Scandinavian Airlines
SAS regains its Scandinavian soul and rises above its rivals


In the mid-1990s, as Scandinavian Airlines passed its half-century of flying in and out of Sweden, Norway and Denmark, the airline was facing a turbulent future. As new low-cost operators entered the skies and passengers drifted away from Scandinavian, its focus on business travellers, with functional lounges and corporate prices, was looking increasingly problematic.


Scandinavian set itself on a new course to capture a greater share of the non-business market. This would be less like turning the wheel of an aircraft than turning around a supertanker. It set itself – and SDL – the task of reinventing the SAS brand and creating a travelling experience with universal appeal. A 2000-hour fixed-point observation of Scandinavian customers by the US-based Doblin Group identified a host of items needing redesign. In 1998, we started work.


Our strategy for creating a clear difference between the airline and its competitors was to restore its connection with good design – specifically, Scandinavian design – that was established in the 1950s. Away went the conventional, logo-led, “cattle-stamp” approach to branding. In came a more inviting, all-encompassing, content-led Scandinavian-ness that included pithy sayings (“SAS Poems”) on in-flight packaging, windows in aircraft toilets, wardrobes of interchangeable uniform items instead of strict “set pieces”, softer and more homely lounges, new colours, new fonts and fresh, new imagery.

Project partner:


From aircraft livery to hair pins, from airport signs to salt packets, SDL (in partnership with TEA) completed the redesign of 2500 items in an exhaustive, award-winning design programme that lasted several years and took airline branding to new heights. Scandinavian has been transformed by simplicity, consideration and reliability, and an intense attention to detail – values that resonate with travellers around the world.

Scope of work

  • Research and customer experience analysis
  • Brand strategy
  • Brand hierarchy
  • Concept development
  • Brand building
  • Physical design and architecture
  • Prototyping
  • Brand identity
  • Marketing strategy
  • Reputation marketing and PR
  • Digital design and UX
  • Printed media
  • Photography language
  • Signage system


Kerning tables for the Light weight of the Scandinavian typeface, August 1998.


Destination photography, New York


Destination photography, Dubai


Scandinavian Airlines Corporate Poetry Bank


SAS airplane model