From interior to brand : the British Overseas Airways Corporation, 1939-1974 : a case study of post-Second World War British commercial design

O'Shea, Paddy (2015) From interior to brand : the British Overseas Airways Corporation, 1939-1974 : a case study of post-Second World War British commercial design. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


The central aim of this PhD thesis, From Interior to Brand: The British Overseas Airways Corporation, 1939–1974. A Case Study of Post-Second World War British Commercial Design, is to investigate the evolution of branding and identity in the context of British commercial design in the post-Second World War period. However, rather than document the various changes and moments in this history of design in a general overview, as existing texts have already successfully managed, the study uses the aircraft interior of the former national airline of Britain, the British Overseas Airways Corporation’s (BOAC), as a focused lens through which to analyse this period’s unique form of design in more depth. Two key interconnected questions shape this investigation: how can the evolution of BOAC’s interiors be used to understand design’s role in building a British brand in post-war Britain? And can this evolution shed light on the influence of America on British design during this period? These themes act as continual threads throughout the thesis’s 10 chapters and helped to shape a new narrative within the history of British commercial design. While the BOAC aircraft interior is an important starting point, this research viewed it in the broader context of the design strategy of the Corporation. As this thesis will demonstrate, the interior played a central role in the expression of the airline, and in turn British identity, the focus being on how the design physically represented the brand and identity of BOAC. However, as the research moves through the airline’s 35-year history, the interior plays a more strategic role in the company’s brand image development, becoming an integral part of a unified brand strategy. In understanding the interior within this new narrative, it is the intention of this thesis to present a better understanding of commercial design in Britain after the end of the Second World War. It is the proposal of this thesis that, while several major themes have been covered in British design history, the theme of commercial design appears to have been overlooked, and it certainly seems undervalued in design history. But it isn’t just the final outputs of BOAC’s design history that allow this analysis. Rather, it is the processes and influences behind the designs that allow for a true understanding of commercial design and, therefore, a unique and original contribution to knowledge.

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