Braniff and the End of the Plain Plane

Concorde

Braniff Concorde

Among the more than 500,000 items in our Transportation Library, we hold a number of timetables, annual reports and other ephemera from U.S. carrier Braniff International Airways. Of particular interest are materials from an interesting moment in design history meant to usher in the “end of the plain plane.”

Under Mary Wells Lawrence, a team that included Alexander Girard and Emilio Pucci created a total brand redesign for Braniff in the 1960s, incorporating the exuberant colors and patterns of the era to create a look that exemplified the golden age of air travel.

In 1964, Wells was a senior associate with Jack Tinker & Partners when the firm was brought on board by Braniff to create a brand identity for the airline. In 1966, she branched off on her own, a founding partner in the agency Wells, Rich, Greene, and when the firm went public in 1968, she became the first female CEO of a company traded on the New York Stock Exchange. She was the creative force behind campaigns that are still iconic some fifty years later: she was responsible for Alka Seltzer’s “Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz” and “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing,” Bic’s “Flick Your Bic,” Sure Deodorant’s “Raise Your Hand if You’re Sure,” “I [Heart] New York,” and “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk.”

 

Designer and architect Alexander Girard was responsible for the design of over 17,000 elements for Braniff including the creation of a new typeface, seen in the 1965 annual report and 1967 timetable shown here. The typeface was employed across Braniff’s operations, on everything from airplane livery to timetables, matchbooks, and serving pieces.

1967 Timetable 1965 Annual Report

 

Under Lawrence, bold swathes of color covered the airline’s fleet with a palette chosen by Girard–first soft pastels, then bright primaries.

1971 Annual Report - The End of the Plane Plane

 

Girard was well-known as a designer of textiles–he was the head of Herman Miller’s textile division from 1952 until 1973–and this was thoroughly incorporated into plane interiors and textiles, which featured everything from plane seats upholstered in Girard fabrics to in-flight blankets of Girard’s design..

 

Interior

 

Lawrence hired Emilio Pucci to design uniforms for flight and ground crews. His first line for Braniff debuted in 1965 and was appropriately called “Gemini 4”–uniforms included “space bubble” helmets

 

Jet Engine
  • Space Bubble

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…Lawrence then created the “Air Strip” campaign, in which flight attendants slowly ditched their Pucci uniforms and slipped into something more comfortable, mid-flight.

 

Braniff Air Strip

 

In the 1970s, this time working with the Gordon and Scott advertising agency, Braniff commissioned artist Alexander Calder to design what would be the world’s largest flying artwork: a series of aircraft liveries that included the Spirit of the United States, shown below, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the United States in 1976.

calder

 

 

Read More 

A big life in advertising / Mary Wells Lawrence.

Emilio : Pucci fashion story / Vanessa Friedman, Alessandra Arezzi Boza

Calder; an autobiography with pictures.

Braniff’s first 50 years, 1928-1978.

Airways Classics: Braniff

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Braniff Airways Foundation