alaskaair.com brand refresh (2016)

context.

Alaska Airlines has been a strong brand in the Northwest for generations. In 2016 the company launched a rebranding project aimed at recognizing Alaska's legacy and its impact as one of the United States' largest airlines. This included a new brand for airport environments, a new airplane livery, new uniforms, new logos and wordmarks--the list goes on. 

project goals.

While the entire airline was rebranding, my goal in this project was to update the digital properties (website, mobile apps, kiosks, emails, and airport displays) to harmonize with the new brand identity Alaska was deploying company-wide. Moreover, every channel (online and offline)  was to launch the new experience on the same day--a first for the airline.

my role.

My role was lead the digital designers and work with the other channel owners to ensure our products provided customers a consistent experience from email, to web, to mobile, to airport, to onboard the aircraft.  I oversaw the work of the designers, interacted with stakeholders, and provided a roadmap for the team to follow; I also oversaw user research and A/B testing for the redesign. 

Below are a couple of examples from the previous site for context.

homepage before

The website homepage prior to the brand refresh.

The homepage was massively redesigned in 2015 to improve its merchandising, navigational, and booking performance; it was thus a good canvas from which to work. There were areas of opportunity, however, that I wanted to improve; for example, the flight search results page, below, was functional but featured poor visual hierarchies, inconsistent use of color, and so forth. It was also visually busy:

flight search results before

The flight search results page prior to the redesign.

So while the brand evolved with new typography, color system, and logo, I decided the team could also clean up the overall experience. But in so doing, I had to coordinate with other channel owners to ensure my products' design work did not depart from brand standards too much.

process.

My first task was to work with stakeholders from Marketing and development to align on expectations. This included meeting with the outside brand agency Alaska Air hired to flesh-out its new enterprise brand guidelines. From there the digital design teams established a daily design session wherein all designers worked together on applying the brand elements to our channels. These working sessions culminated in afternoon design critiques wherein all design work was posted and everyone was free to comment on it. This was complemented with a weekly design review by the Marketing team and the brand agency. These reviews allowed everyone to see and comment on all the work in one place--essential for creating cross-platform consistency. As the design started to stabilize (and delight!) I helped capture the emerging design standards in a style guide to help developers interpret the designers' mock-ups. 

I decomposed that design work and proposed a series of A/B tests to be conducted by Alaska's A/B test team. These tests helped verify our design decisions and provided insight into aspects of the design that needed more work. (This testing was done in relatively small pieces so-as not to reveal the extent of the brand work commencing.)

The website design was unveiled in a coordinated launch across all physical and digital channels in January 2016, the first such coordinated brand launch at Alaska Airlines.

Here's the homepage at launch:

homepage after

The website homepage launched as part of the brand refresh.

Similarly, the flight search display was updated and significantly simplified:

flight search after

The flight search page, significantly simplified and A/B tested to ensure it performed well.

The significant customer experience enhancement made in this project was not due to one channel per se; in the end, the most impactful part of the project was the move toward an omni-channel design language, one that used common design elements in predictable ways. 

Omnichannel before and after

people.

I believe designers work best when they are collaborating and learning from each other. In this project that meant collocating designers for several hours a day to share ideas and review each others' work. It also meant establishing preset design critiques. The daily design critiques helped designers get feedback on their work immediately so they could address it the next day. I also initiated the use of a Kanban board and daily stand-ups to allow designers visibility into what each person was working on that day. 

product and customer feedback.

I couldn't be more proud of what the design team created. The launch was coordinated and deployed though across all channels within a few hours (itself a feat!), and the resulting design met our business objectives. The design work also got a considerable amount of press and positive customer feedback (see below).