by Rod Kurtz
Cool Hunting's interview with Richard Branson on the importance of design in building a brand
From your airlines to the new Virgin Hotels project, design plays a central role across the Virgin brands. How important do you think this has been to the company's success over the years?
I think it's incredibly important. People walk onto a plane like, say, Virgin America, it feels welcoming and comfortable and immediately they feel good. And that just makes the job of the staff that much easier. And if you're building a spaceship company like Virgin Galactic, you might as well build the sexiest beast ever built—the sexiest spaceship, the sexiest mother ship, the sexiest space port. Getting every little bit of the design right is so important. On Virgin Atlantic, we have pepper pots that are shaped as windmills.
When did you first become aware of the importance of design? Did you have an early design influence? It seems like its been central to the company for a very long time.
In the good old days of the record business, the 12-inch sleeve designs were such an important part of an album. And obviously, we put out a lot of albums over the years. Going back to Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells," looking at the design of that very first album, with the tubular bell floating through space, it fit with the music so well. It may well have originated from that. And almost every day, we had a new album coming out and thought about how we could get the artwork right. The Sex Pistols' "Never Mind the Bollocks" stood out and put them on the map. I suspect that's where it originated from.
Where did the Virgin logo come from? It's become an iconic design in its own right.
We used to have a fairly hippie-based logo, which was a Roger Dean painting that had a dragon and a young girl. Then we started signing punk bands like the Sex Pistols, so we needed to update it. Somebody came into the office and we were talking about what we wanted and they literally just scribbled on a bit of paper, doodling the Virgin logo. I was heading to the loo and I just looked over their shoulder and saw it there and said, "That's what we want." So it was literally five minutes of—it wasn't really design, it was just something the guy scribbled and it couldn't have worked out better. It works on planes and trains and spaceships and everything.
Read more of the interview on CoolHunting.com here.