While growing up, we used to have a neighbour who worked for Nigeria Airways. I had no idea what her job entailed at the time, but I remember spending countless hours in her apartment browsing through beautiful souvenirs and merchandise she brought from work.
Everything was custom made, even the wrappers of chocolates which made us rush towards her every evening had Nigeria Airways logo on it. Because of these, we loved Nigeria Airways and always looked forward to the day we would fly in that airplane with a simple logo beautifully printed on its tail assembly — a logo that dates back to 1971.
However, my dream of flying with the airline was dashed in August, 2003, when the flag carrier suddenly ceased operations. Of course the signs were there and they left us wondering. The airline liquidated mostly due to mismanagement.
And then, the memories and experiences we shared while growing up was abruptly truncated as the airline ceased to exist. There was nothing else to look up to. No green stripe in the blue sky.
However, attempts were made by previous administrations to get another national carrier off the ground. But the efforts yielded no result because no one was ready to do the groundwork.
Virgin Atlantic stepped in and partnered with Nicon Group in 2004 to launch Virgin Nigeria, a national carrier which aimed to cater for Nigerians who still desire to see their country’s name flying up in the sky again. It soared for a few years and then plunged into political and administrative mess.
Again, all the funds invested into operations and branding were wasted. It was more of a colossal damage to our reputation. It almost seemed like we couldn’t get anything right.
At some point, Virgin had to withdraw from the partnership and sell off its stake in the company to safe the Virgin brand from going down. Two years later, it all came crashing down.
And then the question popped in my head: how do you fly without adequately preparing for take off?
Of course there are many factors responsible to help get a plane off the ground; thanks to physics, science, technology etc. But one thing we can’t easily dismiss or overlook is the indispensable power of design.
Design is everything. Everything needs design. And everyone knows that except some policy makers in Nigeria.
Any company that kicks off without paying adequate attention to design is already designed to fail.
As Nigerians, we always try to avoid doing the groundwork. We love to cut corners and by so doing, we end up having square pegs in round holes.
A country that boasts of some of the most resourceful and creative young people in world couldn’t even come up with an identity that tells a story about them. We have a story to share with the world, and having a national carrier is most likely the only way to write our stories up in the sky where everyone can see it.
If our national symbol is the image of an eagle, then we must learn to optimize it by creating a catchy, detailed, vectorised version of it; one that depicts our essence and tells our national story through a glance.
An eagle has many characteristics that we can leverage on. We can conveniently choose one of these and tell our story around it. For example, we could choose the sharp sight of an eagle to depict a national carrier that is focused on getting you to your destination safely.
We could as well decide to go with the amazing height at which eagles soar and carve an inspiring vision that makes investors want to join us on our journey.
How about the amazing speed of an eagle? We could create an intriguing story around speed which tells the world we are no slouch when it comes to delivery.
We could also ride on the strength of an eagle and share amazing stories about our resilience as a people in the face of struggles and how we fly above them at the end of the day.
The aspects we could tap into are endless. And each of these characteristics presents us with a uniquely different idea for logo. Using just an eagle, we could have fifty excellent identities to choose from, all telling different fascinating stories.
Beyond telling amazing stories, a functional design works perfectly well at every touch point. I’m trying to imagine the Nigeria Air identity on communication materials.
Now, let’s talk about the slogan.
While South African Airways brings the world to Africa and takes Africa to the world, Nigeria Air hopes to bring Nigeria closer to the world. Sounds more like we live in a cave, which contradicts our position as the giant of Africa.
The tagline is condescending. It gives South Africa Airways an advantage and thus, makes it a better option. It limits us. It says a lot about our capability and how we choose to define of ourselves. “Bringing Nigeria closer to the world”literally means more than half the people (about 100 million people) are yet to see much of the world. It portrays us as an obscured nation — like we don’t know what the heck is happening around the globe.
And if Nigeria is truly a cave, why are we not thinking beyond Nigeria? Sadly, the mission and vision statement of Nigeria Air is right in the soul of its slogan.
The mission is to take us out of the cave and the vision is to play small while at it.
A company that wants to achieve greatness and make visible impact will come up with slogans that inspire the people and make them aspire to attain lofty heights.
This is why you need professionals who understand brand architecture to lay the foundations and dig deep into a brand’s personality to coin the right words that best describe what the brand stands for.
A strategic design is not one that changes every three years. It is strategic because it can work and stand the test of time. If we put in work and hire the right people, a design could be all we need to change the world view of our nation.