Edmond Huot On The World Behind Airline Branding And Liveries

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Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to sit with the highly talented Edmond Huot, the Chief Creative Officer at Forward Media. Edmond, in his role, is responsible for leading a range of global branding clients. However, he has quickly made a name for himself by managing the creative direction of key airline and transportation clients, most notably directing the branding for the upcoming low-cost U.S. carrier, Northern Pacific Airways.

Edmond works with Forward Media to ensure a performance unlike any other. During our discussion, we had the chance to explore the world of design further. In this first piece of a mini-series with Edmond, we explore the design world and the importance of stretching your wings, using technology and thinking outside the square as you move through the education system.

Edmond at the Northern Pacific Airways global launch event at San Bernandino International Airport – January 2022

Technology has changed how we live, being able to communicate with loved ones on the other side of the globe at a moment’s notice to conduct important business meetings from anywhere in the world. Edmond shared his thoughts on how technology has changed his work in the creative space.

“In terms of just working on livery projects, and specifically on Northern Pacific, I’ve been working with a renderer which is in Argentina, and so many of our back-and-forths have been on Google Meet, and I think in the past, it would have just been a much more protracted experience, and it would have taken longer, or it would just have happened. So I feel like I can easily expand my reach regarding people with extraordinary abilities. So that I love. I guess there are probably downsides as well. But I’m very positive about technology even though it’s not my thing. I embrace it wholeheartedly in that regard.”

As we grow, some of the biggest challenges are finding a place we’re happy with, whether living with loved ones or in our work environment. I discussed with Edmond the idea that working in the design space may have been in the past and, indeed to this day in some education systems, be frowned upon and what his advice would be to the next generation.

“I think the idea of entrepreneurialism, also using technology to learn as opposed to depending on the degree to necessarily give you access to something that isn’t even real anymore. I mean, the whole landscape has changed so much. So I think creative people today need to be inquisitive about the craftsmanship involved in making things, and often that’s a digital pursuit. But to learn those abilities and to become more capable in that regard, as well as follow and nurture your imaginative side, is, I think, the path for many creative people today, as opposed to going to school per se.

“Of course, you can still go to a college, and certainly, today’s colleges have much more robust creative programs because that world has exploded. But even students who come out of a college degree with design and think that that’s all they need lack sort of the confidence and the ability to trust their instincts and perhaps even the ability to be resourceful in their way so that they can learn stuff on the fly because agencies today are like, “Great, I need somebody who’s going to learn things quickly,” and bring that to the table. And some students, I think, are sort of like, “Well, I have my degree, or I have my certificate. I am now a creative person.” And I’m like, “Well, yeah, you can work in design. That’s great. But how do you solve problems? How do you bring your viewpoints?” 

Edmond Huot, Chief Creative Officer at Forward Media

For that that may be in school currently and looking towards a career in design, questions will also be present regarding what you could do in your spare time to build up a portfolio of work and how that can be beneficial. Finally, Edmond gives his thoughts, even referencing his new designer, that was recently hired:

“So the designer I just hired who worked with me on this project, his portfolio was filled with like his projects. School projects are obvious. But then he’s going out on his own doing photo shoots, figuring out how to work with people and problem solve. He’s running into crazy people who don’t pay him when they should, and I think he’s learning, which adds to that level of maturity and confidence. So I think today, I’m looking for, are people who are prepared to go out on their own and try things in their way, not just stay within the system of, say, a school or whatnot.”

Edmond gives a perfect example of turning a passion into a creative idea in some spare time, highlighting that ideas are truly limitless and the world of design.

Yeah, that’s true. I remember, there was a time … Oh, my God, it probably was just after 9/11, and so the market had softened, and we were kind of stuck, and we didn’t have much going on. Peter and I were in our business, and I was complaining to him about how I was bored and what I would do. And Peter’s like, “Well, why don’t you create your own … do your project?” And so I came up with and designed a whole line of airline-inspired paraphernalia, like t-shirts, airline pillows, and blankets. I did bath mats and robes.

Because I like fashion, I was like, “Well …” the core idea was, and it’s not that original, but back in the day, it was authentic, taking a series of defunct airline brands. So British Overseas Airline Corporation, Transworld Airlines, and Braniff created a graphic look with these distressed logos. I applied it for a billion things and then went out and ordered X number of t-shirts and sweatpants.” 

“I literally created a line, and then I built a little tiny WordPress website and then what I did is I thought, “Well, I have to have something that will draw people in.” So I created an exhibition, had mannequins with clothing on them, had all the clothing and elements displayed, created a graphic backdrop, and a show where my friends and family came. So it was just a complete entrepreneurial capsule project about airlines. It was all about merchandising, package design, and all the things that are part of my world that I didn’t get to do, but I did it for myself. So I learned all about commerce and how to manage inventory.”

Edmond has, through the decades, created ingenious pieces, and you can see some of his works at Forward Studio, one of my favourites being Maple. The studio was asked to imagine and design an airline startup right from its inception. The startup airline was to be Canadian, titled Maple. The branding is spectacular and leaves you thinking about what could’ve been. Edmond said, “Our challenge was to articulate a design and brand expression for Maple that conveyed a distinctive Canadian sensibility without appearing visually heavy-handed or cliche.”

It doesn’t stop there, in any case. Edmond has been behind other key projects as well, with notably and most recently his work on Northern Pacific seeing him receive acclaim worldwide. So that’s where the next piece will head, towards creating an airline’s branding. As Edmond describes it, a plane can be the most enormous canvas in the world with endless yet limited possibilities as the studio works with the client to meet all their needs and desires in the project. 

Connect with Edmond and find more of his work at Forward Studio: https://www.forward-studio.co/

Daniel Fowkes
09 Dec 2022
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