Considering the ear-splitting bedlam you’ll find there, it’s hard to believe that the sprawling concrete grotesquerie of New York’s JFK Airport was originally named after an idyllic circle of trees visited by the characters of Anne of Green Gables: Idlewild. Although the airport was renamed after President Kennedy since his assassination in 1963, the Idlewild name lives on as part of Idlewild Books, an independent Manhattan bookstore founded in 2008 specializing in travel and world literature. Thanks to a gorgeous brand redesign by designer Andrew Colin Beck, Idlewild Books is now wearing a fusion of this combined literary and tourist legacy on the sleeve of every book they sell.
“I’ll let you in on a secret,” laughs Beck. “I’m not the first designer to brand a company after old airplane tickets and maps.” That’s undoubtedly true, but it’s hard to imagine any designer coming up with a better take on the concept. The assortment of price tags, envelopes, bookmarks and business cards that Beck came up with for Idlewild look like the splayed-out contents of Roger Thornhill’s travel wallet in North by Northwest. It’s beautiful work evocative of the golden age of travel.
Originally, Beck’s work on the Idlewild redesign started as just a personal project. While completing an internship last summer in New York City, Beck would wander the streets on his lunch hour. “On one of my wanderings, I came across Idlewild Book Store,” Beck tells Co.Design. “I was enchanted by the great selection and themed nature of the store. He ended up buying some books for his wife, a French teacher, but then forgot about it until he was asked to rebrand a company as part of a school project.
Immediately, Beck remembered Idlewild. “Often, I find that brands have a super rich visual culture hiding deep below the surface that they’re not capitalizing on,” says Beck. “Visually, Idlewild’s existing branding didn’t say anything about their rich heritage or connection to travel. So I started to mine that heritage and bring it to the surface.”
Most of Beck’s inspiration came from 1960s airline tickets, travel brochures, and other tourist ephemera. From these sources, Beck drew his color palette and typography, then set about drawing out those influences into a coherent design language of literary travel. “As I was working on the design, I was looking at a lot of topographic and flight maps searching for little pieces of visual language,” says Beck. “I love compass roses, and keys and mile-markers. Those sorts of cartographic symbols gave me a lot of inspiration.” For example, the diagonal band of color seen in some of the new Idlewild designs, like the business cards, comes from a dial on the control board of an airplane called the false horizon.
Once the rebranding was done, Beck decided to reach out to the owner of Idlewild Books, David Del Vecchio, to show off what he’d done. In what Beck calls “a moment of uncharacteristic good fortune,” Del Vecchio loved the design and immediately got in contact with Beck to roll it out to his stores.
The Idlewild re-branding has been a huge success, not just for the bookstore itself, which has been met with a surge of new interest since Beck’s designs hit the web but also for the designer himself. Graduating this month from Brigham Young University, Beck’s work with Idlewild has already gotten him several other commissions, and he’ll soon be moving to New York to help other companies to rejuvenate their brands.
They say reading a very good book is like jumping on an airplane and taking a trip. The brilliance behind Idlewild’s redesign is it gives you a physical ticket for every vacation sold.