All posts tagged: united airlines
united express emb-120
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As strange as it may sound, this United Express EMB-120 was the motivation for creating a template for this aircraft in the first place. I know it isn’t the most exciting thing that I’ve ever illustrated, but I needed this airline/aircraft combo for a personal side project that has been neglected badly as of late. It feels good to be scratching items off my to do list!

Introduced by Pentagram in 1998, this blue “tulip” livery was never a favorite of mine. The contrast between the upper and lower sections of the fuselage makes the aircraft look bottom-heavy, and I’ve always thought that they should have incorporated that dark color higher into the fuselage. But we all know how badly dark-painted aircraft fade just after a few years, so I guess it was a smart idea to keep the top portion white. Especially since the United livery that preceded this one was dark gray (commonly referred to as the “battleship gray” scheme), which was starting to look downright horrible on many aircraft in their fleet by the time this livery was unveiled. I think they learned their lesson on that one.

My favorite look on this little Embraer has to be the bare metal SkyWest and Comair liveries that seemed to be everywhere in the late 1990’s. I’m convinced that a livery featuring generous amounts of bare metal can make any airplane look good – even this Brasilia! These are complex machines after all, and exposed aluminum really emphasizes all the cool little details.

Anyway, that side project I mentioned above is in need of two more EMB-120 illustrations: a United Express version in the battleship gray livery, and the bare metal SkyWest scheme. I’m not sure how soon I’ll get to those but you can bet that I’ll post them here once I finish.

United Airlines 737-900 "One Hundred"
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It’s hard to believe the that the Boeing 737 is over 40 years old and it is still one of the best-selling commercial aircraft available at the moment. Of course the 737 of today is vastly superior to the 737 from 1969, but still – the fact that Boeing has managed to get so many years out of a single airframe is downright amazing. There aren’t many other products in this world that have had that much staying power.

And that leads me to this illustration of a United Airlines version of the -900 series – the newest (and largest) 737 from Boeing. I’ve already told you my thoughts on the current United livery, but I’ll say it again: they really need to separate from these colors to help project themselves as a new and different company. Taking the old Continental livery, removing the titles, and then slapping “United” on the forward part of the fuselage was an ok “temporary” solution after the two airlines merged, but they’ve really got to get past that and create a new brand from scratch.

There have been a lot of new re-branding efforts in the airline industry recently (the new American Airlines livery looks great), so it probably wouldn’t hurt them to take a chance and do something different. But I’ll just leave it at that.

This particular illustration depicts a very special aircraft in the UA fleet. It’s the “One Hundred” airframe, meaning that it’s dedicated to 100 exceptional employees (as voted by their peers) who go above and beyond. The markings for this are subtle, with a small decal next to the main titles on the fuselage, as well as a plaque mounted inside that is visible upon boarding.

United Airlines 747-400 illustration
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A few days ago it dawned on me that I’ve only made one Boeing 747-400 illustration since completing my blank template of it last September. Considering that the 747 has always been my favorite aircraft, I thought that it would probably be a good (and fun) idea to start building up that collection.

Deciding which livery I would render was quite simple this time – which is rare for me. In my post about the Air China A330, I told you about how much I struggle trying to decide what exactly I want to work on before starting one of these illustrations – and I revealed that I’m now trying to focus on the aircraft that I’ve flown in the past (or will be flying soon). My trip to South Korea in a couple weeks from now is going to kick off with a SFO-PEK segment on a United Airlines 747-400, so the choice of what to illustrate was obvious.

As far as the livery goes, I’ve got to say that I’m bummed about how United chose to use the old Continental color scheme when they merged with them several years ago. While I’m sure they saved a ton of money doing it that way, the company was essentially reborn at that time and it would have been the perfect opportunity to press the reset button on their brand image and come up with something new and unrelated to these old and tired companies. Both of which, by the way, desperately needed to shed years of bad publicity (bankruptcy, poor service, etc) and emerge as a fresh new brand. Why they chose to save a few dollars and stick with the old look is beyond me.

That said, I actually don’t mind this livery all that much. The straight horizontal cheat line through the center of the fuselage is somewhat dated, but the light colors compliment the vivid blue and gold in the logo nicely. And heck – nearly anything looks good on the 747!

Retro United Airlines 787-8
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Yesterday I created a mockup of a United Airlines 787 in the “rainbow” Saul Bass livery, but I wasn’t really happy with the way that the titles were placed. I thought they were a bit too small, but there wasn’t really anything I could do because of the way the cheat line was situated. However, since I posted that image, I learned that UA actually had a variation of this livery with larger titles – which was used primarily on the narrow body aircraft. The difference was that the cheat line was moved down on the fuselage so that the orange stripe ran through the windows (instead of the red stripe). I think this looks much better applied to the 787.

