Gorgeous New Book Celebrates the Glory of Airline Advertising in the Mad Men Era

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I hate flying. I have no fear of it, and I don’t have motion sickness. My problem with flying is that it is the most depressing means of travel in existence. In the last 25 years, we’ve turned airlines into the Greyhound bus lines of the sky. Airline Visual Identity: 1945 – 1975 is a dramatic reproduction of airline brand identities from the era when Don Draper was flying.

The large format book — 12.2 x 16.1 — is focused almost completely on airline advertising, curating the work of Madison Avenue’s top agencies, providing case studies that offer insight into how the visual identity of these airlines captured the attention of a newly airborne public.


From the conclusion of World War II to the Arab Oil embargo and the dawn of terrorism, air travel was the most glamorous way to get from one place to another. Airline Visual Identity: 1945-1975 shows how the airlines shifted from more traditional advertising in the late 1940s, to much more sophisticated, modern branding campaigns in the 1960s.


It’s an idea you can see in this Braniff International commercial from 1965, showing the Emilio Pucci stewardess uniforms, the wide, cloth seats and the striking visual identity of the aircraft:


The book is written by Matthias C. Hühne, a Harvard-educated commercial and residential real estate development entrepreneur. Hühne has a particular interest in commercial design and his interest in airline branding began when he found an Air France poster from the 1950s in a Parisian gallery.

“Although I had seen this image in some publications, I was fascinated but he brilliance of the colors and level of detail of the original,” he says. “Once I had started to research airline advertising from the period, I quickly discovered that this very interesting subject need to be analyzed uch further than what had been done previously.”

It is a remarkable work displaying advertising created by some of the most notable creative luminaries of the era. Advertising agencies employed people like Ivan Chermayeff, Otl Aicher and Massimo Vignelli to create these campaigns.


Academy Award-winning animated filmmaker and title sequence animator Saul Bass was another star designer promoting the airlines. In 1974, Bass created the United Airlines “Sweep” or “Tulip” logo that appeared on all United Airlines aircraft. It became one of the industry’s most iconic logos. Bass’s work was discontinued in 2010 with when United merged with Continental.

Bass’s original illustrations for United appear in this video:

Airline advertising books have been produced before, but to nowhere near this level of detail. It is one of the most technically sophisticated book productions to come along in years. Simply scanning or photographing the advertisements — even on the highest quality scanners available — can’t replicate the way these advertisements were produced in their original form.

To get as close to the original artwork as possible, the book uses 17 different colors, five different types of varnishes, and two different methods of foil printing and embossing to truly replicate the advertising in a large-format book.


Enclosed in a cardboard case, this 14-pound book contains thousands of illustrations in its 436 pages, with chapters dedicated to every major airline of the period. Each chapter features a collection of these stunningly reproduced posters, with descriptions of how designs advertisement evolved over time.


Airline Visual Identity – 1945-1975 will be a cherished document. We don’t fly like this anymore, and we don’t produce books like this any longer.

For more information, visit the website at Callisto Publishers.

Craig Fitzgerald

Craig Fitzgerald

Writer, editor, lousy guitar player, dad. Content Marketing and Publication Manager at BestRide.com.