At First Sight: A Child’s Infatuation with Airline Branding
Diego Lopez RGD, VP of Marketing & Creative Director at Compass Creative, takes us on a journey back to his childhood in Mexico when he collected bits and pieces of the "airline experience" with his Abuelo.
In the '90s, it felt like most children my age spent their days kicking a ragged soccer ball on the asphalt patios of our high-walled school. When children weren't playing “futbol”, they were hustling to complete their Panini World Cup sticker books or fantasizing about becoming the next Cuauhtemoc Blanco. See, in Mexico, futbol is more than a pastime. In Mexico, futbol is life.
Then there was me. A shy, petite boy with a lousy mushroom cut and no desire to run and chase the ball. No, no, no. My head was in the clouds, and my eyes fixed on Mexico City's amber skies — yearning to catch a glimpse of the majestic tail of the airplanes above us.
At a young age, I somehow developed an insatiable obsession with every aspect of commercial aviation. But, it wasn't just the miracle of flight that captured my heart: it was the carefully designed world within each airline. In retrospect, I was in love with aviation branding.
My Abuelo (grandpa, in Spanish) nurtured this infatuation — perhaps to a fault. With his help, I collected bits and pieces of the airline experience.
A trip to the mall came with a stop at the Mexicana Airlines travel agency to pick up the latest glossy edition of "Vuelo", their in-flight magazine. I'd also pick up flight itineraries…because, of course, every six-year-old needs to know where the airplanes above us are coming from or going to.
What to do on a Saturday morning while mom and dad were at work? A quick stop at the airport with my Abuelos. I needed to see the new tail designs, inspired by Mexico's colourful indigenous art. I also wanted to catch a glimpse of other airlines — Air France (I had a massive poster of an Air France Airbus beside my bed), American Airlines (shiny silver planes? Love it!), Lufthansa (Wow) and more.
Over the years, I collected cups, cutlery, toiletry kits, luggage tags, ticket stubs and other items. I obsessed over the details of every piece in my collection: the graphics, the texture of the materials and even the smell.
I covered my notebooks, sketchbooks and stacks of white bond paper with drawings of airplanes, airline logos, airport signage and imaginary airport layouts.
At the time, I didn't know much about who was in charge of designing or stewarding brands. I didn't even know the terms "branding" or "graphic design." What I did know was that I wanted to be part of shaping the experience.
My dream of working in the aviation industry did come true. I had the enormous privilege of working as a designer for Porter Airlines — and it was then that I finally got to see how an exceptional brand comes alive.
While at Porter, I designed airport lounge layouts, signage, digital ticket stubs, luggage tags and many other pieces like the ones I collected from other airlines when I was that petite boy with a lousy mushroom cut.
Today, I may not work for an airline, but I help businesses design, implement, steward and market extraordinary brands. And every time I look up at the sky and see an airliner fly by — I remember what sparked my initial passion for branding and design.
With experience in research, brand strategy, copywriting and marketing, Diego Lopez RGD has spent the last decade helping brands of all sizes (from Porter Airlines, Manulife, Costco to beloved local brands) find clarity and express authentically, so they can better connect with their audience.