Why Aesthetics matter to Travel Businesses
Put simply, aesthetics is the study of beauty. Why does the same dress evoke completely different responses in different people? The age old saying “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” illustrates how we are all influenced differently by our perceptions of beauty. Aesthetics are responsible for how you perceive the attractiveness of products and brands that surround us in everyday life.
Aesthetics take on different styles through elements such as form, colour, and typography just to name a few. Take a minute to compare the “no frills” style of Flight Centre with the understated style of Kuoni…we’ll come back to them later. Aesthetics evoke subconscious reactions in us—every time you interact with any brand it comes into play, shaping your behaviours and decisions as a consumer. As a professional within the travel industry, understanding aesthetics helps you situate your brand within a competitive sector and ultimately further your brand value.
Mirror Mirror On the Wall…
How attractive something looks is often considered separate from how well it functions. But two jugs that pour water equally well can evoke very different aesthetic responses in its end user, thanks to our perceptions of beauty. In product design, beauty is considered another facet of user experience, alongside cost, safety, ease, and durability. How beautiful a product looks, is as important as how well it functions—after all the leading motive for design is to create the most efficient and enjoyable experience to meet the demands of end users.
Travel isn’t any different. Aesthetics come into play from your brand stationery, to your bricks-and-mortar-shops, to your website. Functionality isn’t enough when your competitors sell the same holidays as you, and your audiences can book from online sites within seconds on their phones. When it comes to aesthetics beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so consider who your audience are and what beauty means to them because you could win them over with looks.
First Impressions Count
Your clients’ perceptions of your brand comes down to the first time they see it, hear it, touch it, or smell it. After that initial interaction it’s hard to change first impressions, we make instantaneous decisions based on aesthetics. Although our aesthetic responses mainly come from sight, aesthetics also evoke reactions from sound, smell, and touch. The word itself is derived from the Greek term “aisthetikos” concerning “sense perception”. Every time we pick up a bag of our favourite chocolates we don’t just remember how its packaging looks, but also how it feels to the touch, and how it sounds when it’s opened and eaten. We associate that experience with certain memories and emotions.
In the same way that the aesthetics of a bag of chocolates can bring back memories or stir emotions, the way you use aesthetics can create emotional connections and make good or bad impressions. Take your business card as an example, it’s not just a piece of paper but rather someone’s first impression of your brand. How big is it? What paper is it printed on? How thick is it?… What does it say about your brand?
Your Brand Value
If first impressions count, then aesthetics say everything about your brand. Just like the clothes you wear signify to others where you fit in society or the workplace, how your brand looks and how it’s experienced signifies to clients what you offer and what kind of company you are. Aesthetics can be thought of as a tool used in design, that brings your message and your brand value to life. Without beauty (remember that’s subjective) design can’t be effective or enjoyable, and without design your brand value is inaudible amidst thousands of businesses that provide the same offering.
Aesthetic design should reach every aspect of your travel business, even the minute details such as the lighting you use in your retail space or the size and material of your carrier bags. Your brand’s aesthetics are the voice of your company values. Every contact your brand makes with clients is a chance to share with them your company culture, and the values that make your business the right choice for them. Aesthetic design is all about creating an enjoyable and efficient experience to meet the demands of users. So, think about who they are as individuals and why your business is right for them—aesthetic design can help you get your message across both in the most obvious, and subtle ways.
Aesthetic design should reach every aspect of your travel business, even the minute details.
Let’s return to our comparison of travel retailer Flight Centre, and tour operator Kuoni. The contrasting aesthetics of these two brands purposely reflect different brand values, directed at different audiences.
Australian independent retailer Flight Centre has been operating since 1982. The brand sports a heavy duty sans serif logo type, and coupled with the use of a punchy red and white colour palette the aesthetics of the brand is not only loud, but deliberately humorous. In 2015, Flight Centre embarked on a change in strategy to put customers at the core of their brand, which resulted in subtle changes to the brand’s aesthetic but still kept hold of brand mascot, the Captain. Perched on their website banner, he is in many ways a large component of the the retailer’s punchy, humorous aesthetic. Given that Flight Centre’s aims were to transform itself from travel agency to “world class retailer”, its recognisable aesthetic and familiar mascot was the key to their transition.
On the other hand, Swiss brand Kuoni arrived in the UK in 1965. First known as a long haul tour operator, Kuoni only recently launched a campaign in 2014 which cemented itself as a luxury brand. The campaign focused on personalisation, donning the tagline “No two holidays are the same – Kuoni, find your amazing”. Since then, the brand’s understated aesthetics have worked hand-in-hand with its focus on personalisation, utilising a darker colour palette of mauves and teals—nothing’s too harsh or abrasive to the eye. Although the brand’s logo is an uppercase sans serif type akin to Flight Centre’s, the impression and aesthetic response you receive from each is drastically different. As opposed to Flight Centre’s angular typeface, Kuoni’s logo sports a font that’s more fluid and curved to reflect the relaxing personalised approach it offers clients.
Thanks to aesthetics, these two brands can say something different about the same holiday destination. Take for example, two brochures that both promote Africa as a travel destination.
One commonality between both brochure covers, is the use of imagery. In both cases text is kept to a minimal and the image does all the talking, whilst each says something different still. Flight Centre’s brochure features an almost grayscale image of a baby elephant nuzzling up to a larger elephant’s trunk. The static close-up deliberately featuring a baby elephant conveys a closeness between two animals, denoting themes such as family, warmth, and security. In contrast, Kuoni’s choice of image depicts a scene from the Great Migration. A seeming melange of zebras and wildebeests fill the frame, they’re in motion galloping towards the camera. As opposed a sole focal point, the scene features several focal points darted across the image. The use of dusty greens and the vivid contrast between blacks and whites convey themes of excitement and adventure. Although both brands’ use of imagery feature a safari theme, Flight Centre has painted a picture that speaks to families, and honeymooning couples where as Kuoni has crafted an image that appeals to solo travellers, and adventurous holidaymakers.
The use of typography and layout also comes into play in the aesthetics of both brochures. Flight Centre opts for right aligned text, and a combination of a light and bold sans serif typeface. The brand’s brochure features its instantly recognisable red and white logo in the top right corner, but the focus is on the word “Africa” in bold type. Flight Centre’s use of right aligned text draws the eye down down the page, highlighting the baby elephant’s face again reinforcing our feelings of connectedness and family when we view the image. In contrast, Kuoni opts for centre aligned text. Their logo is featured above the word “Africa”, which is printed in a serif font and framed by a deep forest green. The brand’s use of a serif font makes reference to its image as a reliable brand, in the same way that its partnership with department store John Lewis creates a sense of trustworthiness. Kuoni’s use of a dusty forest green draws reference to the green fabrics once donned by British explorers on their expeditions, paying a subtle homage to the brand’s luxury image and highlighting their brochure’s theme of adventure.
At first glance the two brochures may not appear radically dissimilar, but careful use of aesthetics help both brands depict different stories to different audiences, and evoke different responses. As seen in a quick analysis of how two distinct travel companies use aesthetics as a voice for their brand values, how a product or brand looks and feels goes way beyond the surface. As a professional within the travel industry, aesthetics matter because it’s key in whether your message and values are appreciated by your audience.