very, very lucky… If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

  23. The original design has more of a long lasting impact. I’m glad they decided to switch back.

  24. Crane has more of a visual impact than 2002-2011 version, and given the symbolism you mentioned in the Japanese culture, a more fitting logo IMO.

  25. patrick james

    Wow. It took them 9 years to figure out that the redesigned logo sucked? Hey, better late than never. Thank goodness they wised up! :)

  26. I like that they have gone back to their original design.

    It’s more distinctive and original than the re-brand they stuck with for a few years – but, I think it needed modernising and refreshing a tad. Just a tad would have been really good.

  27. steve

    Hopefully United Airlines gets the hint and does the same as JAL and revive the Tulip.

  28. JAL’s old logo being resurrected is the way to go; so much clearer than 2002-2011 logo. It sometimes doesn’t pay to introduce new logo’s so different from the previous logo for the sake of just something new. Similarly BA’s 1997 logo change was for me, a far too big step. I can’t imagine Lufthansa deviating from their crane logo, or KLM changing its crown.

  29. Valerio

    The original JAL logo is timeless.

  30. Jan_A

    Beautiful decision – 2002/2011 was really crap!

  31. When I designed the Japan Airlines logo in 1958 I submitted it to the client sans the JAL lettering. However i was outvoted and the type was added. The Tsurumaru lasted for over 40 years before being replaced by a Landor design. Naturally i am very happy it is back. Oddly enough, Japan Airlines president announced the resurrection would occur as of my 84th birthday, April 1 2011.

  32. It would certainly be better without the JAL lettering. Sounds like a Howard Roark moment. Congrats Jerry! Great art is forever.

  33. Great story, Jerry. I’d love to hear more details — and anecdotes — about the process you went through when you developed the Tsurumaru. I’m also curious to know if you were working for (or with) Boeing and/or Teague at the time.

  34. I designed the Logo while I was creative director of Botsford, Constantine and Gardner, San Francisco, the agency that had the advertising account. I had discovered a samurai crest that was the inspiration for the new logo while working on the account. I didn’t work with any of the big designers like Teague or Landor or airplane manufacturers, like Douglas or Boeing, though the best use of JAL’s logo was on JAL’s new Boeing 747′s with that huge tail as display space.

  35. carlos

    Your diagram at the begining of this article is wrong. There was another JAL logo designed by Landor in the 80′s. Featuring Back Typeface and a red Square.

  36. Not only are the crane and the red color highly symbolic in Japanese culture, the round shape of the logo also cleverly incorporates the rising sun on the Japanese flag. Jerry, was that intentional? At any rate, from this Japan specialist-turned-graphic-designer, perfect. Congratulations on its return and on your birthday!

  37. Roberto

    The diagram is missing the first Landor design from the 90′s. Landor did the brand ID for JAL twice.

  38. JJ

    And not to be too graphic but does anyone else think the 2002 logo looks like a bloody samurai sword? It’s somehow simultaneously blandly corporate yet unnervingly aggressive to me.

    Totally resurrecting the comments after a year…


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