Edmond Huot leads a range of global branding clients, primarily in the airline and transportation space, with the creative stewardship and design of multi-dimensional brand experiences. From digital advertising and consultative planning to aircraft livery and experience design, Edmond works closely with the firm’s clients to ensure seamless performance, profile, and prestige. His stewardship of all creative and design assignments is managed through Forward Studio, a division of Forward Media.
1 Can you tell us about your background in design and how you got into a unique career as a livery designer?
I started back in the early ’90s as a self-taught graphic designer. Over the years, I worked on perfecting my skills as an art director and then a creative director. As our company grew, I focused more on the management side of the business, including pitching clients and recruiting talent. By the time I arrived in New York, I was a partner in charge of the creative output for multiple offices. Over the past ten years, I have been working with our team to specialize our offerings to include aviation branding, design, digital marketing, and PR. Since my childhood passion centered around the glamor of airliners and travel, I have always wanted to reconnect with flying and help the airlines of today with my personal and professional points of view.
2 What is a livery designer, and what impact does your work have on the project?
A livery designer is essentially charged with conceiving and designing a distinctive and impactful decal solution that will be applied to a fleet of aircraft. Typically, my job extends far past the actual livery itself, encompassing the airline’s entire holistic brand positioning and expression. Often, I’m asked to imagine, through thematic storytelling, an inspired viewpoint for the airline. These broader motifs or themes help form a valuable foundational platform. Once these directions are presented and approved, my team and I get to work translating these various notions onto a wide range of touchpoints. I feel really privileged that I’m afforded the autonomy and time to work with and lead a specialized team of design technicians, project planners, and researchers. This role is critical to the airlines since my work is being applied onto $100 million aircraft, so the risk mitigation is such that you have to get it right the first time. Also, these designs help represent the enduring legacy of the airline’s brand—one that will be seen all over the world by millions of travelers each year.
3 What is the process of designing a livery, from concept to its physical execution on an aircraft?
The design process for coming up with a livery is very much tied into the airline’s core brand exploration and development. Since I have worked on either start-ups or established airlines looking for a complete brand shift, I’ve never worked on the singular decal design. The work starts with a deep dive on research, covering everything from cultural motifs and meaning to market data and demographics. A brief is usually developed in conjunction with the client encompassing the key goals and objectives. With key learnings in place, I work on bringing to life the airline’s entire holistic brand positioning and expression. Often, I’m asked to imagine, through thematic storytelling, an inspired viewpoint for the airline. These broader motifs or themes help form a valuable foundational platform. Once these directions are presented and approved, my team and I get to work translating these various notions onto a wide range of touchpoints. The livery is a key deliverable that goes through its own gauntlet of approvals, including initial client presentations, adapting paint colors, and adherence to a litany of production considerations, such as where paint can and cannot go on each aircraft type. I typically insist on reviewing both paint grade selections at the factory as well as the final application of paint and design onto the aircraft itself. The overall process can take anywhere from 6 months to a year.
4 What airlines have you designed liveries for, and do you have a favorite style in terms of color, shape, and placement on an aircraft?
I worked on a project in Hawaii where our firm was asked to help groom a local inter-island airline, Island Air, for purchase by Oracle’s billionaire founder, Larry Elison. The assignment was exhausting both in terms of having to work quickly as well as the amount of back-and-forth travel between NYC and Honolulu. Furthermore, I was bringing additional creatives, photographers, and videographers with me to document local travelers who used the airlines. I wanted to reposition the airline in a way that respected the real reasons people depended on the airline. We developed more than just a livery and brand and really crafted a powerful and engaging rallying cry for the airline. Ultimately, the airline was successfully purchased based on its more esteemed and modern look. I’ll never forget that time since we worked so hard and became quite close to many of Island Air’s staff. My latest project was for an airline based in Alaska. I came up with its name, Northern Pacific Airways, and chose a livery design that transformed the B757 into a sleek and sexy aircraft. The color palette, unlike Island Air’s playful colors, was minimal yet striking, using indigenous hues such as white, soft gray, and black, with a hint of aqua green to play up the northern lights. This latest project is my favorite. The design is harmonious with the shape and contour of the aircraft, utilizing the mid- to rear section of the fuselage body, gracefully sweeping back and up along the tail.
5 Can you comment on the new liveries coming into the aviation world as air traffic picks up following the pandemic?
Today’s latest post-pandemic designs generally strike a rather underwhelming tone with me. Often referred to as euro-white design, these executions are relatively simple: white body with some color and detail occupying the rear and tail of the plane. Another tell-tale sign of this euro-white design approach is the oversized lettering near the front—scaled at such a size that the name of the airline is clearly visible at a distance, either on the tarmac or in the sky. While these treatments are safe and practical, they all seem to blend, reflecting a time of rather uninspired and commodified flying. From Iberia and Latam to United and Air Canada, the approach is similar. That being said, I would also add that despite these issues, certain elegant and clever details have been incorporated, such as Air Canada’s black “raccoon mask” that adorns the windshield of their planes. Or Lufthansa’s updated livery design that utilizes a new, more striking, and esteemed shade of blue—a color choice that both respects Lufthansa’s storied past yet also heralds its bold future.
I feel honored to be in the company of some of the world’s greatest and most prolific designers whose work for airlines of the past has left an indelible mark on aviation today. From Saul Bass’s work for United Airlines to Massimo Vignelli’s designs for American Airlines, I firmly believe that today’s 21st-century world traveler desperately yearns for a return to all things stylish, ceremonial, and thoughtful.