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Airline livery design is a fascinating subject for me. I’ve been interested in travel, airplanes, and design since I was a wee lad so it’s only natural – right? With that said, I thought it might be fun to create my own illustrations of some of the brands that have caught my interest over the years. I’m also planning on creating some of my own custom liveries too. Watch for some of those over the coming months…

Anyway, I grew up about an hour away from a Northwest Airlines hub so it was only fitting to feature that brand in my first aircraft illustration. It doesn’t really matter that they don’t exist anymore – they will forever be my “hometown” airline.

This particular livery is known in the aviation circles as the “bowling shoe”. Does it really  need to be explained? I didn’t think so. It was introduced in the early 90’s, and at the time, I thought it was a really clean evolution of the previous color scheme. The red/gray/black colors of Northwest were retained, but they were arranged in a slightly more stylish way which accentuated the circular cross section of the airplane.  An example of this would be the black “cheat line” which extended the entire length of the aircraft. Instead of keeping it a constant width all the way across, the designers chose to increase it’s thickness towards the rear. This created a nice wrap-around effect on the tail section and it was a very nice detail and unique for the time. Also unveiled with this livery was a new Northwest Airlines logo – which is still one of my favorite corporate marks today.

By the way, here’s a version of the same illustration without a background:

NW DC-10 drawing

Two side profile illustrations of a Northwest Airlines McDonnel Douglas DC-10-30 with and without the landing gears over a white background

On a side note, this illustration was created entirely in Adobe Illustrator. I’m normally deeply entrenched in Form-Z and Photoshop, so it’s pretty rare for me to step out of that world and use a new tool for something as complex as this. But hey – I’m always eager to  learn new techniques.

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Let me know your thoughts on this post but remember to place nicely folks!