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.
18 thoughts on “Why Nigeria Air Took Off Badly (Design Perspective)”
This is amazing. However I think they hired an advance agency for this project. An agency that prides themselves as professionals and they did their research. How come non of these your points occurred to them?
That’s one thing I’ve come to release about design. No matter how good you deliver, other artist will have better ideas of how it should have been done.
Thank you for your contribution, Solomon. I think it’s important to always have a critical review of any creative work that represents us a people.
A foreign agency, no matter how much research done may never know us more than we know ourselves. No one can tell your story better than you.
This is so 100% true. It’s a sad truth that the government keeps referring to Nigeria as a nation with lazy youths, yet time and again they fail to empower these youths. With all the wonderful Brand Agencies in Nigeria, they still gave this project abroad. Wouldn’t a Nigerian Agency communicate our Brand better. Wonderful posts. I love it.
Good point, Japhet. Thanks for your contribution.
You are welcome sir. Keep the posts coming. We love them.
I’m thinking, just thinking, if Nigerian designers organize a platform, design numerous logos with right perspective according to how it’s analyzed in this post, then get a means to make the government see them, flood their view with the right stuffs, that will be a kind of creatives protest, I prefer to show the right thing than to say the right thing.
Although I’m not a fan of creative contest but if there’s a need to protest a bad logo, then so be it. I think policy makers should know what they want. Before embarking on any design project, they should review portfolios of indigenous agencies and decide on who is capable to provide workable solutions. I totally agree with you, talk is cheap. We should learn to show the stuff we are made of by doing. Thanks, Gideon.
I’m so disappointed in the FG or whoever is responsible for branding Nigeria Air
We will get there.
I knew I was going to have a good read. Thanks for being apt and straight to the point. I’m sharing right away.
Thanks for sharing, Ifeoluwa.
Yemi Fetch, this is fantastic!
With the gamut of Ad Agencies that floods Nigeria, they still went to Bahrain to get an Agency. Sigh.
I said on my whatsapp status, they lost the local insight of who we are as Nigerians, we are resilient, Fun, boisterous, optimistic, energectic….The list is endless.
If a small breeze should blow, you would see that flying ribbon would tear off, this is not the characteristeristic of a TRUE Nigerian, Never Say Never! It’s s well! E GO Better!… We have normalize these Mantras. That is to show our doggedness as a nation.
Thanks to ifeoluwa for sharing this with me.
I couldn’t agree more. I appreciate you, Odunayo. And I want to thank you specially for sharing on Whatsapp.
It’s the best time to make some pplans for the future and it is tijme to be happy.
I have read this post and iff I could I want to suggest you some interesting things or advice.
Maybe you can writ next articles referring to this article.
I wish to read even more things about it! http://journals.upd.edu.ph/index.php/kasarinlan/user/viewPublicProfile/44801
I got this link off Odunayo’s WhatsApp wall. You’re spot on! Also, I’m left wondering, how come our ribboned-eagle faces ‘backwards’ – I mean we’re English speaking & writing NOT Arabic!! I doubt the Bahraini agency did any work on this at all that is if they’re a real ad agency. I fear they’re the front for loads of dollars that will be quoted as to have been appropriated for this massive malfunctioning logo.
It is really sad, Kingsley. Why do we always have to let foreigners tell our story? Is it that they tell better story? Why should you let anyone else but yourself define you? I can’t stop asking all these questions. I hope to find answers soon. Thanks for your contribution,appreciate.
Your piece is always on point boss.
Even making an indigenous brand agency a part of the team would have make a difference on this project.
How can The whites be telling the story of blacks ???.
The worst part of this is that; the said Branding project cost $600,000.
Thank you, Fawumi. Very well said. Now just imagine having $600,000 roaming freely within our design industry.