elcome to ilmington
I was born and raised in Wilmington and really never went near an airport until I was in my early 20’s, and that was RDU. I remember being more aware of “our” airport much later in life, especially after my wife and I moved to NYC and lived there for 10 years.
In New York, we had two of the largest airports in the world to choose from and, suffice it to say, neither one is your beginner airport. Luckily a taxi would drop us off right where we needed to be and we got pretty used to our routine trips from LaGuardia to Wilmington International Airport (ILM).
The contrast between airport scenarios was dramatic, to say the least: from the gray urban sprawl of the airport no-mans-land to ILM’s rural setting with its warm humid air that smells of honeysuckle. We would always feel that sigh of contentment whenever we came back home, and quite literally walk out of the airport into our brother’s / mother’s / father’s car just steps away. I never sat in those rocking chairs they have because, quite frankly, I’ve never had to wait there long enough! Who says the South isn’t efficient?
I’ve always been a little confused as to why we couldn’t have a W in our call letters. “What, are we not important enough to own the W in Wilmington?” Little did I know, this would later fuel our creative direction on a complete logo and brand makeover of the airport.
We got the assignment to rebrand ILM last year and we were very excited, not only for the project in general (planes are cool), but also because it’s high profile work, something that many people would see for many years down the road. I like the idea that it will be one of the first things you see coming back home, or even leaving for Europe for the first time when you’re 22 (like I did, back when).
The first creative direction was a stylized use of our native sea birds (egrets, ibises, gulls, etc.) and for what it’s worth, they created some very handsome marks. However, the one thing that stood out in our initial audit of airport logos was the consistent use of some kind of plane imagery. We kept coming back to having it included in some way, shape or form.
This takes us back to the “Owning the W” direction. The call letters will always be ILM. It’s in the books; it’s not going anywhere. But what if we created a visual W to place in front of the letters? We tasked ourselves with that visual challenge, and once that was put into place, the rest of it happened very easily and dynamically.
Prior to this project, if someone told me an airport logo should be blue with a white plane in it, I would have come up with an plethora of reasons why that should not be the case, and how a designer should not be so limited in his or her imagination. However, sometimes the best answer is, in fact, the simplest.