Most of us have no business on the Legendary Aircraft site. The only airplanes we’ve repaired or restored were made of balsa wood or maybe styrofoam (if we were lucky). But the design of the Legendary Aircraft site is an instant reminder of just how much fun airplanes are and how amazing it would be to own one of these classic ex-military aircraft.
Designed by the Hungarian team Bitbox, it’s clear that a lot of time was spent understanding the audience and subject matter. The bold logo, strong use of photography, and period-appropriate design motif no doubt appeal to the owners and enthusiasts of these planes. From an information architecture standpoint, the site is easy to digest and to-the-point, providing just enough information to get a customer on the phone or in the door.
One of the key words when analyzing this design is “appropriate.” Too often we see what appears to be a case of a designer pushing his or her style onto a client. Or worse even, using a certain design aesthetic simply because it’s trendy. In the case of Legendary Aircraft, every aspect of the design helps to communicate their message and position them as the classic ex-military aircraft specialists.
Take the photography, which in terms of hierarchy is easily number one. Not only is it beautiful and engaging, it adds to the site’s understanding. Quicker than you could spell the word “airplane,” the visitor already knows that this site has something to do with older military airplanes. And for those seeking out this site with prior knowledge of the company, it just adds to their credibility.
The logo also works hard to explain what this company is all about. In fact, it doesn’t get much more representative than this: wings and a fist with a wrench. The red script logotype is a nice change from the bold black forms within the logomark, and is reminiscent of hand-painted names that you might see on a classic airplane.
The red color of the logomark is used in headings throughout the site which creates a great rhythm and helps bring your eye down through the content. Navigation and body copy has been set in a sepia brown tying in with the photography while still providing enough contrast for readability. The blue sky at the top fades softly into a creamy tan that makes up the majority of the sites background color.
Seeing as this site is being reviewed on Typesites, it’s a bit ironic that the first mention of typography aside from the logotype is underneath the “Criticisms” section. But when I first saw a screenshot of the Legendary Aircraft site, the headings were set in a different typeface. In the screenshot I could make out a sharply angled san-serif “W” on the “Welcome” heading, however when I viewed the site it was set in a serif font.
A peek at the CSS reveals that Garamond is specified first, and users without this old style serif get Trebuchet, then Helvetica, then Verdana, then Arial. The problem is that there’s a huge difference between Garamond and Trebuchet. While Garamond clashes with the logotype, Trebuchet’s clean lines with just a bit of variation in thickness are complimentary and more fitting with the 1920’s-1930’s time period.
A better choice would be to select a similar humanist sans-serif as the primary typeface and leave Trebuchet as second in line. Gill Sans, for example, has many similar characteristics to Trebuchet, and it comes installed on OSX.
Unfortunately, font choice is not the only type issue on this site. Spacing in the navigation is off; no matter which font displays, the Contact link pushes into the right edge of the page. And while the small caps treatment works great on the headings set in red, it gets overused quickly. The sub headings beneath “Image Gallery” in the right column, for example, would be much better suited in lowercase italics or possibly reversed on some airplane-related graphic.
Other criticisms of the site lie in some of the small details. The “Aircraft for sale” seal works to call attention to this area of the site, but the bubbly web 2.0 shine feels out of place. Not to mention the type has been awkwardly distorted and squished in there.
The Legendary Aircraft site is beautiful. From it’s great use of photography to the simple and well structured content it’s a fun site to use. Best of all, everything is appropriate and there for a reason.
Engaging plane photos help add to the understanding of the site and their execution couldn’t be better. Color has been used to bring the eye through the content and create a soft and airy experience. Typography, however, leaves some room for improvement. Addressing the issues mentioned above would be a great start, but it just feels like within this beautiful shell it’s missing that attention to detail.
Still, Legendary Aircraft has that immediate “wow” factor. It communicates the joy of being airborne, and not just to the few that actually own a classic ex-military plane. It’s this ability to evoke emotion that makes the site such a success and proves just how powerful design can be. How would you improve the typography?
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