the final northwest airlines livery

Northwest Airlines was never known for being one of the world’s best, but they did have a rather respectable route network by the time they were absorbed into Delta Airlines in 2010. As a matter of fact, they were the world’s sixth largest airline prior to that merger – and the top US carrier in for international passenger traffic and domestic cargo operations. I’ve personally logged tens of thousands of miles with them to points all over the world, and it was kind of a bummer to see them disappear from the skies for good.

As a visual designer, one of the things I liked best about Northwest was their bold brand identity with the signature red tails. It was certainly the brightest color choice among the US majors, which made it easy to spot and identify Northwest aircraft at any busy airport. I also liked their final logo – which consisted of a simple ring with an arrow pointing to the Northwest. Simple. Clean. Good.

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to create some illustrations of the last three Northwest Liveries on the 747-400 – the aircraft that defines NW to me. First up is the illustration at the top of this post. This was their last livery, and to me, the best looking of them all. The only thing that might have made it look better would have been to have a polished aluminum fuselage instead of painted silver. I get why they did that (many aircraft these days are made of composites, not metal), but it really could have been stunning with a bit of polish and shine.

And here is the second to last color scheme – also known as the “bowling shoe” livery. This one is especially nostalgic for me, as it was the very first livery illustration I ever created when I started out with my side-profile DC-10’s.

northwest airlines 747 bowling shoe colors

A side profile illustration of a Northwest Airlines 747-451 in the bowling shoe livery over a blank background with and without the landing gear deployed

Finally, here are the launch colors for the Northwest 747-400. There were only a few of these painted in this livery, since the “bowling shoe” was unveiled shortly after NW introduced the -400 series into the fleet.

debut nw 747-400 color scheme

A side profile illustration of a Northwest Airlines 747-451 in original bare metal livery over a blank background with and without the landing gear deployed

Which one do you like the best?

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