last month i flew to toronto for the interior design show and got to hop a ride on porter airlines. when i mentioned flying to toronto everyone said, “ooh! are you flying porter?” and proceeded to tell me how cool and well-designed the entire airline was, from the stewardess uniforms to the boarding lounges. i didn’t really understand the hype because i was too busy being grouchy about the ride from brooklyn to newark airport, but when i got on the flight, i understood. this boutique canadian airline was the most well-designed airline i’d ever been on and seemingly every detail had been given a lot of thought (including their adorable lunch boxes and chic on-board magazine). so when i returned home i was thrilled to hear from neal whittington of present & correct, who played a big roll in the project! i couldn’t resist bending his ear about the airline’s design scheme and he was kind enough to do an interview with me about the process. i hope you’ll enjoy hearing about the design process behind the brand as much as i did- and at the very least i know you’ll enjoy neal’s raccoon mascot for porter- i can’t stop watching the little video of him running around town (it’s definitely worth watching, it’s painfully cute). thank you to neal for taking the time to speak with me!
CLICK HERE for the full interview after the jump and many, many more pictures from the porter design project..
D*S: Could you tell us your name, and a little bit about yourself and what you do?
Neal Whittington: My name is Neal Whittington and I run an online store Present & Correct from here in London. I’m an illustrator/graphic designer who sources and designs products for the shop but I also work on other fun freelance bits and pieces. I’m 29, I like stationery, jumpers and a good jumble sale.
NW: Before P&C I was a full time employee of Winkreative, Porter are one of their clients, and I was involved in the project right from the very start: pitching for the initial branding, developing the brandmark, plane livery and seeing it through to all of its many applications and of course creating the raccoon character and his numerous guises for the advertising of the airline. I still oversee the advertising campaigns which is a lot of fun.
D*S: American Airlines are known for less-than-forward thinking design (which the exception of some cute design from the now closed Song airline), why do you think this project really took off and was embraced Canada?
NW: I think because it has an almost old fashioned approach. The idea for a mascot was brilliant in that no one else was doing that, yet it was very evocative of airlines from the 50s and 60s. Flying was refined in those days, it was aspirational and full of glamor. Porter has a fun, warm feeling. The personality and willingness to be cheeky, but not tacky, has made it stand out. But also they provide a brilliant service at a time when a lot of airlines are scrimping and saving across the board. That kind of attention to detail isn’t missed these days and I think people really appreciate it.
D*S: What was the overall look and aesthetic vision for the porter project?
NW: A private jet that is for everyone, something reminiscent of the golden era of flying which has comfort , sophistication and personality. The porter tag line is ‘flying refined’ and I think that sums it up really well.
D*S: Could you breakdown the elements you designed and how you chose them and describe the creative process behind each (please touch on the color palette if possible)?
NW: I designed the brandmark, corporate palette and pattern, as well as the different in flight applications such as bottled water, the lunchbox, napkin. And of course the raccoon! Winkreative oversaw the interiors of the plane, right down to the seat leather, and also some elements of the lounge at Toronto city airport. They also design and publish the in-flight magazine Re:porter.
The color palette was chosen really early on, I guess the main thing was that we wanted it to feel smart and timeless. We decided against any loud accent colors but decided on a fairly conservative palette that would form a solid background to the fun elements and graphics that would sit alongside it.
All of the amenities were really fun to design, I love that kind of work. Having the raccoon eating the ‘p’ and ‘r’ of the logo on the lunchbox, or him snorkeling on the water bottle. It was a real luxury to work with a client who was open to that sense of fun and so for me it was super enjoyable. And these kinds of things will be refreshed every so often to keep the brand new and the passengers happy.
D*S: I love the little porter raccoon character- could you tell me more about him? He’s so friendly and welcoming, i wish more airlines had those sorts of mascots to keep you feeling happy.
TW: We wanted the mascot to add an element of fun to the brand without doing it directly with the mark or color palette. It harks back to retro airline design where characters were often used. The raccoon was an inspired decision, made by Tyler (Brule). They are smart, cheeky, determined creatures and everyone in Canada is familiar with them. It got people talking!
D*S: In terms of the design concept- were there any looks or styles you were trying to avoid or move away from? ie: wanting to stay away from primary colors, hard angles, etc.
NW: We didn’t want to use any maple leaves or red, that was stipulated right from the start. The main thing was to make it look friendly but smart. Not too hard edged and corporate looking, moving away from that to make it more personable.
D*S: What was your favorite component of the porter design project?
NW: The ongoing advertising campaign is a constant source of amusement because we put the raccoon in the silliest of situations and he has developed such a personality through them all. He might be an animal but there is something very human about him. His expression never changes no matter what he is doing, which makes him a little wry. Seeing the plane unveiled was also an amazing feeling.
D*S: How was the porter project (advertising, design, etc) received in canada?
NW: As far as I know it has been received very well, the airline is busy and getting great reviews. Apparently citizens of Toronto often ask porter what the raccoon will get up to next, and how much they like seeing him in the paper. So that’s lovely to hear. Illustrated advertising stands out against the other regional airlines and the in-flight items often accompany people home, which is a great compliment because we wanted them to be covetable!
D*S: Do you fly porter? And if so, how cute are those little hats the stewardesses wear?
NW: I have been on the plane but not flown in it! I have seen all of the stewardesses lined up in their uniforms though and they look great. It was like the scene in ‘Catch me if you Can‘. The pill box hats are so cool, I’d quite like one actually. Pink Tartan, a Toronto based label, designed the uniforms and got the look and feel spot on.
D*S: Porter is designed to serve Canada and the US- were there any stylistic differences or choices made to cater to either audience?
NW: No not at all, it was good to stick to what we were doing in Canada and then see that through into the U.S market. Then the brand is consistent and seamless wherever you may be traveling to or from. Also the experience that porter provides will draw people to it and they will get it and be appreciative, regardless of where they are.
D*S: What was the most challenging aspect of the project?
NW: It was really hard to imagine graphics on a plane! that was a bit alien to me. Thinking in that kind of scale threw me but it worked out ok in the end, I had lots of professional airline chaps to help me.
D*S: What was the most fun or your favorite part of the project.
NW: The advertising is fun because its ongoing and we always have to come up with something new and witty. I do love the lunchbox too.
D*S: Lastly- where can we see more of your work?
NW: P&C is always being updated with new cards or prints that I do, and there will be some new notebooks soon and other fun stuff and I just finished illustrating a book which is out later this year. I love doing the shop so much, and of course there are ongoing porter campaigns. I have just finished some new ads which will be in Toronto papers soon. The raccoon is a little saucy in one of them so I hope people like his new, racy ways.
Thank you, Neal!