Impala x Pentagram: Telling a universal travel story through design
Our Chief Marketing Officer, Caroline Hudack, knows all too well that the concept of a rebrand is often misunderstood.
“So many people approach rebrands as though they’re just a new logo or website — or worse, a vanity project,” she says. “But for Impala, it’s been a fundamental shift; a company-wide evolution that has better equipped us to tell our story with more confidence.”
To truly showcase how Impala and Open Distribution are revolutionising the online booking experience, we needed to reach far beyond tweaking our colour scheme and retooling our website. We wanted a complete and innovative design ethos that would capture our passion for travel.
There was no one better to lead the charge than Caroline, the former EMEA Marketing Director for both Airbnb and Facebook.
"Impala was very early when the previous branding was conceived,” explains Caroline. "The company and product has evolved significantly since then, and we needed a brand that could reflect that growth.”
Caroline notes there are only a few brands in the travel space with design elements that evoke a genuine love of travel. Many OTAs and tech companies take a platform-heavy approach, relying on relying on diagrams, 3D renders and generic travel imagery, none of which connect with people on a human level.
Caroline admits that Impala's previous branding followed that typical tech approach and as a result didn't stand out from the crowd. "It was clear that we were a tech brand, but we could have been a fintech or insurance tech company — our connection to travel didn't come through,” she says.
“When you look at the work I did at Airbnb, there’s a genuine sense of travel, adventure, curiosity, and exploration there that engaged our audience; I wanted to bring that feeling to Impala.”
Reimagining travel with Pentagram
To apply these consumer marketing principles to Impala’s B2B model, Caroline’s team enlisted the help of Luke Powell, a partner at the world’s largest independent design consultancy, Pentagram.
“Pentagram is super-specialised at taking complex tech solutions and making them digestible and appealing to any audience,” Caroline says.
Powell and his team had a challenge before them: To capture how deeply Impala cares about the travel experiences people know and love, while also communicating our position at the forefront of an entirely new model — Open Distribution — challenging the industry status quo.
“In the past, it frequently took a while for clients to understand our offering,” Caroline says of the previous brand. “They would ask if we were a bed bank or a channel manager or an OTA. Ultimately, our answer usually led to incorrect comparisons to other platforms, which gave the false impression that we shared those pain points.”
Exploring the language of travel
To capture Impala’s mission and ethos, we needed to communicate with a visual vocabulary that would resonate with each of our audiences — from hoteliers and travel sellers to founders and developers.
“There’s a global language of travel that is subconsciously recognisable,” says Caroline. “A traveller can walk into most airports around the world, immediately recognise directional cues, and understand key information by relying on the aesthetic design rather than the written language used.”
Impala’s collaboration with Pentagram resulted in a fundamental reshaping of our vocabulary, both in design and in function, built around this vernacular of travel.
Throughout our new brand, elements like vertical bars and intuitive icons evoke the same familiarity found in passenger tickets and terminal wayfinding signs. An inviting colour scheme of ‘sunset,’ ‘sea,’ and ‘sand’ captures the calm and joy of a relaxing beach vacation. And the ‘Impala Supply’ font, a cousin to classic air ticket typography, is both warmly familiar to travellers and striking enough to make an impact.
Together, this graphic language of travel embodies our passion for globetrotting — while remaining functional enough for a technology brand leading the way into the future of travel.
These elements also come together in our new logo, which balances the Impala name against a symbol that evokes both a compass — a guide for the traveller in their journey — and the head of our quick and graceful namesake animal.
“Good design is not just about pretty pictures or cool graphics,” says Caroline. “Design is about enabling a brand to tell their story — while guiding users to the information they seek in a simple yet engaging way.”
Since launching in early February, this rebrand has already had an impact on our users and the way they interact with Impala.
“We’re seeing really positive signs that this design is communicating our story in a clearer and more impactful way,” says Caroline. “People are spending more time on the website, we’re seeing much higher engagement and conversions from paid media, and we’ve heard great feedback from our partners.”