With an order for 12 Airbus A320s in place, it was a good time for South African Airways (SAA) to look to introduce greater fleet consistency – and a new look. While many airlines rely on industry suppliers, the purchase of the new narrow body aircraft gave SAA an opportunity to build a brand platform with a distinct look and feel for their aircraft cabins.
To that end, they turned to London based, PriestmanGoode, a design consultancy. The studio worked in collaboration with The Brand Union, Johannesburg, South Africa, a global branding consultancy, to develop a new brand identity and experience for the leading African airline.
The Brand Union created a brief to explain and explore the characteristics of South Africa, its people, landscape, lifestyle and culture, which was essential local reference on which to shape the future.
The brief was to create an interior language to represent South African Airways as a national and continental carrier, symbolizing Africa. Guidelines specified that 80% of the look should be inspired by contemporary South African culture and the remaining 20% from the wider African continent.
According to Luke Hawes, director at PriestmanGoode:
A well-proportioned colour palette of gold and anthracite with lively details was selected. Inspired by the country’s people and wealth of history, the palette contrasts the dark anthracite of contemporary South African architecture and cityscapes with the rich saturated golden tones of winter sun and earthen landscapes.
Highlight colours such as burnt red and blues signify the ethnic colour burst of civilisation within the landscape. This offers vibrant, yet subtle notes of colour in the cabin through reveal details, brand panels, and feature stitching. Pattern was central to the materials and finishes across the interiors. Inspiration was taken from traditional African crafts, textiles, basket weaving and furniture.
Highlight colors such as burnt red and blues signify the ethnic color burst of civilization within the landscape. This offers vibrant, yet subtle notes of color in the cabin through reveal details, brand panels, and feature stitching.
This particular design was about applying an identity to surfaces, and three key patterns were identified: geometric woven diamond, geometric linear weaves and ribbed herringbone. These patterns were developed by PriestmanGoode and The Brand Union for application throughout the cabin, leading to a truly unique and standout product.
The new look is one of sophisticated elegance with colour, pattern, and material highlights, and puts South African Airways in a position to compete with the world’s most stylish airlines.
The timeless interior displays confidence and comfort. Its design reflects the nation, which will appeal both at home and globally, and offers great commitment to the passenger experience.
The new brand identity and cabin interiors are currently being rolled out across South African Airways’ fleet of new Airbus A320 aircraft. The design and brand foundations are in place for the airline to translate the design to other aircraft types in the fleet and extend the look to ground services.
All images © and courtesy of PriestmanGoode.