United 787-8 Saul Bass livery
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Inspired by this recent rumor thread on airliners.net, I was thought it would be really cool to mock up a preliminary illustration of a United Airlines 787-8 in the 1980′s Saul Bass livery. I was a bit skeptical at first, but after looking at it for a little bit, I’ve got to say that I’m really liking it. I really hope UA does this!

Creating these side-view drawings was fairly straight forward, but I did have a bit of difficulty placing the main United Airlines titles at the front section of the fuselage. The problem is that the Dreamliner’s windows are very high in the airframe, which pushes cheat-line colors really high as well. The orange stripe in the middle is historically where the windows have been positioned on other aircraft in the United Airlines fleet, so that left a very small vertical space for the main titles. I would have personally liked to make them larger, but there’s just no room to do so.

I’m really glad that airlines see the value in these retro liveries. While this Saul Bass United Airlines 787 is purely a rumor at this point, I really hope it becomes a reality. Die-hard 1980′s airline nerds like me would really like to see it!

UA 787 drawing
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Sometimes I think that it’s a good thing that I create all these airliner illustrations. You see, prior to creating this artwork, the United 787 livery was probably my least favorite of the current special 787 color schemes.

United hasn’t really been winning very many points in the mind of this designer recently. First, they totally take the easy road and inherit the old Continental livery when the merger happened. They could have done something big there. Second, this special 787 livery seemed like such an afterthought and I was thinking that it didn’t go well with the existing livery at all (I still think it doesn’t but more on that in a second). So – two big visual identity “blunders” in the past two years didn’t sit well with this proud UA customer and professional visual designer.

But now that I’ve had the chance to sit down and draw this out for myself…I kinda like it. The gold stripe flows from the front of the aircraft very nicely from front to back, with really nice tension and weight. They did a really good job there. But (there’s always a “but”) why on earth didn’t they flow that gold ribbon into the tail? It wouldn’t have worked well with the current globe logo, but this livery was such a drastic change from the existing one anyway so I don’t know why they didn’t do anything with the tail. We may never know…

I’ve yet to see one of these United 787’s up close in real life, so maybe my feelings about the livery will further improve once I can see it in all it’s glory. I have seen two from a distance while at LAX a couple months ago, and they did look sharp. Let’s hope Boeing can get the current battery issues sorted out soon so we can see these things flying once again!

star alliance 777 drawing
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I’ve never been a big fan of the recent white and black Star Alliance liveries, mostly because I think they are too plain and unimaginative. My perception has changed slightly after creating this illustration – primarily because it was necessary to really study this design (more than I ever have in the past) and I started to see details that I never saw before. First, I think the Star Alliance font is simply beautiful. It’s the perfect weight and thickness for a billboard-style use such as this, and it’s san serif style oozes class and professionalism. Second, the Star Alliance logo really is nice. Yes, I’ve seen it a million times before, but it wasn’t until I recreated it myself for this illustration that I realized how elegant it really is. The subtle gradient and silver tones really pop against the black tail color.

This particular United / Star Alliance livery was based on the 1998 United color scheme designed by Pentagram, so that’s the reason for the blue engines (which would otherwise look out of place if it weren’t for this relationship). I also find it interesting that United’s most recent Star Alliance livery doesn’t have any blue in it – or any color at all – and it’s kind of dull compared to this one.

On a side note, I think it would be interesting if the Star Alliance liveries had a lot more silver and black in them. The white fuselage is clean and simple, yet oh-so-boring. These are special liveries after all, so I think they should have went all-out and done something really different. Perhaps a silver fuselage with a black tail? I know, that’s probably too similar to the SkyTeam special liveries – but it is really sharp.

United Airlines DC-10-30 side view drawing
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I just recently finished a blank McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 template, and it’s no surprise that I chose the United Airlines Saul Bass livery as one of my first painted versions of it. This color scheme, combined with this aircraft, is pretty much exactly what I think of when I think of United Airlines to this day. Gee…can you tell that I am a child of the 80′s? I remember the sight of what seemed like an entire terminal at DEN (Stapleton) full of United Airlines DC-10′s during a stopover there during a family trip out west back in 1989, and that image has stuck with me pretty well. It was a pretty cool sight to see, but I was super-bummed that we didn’t get a ride on one of them. Instead, we got a lowly ‘ol 727 for our connecting flight to BOI. It totally bummed me out.

Anyway, I think this is a great livery. The cheat line is so 1980′s, and the colors are borderline tacky by today’s standards. But that’s what makes it so great! It’s iconic, highly representative of it’s time, and it helped build a strong identity for one of the largest airlines in the world. It’s a significant part of Untied Airlines history.

That’s precisely the reason why I was am disappointed in the latest United livery. To me, they missed a great opportunity to pay tribute to the United brand and evolve the tulip design forward into the future. Instead, we got the old Continental color scheme with United titles plastered on the front.

But at least I had fun creating this illustration. I love doing stuff like this!