legendary aircraft

legendary aircraft

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.

Detail photo of planes on the home page

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.

To keep things interesting and to show a broader range of airplane models, there are different photos for each of the main sections. No flash or javascript here, just a different photo for each page. Each plane has been cut out, given the same sepia tone treatment for consistency, and overlapped in a way that gives depth to the page and activates the negative space.

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.

criticism

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.

Comparison between Garamond and Arial

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.

conclusion

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?

editor’s note

Typesites is looking for your feedback! Please take a minute to share your thoughts on what type of sites we should review, what content we should offer and whatever else is on your mind regarding the site.

  1. Kyle Meyer

    It seems they’ve just updated their CSS to put Arial at the forefront of the font-family declaration. This is still unsettling as there is so much variation between Arial and Garamond that they create a large change in the overall feel of the site depending on which is present. Granted, Arial is available on nearly every computer, so nearly everyone will see the site with it. But I feel it’s a subpar choice for the design and doesn’t flow well with the headlines.

    I really love the plane motif and the clouds, the graphic design is stellar, but the typographic attention to detail is lacking. The list items don’t have a line-height declaration for example. This is an excellent design, but it’s being held back a bit. Improving the typography could take it to that next level.

  2. Pat

    Something that I’m confused about (and this is a minor, non-typography based comment), is why they would have a listing of the design galleries that this site has been featured on. Is that something the client would have requested? To me, it seems like the designers are stealing the lower portion of the design in order to promote themselves? (Mind you, maybe the designers also own the website, in which case it’s probably ok).

    The reason I bring this up here is that a lot of attention seems to have been given to that part of the site, where as has been mentioned already, the typographical styles used obviously need some attention.

    Otherwise, I agree with what has been said so far. The design itself is quite impressive. A few tweaks here and there and it would really be a classy looking website.

  3. ty

    The “Legendary” logo font is Alison isn’t it?
    I kind of meant to write this site up for SG, but it never quite flew.
    Thanks for featuring it here, it’s good stuff!

  4. Alan Pritt

    The thing that makes me feel slightly uncomfortable is mimicking the hand cursor on the ‘Aircraft for sale’ badge. It serves its purpose and draws attention to the link (which is probably desirable), but is similar enough to the actual cursor to cause a double take. It would be interesting to watch people use the site and see how they react to that.

    The image gallery is confusing. Are the categories actually representative of the images? Looking at the image file names it looks like they could well be, but I’m not sure. Perhaps the images could be better utilised by embedding them in the content. Where they are, they act to draw attention away from the content rather than support it. These images receive extra attention because the red elements in the design point straight to it, causing any content without red sub-headings to be overlooked on first glance. The images in the gallery do serve to add credibility, however.

    The cut-out planes are excellent. As noted in the critique above, overlapping the plane images with the site design brings them forward, adding depth to the design… and an energy (they fell like they are flying out of the photograph). However, they are so appealing that they again draw attention away from the text.

  5. Tor Løvskogen Bollingmo

    Hmm, is this a typesite? :-P

  6. Benek

    I’m a bit puzzled as to why this site would be featured here.

  7. Kevin Zak

    @Tor Løvskogen Bollingmo, Benek:

    I’m not entirely positive, but if I were to make an educated guess, it would be that this is a design with potential; it has visual appeal, but its typography is lacking at best. As stated in the editor’s note:

    Typesites is looking for your feedback!

    I would assume that this is a chance for us, the readers, to make recommendations for the site, rather than just comment on the design itself as per the status quo. A while back, Typesites reviewed The New Yorker. The review offered insight into what not to do in terms of typography, as well as some areas that were well done, based on examples from that website. This is similar, only it is more of a community effort, if you will.

    Very nice review, Rett. I’ll write up an actual critique tomorrow, when (hopefully) I won’t be so sleep-deprived.

  8. Tor Løvskogen Bollingmo

    Yes, but as you say, the typography is lacking - that was not the case for The New Yorker.

  9. George

    Faux small caps are always the first typographical issue I notice on sites these days, the leading letter just look miles too strong! It makes for a very uneven coloring across the text and I wonder why people do it.

    That aside I agree with above, the graphic design is fine, I wouldn’t say the type use is anything to praise.

  10. George

    Also I think Its time a review was done on a flash based site, or is these reviews restricted to html?

  11. Kevin Zak

    @Tor Løvskogen Bollingmo:

    Actually, in many areas, the reviewer found that it was lacking. Hence my comment:

    The review offered insight into what not to do in terms of typography, as well as some areas that were well done, based on examples from that website.

  12. Ty

    A site is entered here as it is on other gallery review sites, the quality being judged is solely the opinion of the reviewer. People who challenge the greatest of sites, need to find their own forum to write up their own sites.
    The idea being anything review is up for discussion, and not judging the reviewer for choosing to enter a site. All sites are good for discussion [period].

  13. Ty

    Sorry for being critical just I get tired of people who think any such site is a dynasty and sites chosen don’t live up to the expectations of the sites community, You’ll soon wind up with what Stylegala has a dead gallery.

  14. Tor Løvskogen Bollingmo

    And sorry for my harsh and blunt comment. It was just the contrast of typographic awareness from the former sites that has been reviewed - but I know understand that this site also can serve dual purpose, in pointing out sites where typography should have been given more love :)

  15. fly

    Hello there,

    I am Tom, the creator of the Legendary Aircraft site. I just want to say thanks for the review and yes You are right all of the typography weakness of the site. I’m not a typographer, but in the last few months I see that I have to pay more attention to this side of my works…
    I think reviews and forums like this here will move in a positive direction of my work.

    Again, thanks for the critique and I think I will change some things on the site as you mentioned above.

    My English is not so perfect as I wish but I hope you understand all that I want to say :)
    Thank you guys!