Toronto Pearson International Airport is one of the largest and busiest airports in North America, handling over 31 million passengers and 419,044 aircraft movements in 2010. This past Tuesday, Toronto Pearson International Airport unveiled a new identity.

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“The logo’s multiple, vibrant colours represent the cultural diversity of Toronto and the world we provide access to. Together, the lines create a human figure that is embracing and reaching out to the world,” says Pamela Griffith-Jones. “[The new slogan] ‘For You. The World’ puts our customers at the centre of it all, conveying our commitment to being the ultimate host while reminding them of our global reach,” said Pamela Griffith-Jones, Chief of Marketing and Commercial Officer for the GTAA.

The heart of the re-branding strategy was aimed at making the airport North America’s largest international hub. Designed by Toronto-based agency, Ove Design and Communications, the logo is a drastic – and well-needed – departure from their old identity.

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“We’re realistic that people don’t fly to Toronto to hang out at our airport. But the reality is that, because of the increased security requirements over the years, people do have more ‘dwell time’ at airports than they have in the past,” said Griffith-Jones. “We want to make sure that when people may have a couple hours on their hands, we’re doing everything we can to welcome them an serve them and give them different things to do.”

The unveiling of the new identity sparked some less than supportive comments both nationally and globally. General audience consensus is that the logo resembles a CSI chalk outline, and looks very similar to the Frankfurt Airport identity.

pearson-chalk-frankfurtIn spite of the feedback, the logo is perhaps one of the friendliest and most memorable airport identities out there at the moment… However, it is interesting to note that although “the new website will serve as a platform for future mobile services,” the website has yet to be optimized for mobile.

This isn’t the first time that viewers and customers have disapproved of a re-branding effort… The Gap and Tropicana immediately come to mind. But crumbling under criticism and reverting back to the old isn’t always the best solution either. In spite of all the negative feedback on the Pearson Airport identity, no one can deny that the logo is a drastic departure and a significant improvement on the old logo. The new logo is colourful and friendly, and coupled with the collateral, breathes life and vibrancy into the airport.

So how do you create a design and/or system that will resonate positively with your audience? Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Know your Customers
Customer and consumer emotions are a powerful thing. Coupled with social media, emotional customer opinions have toppled designs, such as in the case of The Gap, Tropicana, Starbucks and OCADU. Tap into the emotional reasons that people connect with (or do not connect with) your brand and use this insight to leverage your brand experience. Keep in mind the context of the product, as well. How will customers be consuming your product? How will they be interacting with it? What are their priorities, goals or motivations? Where does it happen?

Know the Business & How it Works
Understand the organization you are designing for and why they exist. What is the purpose, goals, motivations, priorities and market needs? Why is the organization or product important to the customer?

Know the Competitive Domain
With so many other similar companies and products in the market, it’s necessary to learn about the space you are working in. Take the time to undertake research and find out who are your top competitors are, what they look like, how they position themselves, what they offer, and how they offer it. Through this process, it becomes easier to identify what makes your organization or product unique to the competition. Use your newfound knowledge to focus on the ‘uniqueness’ of your organization or product, leverage your brand experience, and inform your design process and decisions.

Detach Yourself
Often designers and strategist run the risk of becoming caught up with ideas or becoming too close to the design, and as a result, lose sight of customer needs. In the case of Tropicana, the symbolic ideas behind the redesign overshadowed the context of the product: busy grocery shoppers scanning aisles to find what they want in order to get in and out of the store as quickly as possible. It is important to recognize when you are becoming to close to a design, and take a moment to stand back and evaluate it critically.

pearson-sitePearson Airport’s new logo and website are the first steps in a long-term strategy developed by design and advertising agency, Juniper Park, entitled, “Make the Invisible Visible.” The plan highlights changes at Pearson Airport, which will includes a roll-out of new shops, services and travel amenities.

“Our philosophy is that when you come through our airport, whatever’s going on in the city, you should have some sense of that in our airport,” said Griffith-Jones.


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