The biggest names in design have put their talents to work at Air France, bringing aesthetics and prestige to air travel.
When Air France set out to conquer air travel in the 1930s, it immediately established its strategy according to the golden rules of modernity – a modernity that was both forward-looking and human-focused. To do this, the airline turned to the most daring designers and architects of the age.
In the 1950s, Air France called upon design guru Raymond Loewy. The increase in traffic required a new vision of aviation – a more industrial approach. As an ambassador for the French way of life, Air France did not intend to sacrifice its image on the altar of rationality.
Nor would the airline lose interest in the aesthetics of lines and forms. For its crockery, designed by Andrée Putman and Philippe Starck, for example, for its seats, and for its cabins and agencies, Air France called on the creative skills of Raymond Loewy, Pierre Gautier-Delaye, Charlotte Perriand, Andrée Putman and Noé Duchaufour Lawrance.
In 2009, the world of design professionals paid tribute to the permanence of Air France's visual strategy, awarding the Brandimage agency - which supports the company in choosing and carrying out its campaigns - the Grand Prix for Overall Design Strategy. And in 2012, the lounge in Hall M in Terminal 2E of Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport (designed by Noé Duchaufour Lawrance) received the 'Janus du commerce' award.
1933-1964 : CHARLOTTE PERRIAND
Co-founder of the UAM, the union of modern artists, Charlotte Perriand had always been moving up in the world – foreshadowing her adventure with Air France.
In 1957, Air France, aiming to be 'at the cutting edge of progress', decided to modernize its agencies by calling on Perriand's design skills. When designing and constructing these new agencies, located in the four corners of the globe, Charlotte Perriand would use what she called 'street art'.
She included photographs, glass domes, dividing screens made of furniture, tiles and storage – and yet more storage, making everything uncluttered, tidy, and precise. Charlotte Perriand continued to renovate agencies, forging a particularly close link with Air France.
1950-1952 : JEAN PROUVÉ
Jean Prouvé, a trained metalsmith, soon became attached to the modernist ideals of industrialised building construction and the use of aluminium.
In 1954, Prouvé worked with Charlotte Perriand on furnishing the Jean-Zay university accommodation site in Antony.
It was no coincidence that Air France – which was looking to be more actively involved overseas, in Japan, Brazil and Africa and was particularly interested in founding high-end hotels and restaurants there – called upon this duo of designers and friends.
A fruitful collaboration developed, with Perriand working with Prouvé to design prototype fittings in sheet metal.
It was in Brazzaville that he would deploy his prototype at the Air France living quarters and as part of the interior design of two hotels: the Maya Maya and the Hôtel du Parc.
1952-1976 : RAYMOND LOEWY
Raymond Loewy founded his own agency in 1930, and entered a period of creative frenzy: a logo for Shell, items for Coca-Cola, Lucky Strike cigarette packets, etc. President Kennedy commissioned him for the décor of Air Force One, then, in 1976, Nasa called upon him for the interior design of the Skylab.
He was the paragon of industrial design, a self-proclaimed industrial aesthetician and the brilliant inventor of a number of logos, some of which are still in use. Attracted to the United States very early on, it was in the country of self-made men that he would become a genius of industrial design who would change the history of design and branding forever.
After his work on a number of Super Constellations, in 1952, Air France tasked Loewy with fitting out the first Concorde: the décor of the reception area at Roissy airport, furnished with Le Corbusier seats, the cabin interior and the seats in various colours, not forgetting the lights, the crockery and Christofle cutlery, and even the meal trays.
1958-1988 : PIERRE GAUTIER-DELAYE
or a period of fifteen years from the end of the 50s, Pierre Sautet, Air France's marketing director, would give the renovation and development of seventy agencies to the architect-decorator Pierre Gautier-Delaye, who originally worked at Raymond Loewy's Paris studio but had been independent since 1958.
He started with the Champs-Elysées agency, attaching a strip of stainless steel to the front of the building – a historic addition that would be copied around the world.
That was how Gautier-Delaye added his mark, his signature. Later, he brought innovation, adding automatic doors – a design first. He also brought originality to the interior of agencies: he organised the space lengthways, creating an effect of perspective by lining up sales desks on raised platforms. Each level had its own colour, with a selection from a large range varying from yellow, orange, pink and purple to blue – a rainbow that so perfectly matched these modern, pleasure-seeking years.
At the same time, a new type of aircraft was revolutionising airspace: the 747. Air France called upon Gautier-Delaye once again, and named the fleet after some of France's great châteaux. The designer would also work on the first Boeing B747 in 1976, used for the Paris-New York route, and in particular the first-class cabin with its 36 seats.
1933-1994 : ANDRÉE PUTMAN
A white bird with a curved beak, a technological jewel in the crown of Franco-British collaboration, Concorde could fly twice as fast as other jets, making the journey from Paris to New York in three hours and thirty minutes.
And very quickly, Concorde became a symbol of luxury. The interior elements were first assigned to Raymond Loewy, who designed every single aspect. In 1985 and 1988, Gautier-Delaye spruced up the cabin with the tulip red, blue and beige strip. Later came the turn of Andrée Putman, to commemorate the supersonic aeroplane's twentieth anniversary.
Putman's concept was based on the idea of adding headrest covers and fitting a carpet with a black and white geometric pattern.