Design Inspiration: Pan American's Retro Charm

Hey, this is my first blog post! I'm Andi, a designer here at Swash. I figured a good overarching theme to my blog posts could be resources that inspire my future work for our clients.

This week, I've been researching the different design styles of the now-defunct Pan American World Airways, an air carrier that shuttered its operations in late 1991 (which just so happens to be my birth year). I appreciate the aesthetic of mid-century design -- most of the furniture in my bachelorette pad is from that era -- so digging through PanAm image searches was a blast.

I've collected a few examples here of travel posters. These first few are from their heyday, before photography was integrated. The compositions of these designs can vary, but you'll notice that overall the emphasis is often centered, which makes the poster immediately easy to process visually. The color palettes and typography are refined and tailored to fit each destination.

The last three samples in the image roll below, along with the time table cover shown to the right, show the more recognizable PanAm "blue ball" rebranding, which was debuted in 1957. At some point down the road, the airline's fanciful illustrations were replaced with sleek, minimal photography and typography.


Andi Harman