ClarkHuot explores Hawaiian culture with new branding and identity for Island Air

Case Study by Diego Casco RGD, Managing Director at ClarkHuot

After working on the recent rebrand of one of Canada's newest international airports, ClarkHuot was asked to bring its expertise and knowledge in the transport and aviation category to revitalize Hawaii's local airline, Island Air.



We were asked to help design, plan and orchestrate a complete rebrand of the airline in preparation for its sale. ClarkHuot worked with the client to develop a fresh, new brand that would eventually translate into a vast universe of design vocabulary, storytelling and consumer advertising.




Our approach to research in the initial phases relied heavily on visual benchmarking and research decks. Each deck consisted of hundreds of pages filled with images arranged into many different themes, including  historical, cultural, and industry-specific angles. We examined countless images, fonts, and graphic elements to gain an understanding of the rich visual history of the islands and the Hawaiian people.


To ensure that our team was on the right track, we engaged the client with simple visual tools that helped steer the project's outcome as well as build consensus and dialogue. Extensive research was used to develop a comprehensive design vocabulary based on thematic storytelling, visual benchmarking and graphic experimentation. This research and exploration helped us to create a strong brand identity and a carefully-positioned creative platform that represented the true Hawaiian spirit.



Design Issues

Ensuring that the brand communicated the Hawaiian spirit was vital to the project. In addition to the local community, it was also crucial that the brand appeal to visitors to Hawaii. ClarkHuot was able to develop a brand identity and design that spoke to both these markets by conducting thorough research, working closely with the client and local stakeholders and immersing ourselves in the unique culture of Hawaii. The ClarkHuot team had to work both backwards and forwards, thinking about Hawaiian culture and history while expanding the brand vision of where the airline could go.



Shortly after the completion of the rebranding of Island Air, the airline was successfully sold to Larry Ellison. With its strong, new brand identity, the company was well prepared to relaunch to the Hawaiian community and the world.



Designer Takeaways

  1. The airline industry is a 24/7 business that demands stamina and focus as well as a deep understanding of how to promote and sell seats on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Working on an intensive rebrand and ad campaign schedule at a distance required a lot of travel. To build trust and rapport with the client, our team had to be ready to travel on very short notice, flying between 9 to 11 hours each way.
  2. Cultural significance and impact also became a crucial factor in the strategy and positioning of the brand. A depth of knowledge and a strong grasp of local customs and historical traditions were required to conceive both promotional and brand initiatives.
  3. Finally, don't expect to see the beach when you travel on assignment; there is very little time for play as the teams are kept extremely busy with a very full agenda of activities, ranging from client and vendor meetings to location scouting and shooting!

Client Takeaways

  1. Creating an identity is a collaborative process - it makes a big difference when clients have staff who are enthusiastic about the project and willing to get involved. Spending a significant amount of time working with the people of Island Air helped us understand their company, the community, and Hawaiian culture. Being embraced into the Island Air family really helped us to create a brand that spoke to both internal and external stakeholders.
  2. Establishing clear objectives and expected outcomes for the project helps guide the results. In this case, the client's well-defined goals helped successfully position the airline for its next phase.




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