Eero Saarinen’s visionary TWA Flight Center is as iconic as buildings get. The futuristic building has outlasted the airline for which it was built, and for a time was abandoned. Next month the building will live again as a boutique hotel.
Another reborn icon from that era is a bit more esoteric.
Another Saarinen design, perhaps less known, was the official TWA typeface.
To make the grand opening of the new hotel an immersive experience the iconic TWA font was recreated for all signage.
“Eero Saarinen really got branding. He really did. He really got that it would all go together and it required consistency, unification, and organization,” says Michael Bierut, the Pentagram partner who led the new design. Bierut believes that Saarinen designed the entire Flight Center after being inspired by TWA’s logo. Not only did the typeface on the signs look a lot like the letters in TWA; the color scheme was there, too. “He did what I find myself doing a lot. You find something you see as the authentic core where the DNA [of a brand] resides. He said the TWA logo is what people associate with. I believe it was already red,” says Bierut. “If you go to the Flight Center when it opens next month, all the upholstery in the waiting areas is a bright, vivid red that plays against the white tile work and surfaces. I think he was extrapolating the brand color and typeface, and just trying to make this really intense, total brand experience.”
To recreate the typeface, Pentagram teamed up with typeface creator Nick Sherman. They went back to Saarinen’s old source material archived at Yale to build a digital version that could work inside the hotel and on all its marketing materials–not just on signs, but on the web, too.