This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
Half a century or so ago, when Don Draper types were crafting stunning commercial-airline art and seat 3B was a place to be seen, flying was considered to be the height of glamour. There was a style, aesthetic and an overall cool factor to being up in the air that was almost entirely thanks to the beautiful print ads that perfectly targeted the who’s who of society.
The art direction, beautiful design and inspiring imagery of yesteryear still hold up today. These nostalgic vintage ads are documented wonderfully in Matthias C. Hühne’s book Airline Visual Identity 1945 – 1975, with the large-format collection reproducing the most visually interesting commercial art from the golden age of flying and documented in what the publisher calls a “museum-like experience.”
Featuring chapters dedicated to every major airline, crystal-clear airline advertising posters, breakdowns of how the art has evolved over time and plenty of commentary on how advertising and airlines converged at the perfect time, this is a solid coffee table book for any person with a constant case of wanderlust and an appreciation for good design.
Though print advertising is all but dead and being on an airplane is as prosaic as jumping in an Uber, it’s hard not to wish travel-focused messaging still felt a little more like this. Here’s a look at a handful of Pan Am’s most iconic print ads through its glory years, all of which can also be seen in the book.
A Look Inside
The Bicentennial Exposition referenced in this ad was the 200th anniversary celebration of the founding of Port-au-Prince, the capital city of Haiti. It was also known as the “Festival of Peace.”
Featuring a classic red double decker London bus and the Memorial Fountain Statue of Anteros at Piccadilly Circus, this ad is pure mid-century modern cool.
A Geisha clad in a traditional kimono stars in this advertisement highlighting Japan.
In 1949, it took four and a half hours to get from Miami to Haiti. Now? Just under two.
Before Helvetica was popularized by Apple, American Apparel and graphic designers everywhere, Pan Am used it in an iconic ad series highlighting hot spots around the world.
The contemporary minimalism shows just how ahead of the curve Pan Am was from a branding and creative perspective.
Pan Am also made very interesting photography choices. Instead of a glamorous shot of Los Angeles or New York to highlight the United States, designers put a stunning desert on display.
Here, Panama’s coastal beauty is shown off.
And here, Hawaiian surfers wait for a wave in this low-key advertisement.
It was never about catchy taglines or loud price savings announcements. Pan Am constantly did more with less and let beautiful photography speak for itself.
This stylized illustrated map shows all the various destinations Pan Am flights could take you to.
Likely the most iconic of all of Pan Am’s ads, reprints of this ’50s poster can still be seen in many bedrooms today, with originals highly sought after on eBay.
A perfect capture of glamour and style, this ad highlights both the magic and speed of flying.
A waiter hands a French policeman a beer in this stylish ad that may or may not have accurately depicted the law enforcement of yesteryear.
An elephant and archer are highlighted in this illustrated snapshot of mid-century Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam.
Hawaiian surfers link hands in this beautifully minimal ad with great typography.
Which of these vintage Pan Am posters is your favorite?
Featured image courtesy of Callisto Publishers.
With great travel benefits, 2x points on travel & dining and a 50,000 point sign up bonus, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great card for those looking to get into the points and miles game. Here are the top 5 reasons it should be in your wallet, or read our definitive review for more details.
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
- No foreign transaction fees
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel.
- No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards