January 14, 2019
So much of what we do as an airline is influenced by design. From our seat fabrics to our livery font, our distinctive identity helps define us a brand – especially with new competitors always hot on our heels.
So how do we keep one step ahead? We’re always searching for the next big idea, and we always have an eye on what young designers are coming up with. One way we do this is by submitting a brief to the D&AD New Blood awards, a prestigious design competition for young talent aged between 18 and 24.
Judging the entries is our own head of creative and design, Michael Stephens, who joined us a year ago from the world of fashion publishing and retail. Michael has worked with brands including Liberty, Ted Baker and i-D Magazine, and his new role involves leading our in-house creative department and guiding external creative agencies. We caught up with him to find out more about the New Blood awards and why they are so important.
What have you been working on since you joined?
I’ve primarily been working on our brand refresh which launched in September 2018 with the new TV advert and advertising campaign. We’ve then been rolling the new identity out across all our owned channels. There’s also been the other big commercial projects such as our new credit card and reimagining economy campaign.
How do you see the airline brand evolving?
As an airline, we’ve always been bold with our brand decisions. Our marketing, PR and the emphasis we put on design really sets us apart from other airlines. What we focus on is a differentiator in terms of product and service. So from a brand perspective, we need to focus on that and make sure we communicate to our customers and highlight the people that are delivering that service. We’ve always been a glam airline so having a more fashion aesthetic works really well for us in terms of photography.
Talk us through how the new ‘pink’ creative evolved
Red is always going to be our hero colour. Virgin is synonymous with red. But we noticed red being used more and more with other airlines, especially in sale focused areas. So we set about creating a background that would really make the pink pop. Pink might not be the first colour you’d think of to make red stand out, but it really works. It has resonated with both our business and leisure customers and made them smile, which we always like to do. It seems to appeal to all ages too. Of course, this doesn’t mean everything’s going to be pink from now on. We are already looking at how we stand out in the market going forward in a way that is constantly evolving.
What are the biggest design influences in your life, what shapes your thinking?
For me, I’ve always looked at fashion and magazines for inspiration. I have always loved to travel too but now it’s amazing to have it as part of my professional life too. When I travel I’m always looking at the architecture and local culture. Our customers are based all around the world so it’s important to have those global references.
Tell us about the D&AD new blood awards
D&AD is a global awards show and educational charity that highlights and rewards excellence in design and advertising around the world. New Blood lets global brands like us set creative briefs which are then taken on by young designers from around the world. It’s the UK’s biggest show of its kind, and it attracts thousands of entries from right across the globe. We’re all looking to find the next creative superstars. They download brief from different brands and then present their ideas based on the brief. I’m incredibly excited about what they’re going to create.
What’s our brief?
We have sponsored a creative brief to attract young talent who can offer fresh thinking to specific projects. One thing we want to do more of is combine the superior flying experience of Virgin Atlantic with the bespoke hotels of Virgin Holidays to give our customers simplicity, reliability and a fantastic experience. This is about an attitude, not a demographic for people who understand that time is the new money and experience the new wealth. The brief offers a good breadth of thinking. Even if we don’t go with someone’s idea, they could still win because we admire their creative thinking process.
What advice would you give young designers just setting out in the world?
Get recognition and winning a D&AD big pencil award is a great place to start.
What are you currently fascinated by?
For me its 4d animation of the sort you see in the cinema. Using beautifully created CGI is a great option when getting time on a real aircraft is difficult and expensive.
What’s your motto?
Have fun no matter what.
You can find out more about the D&AD awards and download your brief pack on their website