On September 1st, 1972, The British Airways Group was established. This was followed in March 1974 with the dissolving of BOAC and BEA, and the formation of British Airways.

Concorde poster 1980s
Concorde poster, 1980s, via carters.com.au
British Airways helicopter Vertol 234
British Airways helicopter Vertol 234
British Airways logo 1973-1982
British Airways logo from 1973-1982

When the airline was first launched, it did so with a wordmark that showed ‘British’ in title case, and ‘airways’ in lower case. It wasn’t a good look. The stacked version in particular was more befitting of a budget airline, and the removal of the dot above the ‘i’ in airways added to the low quality feel.

British Airways livery 1979
British Airways livery in 1979

BA livery 1979

British Airways logo 1984
British Airways logo from 1982-1997

The 1982 logo was a huge step in the right direction, identifying the airline as a much more premium brand than before.

British Airways poster Concorde
Concorde and (likely) QE2, 1985, via gallelrie123.com
British Airways Boeing 737
British Airways Boeing 737-236
British Airways logo 1997 to present
British Airways logo from 1997-present

Designed by Newell & Sorell, 1997 (since merged with Interbrand).

“The BA ribbon is a distant echo of the Speedbird symbol first used by Imperial Airways in 1932 and then by BOAC.”

Quoted from Logo, by Michael Evamy.

BA logo jumbo jet
Photo via thedrum.com

British Airways brand guidelines

British Airways brand guidelines
British Airways brand guidelines

Here’s a downloadable PDF of the comprehensive British Airways brand guidelines (from 2007). For documents from other brands, here’s an archived collection of identity style guides you might like.


The BA 1972 version was really bad, makes you really see the real value of the Vignelli American Airlines identity from 1968 which has only just been replaced.

Spend wisely = update less often = saving money.

I’m sure there was a time – during the first ID – when “airways” was written in an outline typeface, so that at any distance it disappeared. I recall a German employee of mine mocking “British” as the most misguided brand an airline could have at that time …

To be fair I think half of the Vignelli design’s problem was that it hadn’t been touched since 1968. British Airways have done it the right way by going the iterative way. It means people internally and externally get morale boosts by a refresh.

I was watching the film ARGO the other day and the old 70s BA branding popped up in that.

There is something really nice about old school aviation branding that really fitted in with the glamour of air travel back in the day.

It’s as shame the luxury and romance has warn off with the likes of Ryanair and Easyjet.

Saw the film Argo as well, and the british airways logo just looked stunning right away, well not the word mark, but the tail fin livery (an abstract of the british flag) in it’s simplicity it blew me away! As said, I didn’t think much of the word mark, but if it was my call, I would do a redesign (the logo they use now is becoming a bit dated, they should shed the “chrome”, but that’s just my look on things) with a modern though timeless type font (say Akkurat) and the then used tail fin, flag icon! That would be a thing of beauty… really bold and refreshing!

The ribbon logo is indecisive. It takes off to the right in a positive deep blue and then turns around and heads left back to base in a hazard red. Very shoddy message. In the ’80’s the Union Jack was associated with the far right which meant a lot of companies dropped the flag as a symbol.

The newest mark is simple, elegant, and has a natural feel to the progression. A great rebrand of such an iconic company. I don’t think the dot over the ‘i’ in or out would have any influence – the 80s version looks like a bumper for a sitcom.

The development of this logo shows that sometimes a series of progressive changes works better than a complete overhaul. As designers sometimes we have an urge to move away completely from a previous concept when all that is needed is some careful tweaks and adjustments. Good Job.

The present “floating ribbon” logo is just what it is: Something floating aimlessly, without saying or representing any thing. It could be there or not there, does not making any difference to the image. What a weak turn from the previous design in 1979. A quarter union jack, which clearly said what it represented and said it most beautifully and strongly.

The 1984 landor logo with the crest made BA special and stood out as a classic, modern, British brand.

The current scheme looks like a cheap charter airline. It’s old and needs updating big time.

Margaret Thatcher hated the British Airways logo so much she called it terrible and took out a hankerchief and put it over the tail of the model airplane during its unveiling. The iron lady apparently thought that the British Union Jack should be the logo!

I worked on the BA rebrand at Newell and Sorrell and loved the thought and strategy behind a great, iconic British brand. Shame others didn’t see it that way! Let’s face it, Landor’s previous design was compared to a cigarette packet. Which would you rather?

BA is and was the first airline to embrace the world – maybe not the biggest airline, but as a world leading British brand flying the world we should all be proud of it.

If Maggie had known that, she’d have been baking union jack cakes instead of maligning a fantastic step into the future.

Maybe it was a little ahead of it’s time like Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, et al. But without that we’d be stuck in the 1800s.

I would love your comments on this.

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