Pan Am's World
The Pan Am logos of Charles Forberg, Edward Barnes & Ivan Chermayeff
In 1955 architect Edward Barnes was hired as a design consultant for Pan American Airways just as the company began to introduce commercial jets to the America market.
The half wing symbol, which was common to aviation, was replaced with a blue globe with fine curved lines of negative space intersecting it. This was a bold and modernist expression that avoided geographic representation, instead, favouring an abstract vision of a world without borders, fitting for the dawning of a new age of commercial aviation.
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An extended wordmark with dynamic serifs, alluding to speed and distance, was used alongside the logo. In 1957, the wordmark and globe were integrated into a single symbol.
Coinciding with the appointment of a new chairman in 1970, and the delivery on a large purchase of Boing 747’s, ordered in 1966, Pan Am embarked on a programme of further modernisation, appointing Ivan Chermayeff to review Pan Am’s corporate identity. This programme included a revised globe symbol based on the 1955 version, but converted to outlines, set vertically or horizontally aligned with a new wordmark set in Helvetica.
As part of a massive marketing drive, under the direction of Pan Am’s head of sales and promotion, Chermayeff & Geismar produced promotional works as well as campaign materials that included travel agent posters. Surprisingly, these used stock rather than commissioned photographs, however, as single images, made “a simple statement about some part of the world” and this was then used as a straightforward message alongside the Pan Am logo and corporate typeface in different configurations. The strapline “Pan Am’s World” united the campaign of diverse global images, driving it away from the corporate and towards conveying a sense of adventure. Although stock images, the idea and its execution, ultimately delivered a powerful and pioneering campaign at the time.
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The new corporate identity didn’t last long. Patrick Friesner described the new work as being an imposition by senior staff rather than as a liberating vision for the future that would help Pan Am through a tough financial period. Ultimately, in 1973 as the pressure of a global oil crisis took hold, Pam Am returned to a previous iteration of its corporate identity, reintroducing the dynamic wordmark, and using this until its bankruptcy in 1991.
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