When Japan Airlines started operations in 1951, in 1959, they adopted a logo that was special to JAL from its creation and introduction in 1959, which is a crane known as the Tsurumaru. It became part of the company for many years to come in its history. The Tsurumaru JAL logo was created in 1958 by Jerry Huff, the creative director at Botsford, Constantine and Gardner of San Francisco, which had been the advertising agency for Japan Airlines from its earliest days. JAL had used several logos up until 1958. When the airline arranged to buy the new Boeing 747’s, they decided to create a new official logo to announce the inaugural of their jet service world wide.
In his notes on the creation of the logo, Jerry Huff writes, “Japan Air Lines was a dream account primarily because they trusted us completely, even going to great lengths to make sure I understood Japanese culture and its arts by sending me on an extensive tour of all its existing routes. I was exposed to the culture further while shooting the "Culture" magazine ad campaign, where we photographed Japan Air Lines stewardesses in full kimonos in twenty locations throughout Japan. I felt I knew Japan as well as any American ad man could.”
In the creation of the logo, Huff was inspired by the personal crests of Samurai families. In a book he’d been given, “We Japanese,” he found pages of crests, including the crane. On his choice of the crane, he writes: “I had faith that it was the perfect symbol for Japan Air Lines. I found that the Crane myth was all positive—it mates for life (loyalty), and flies high for miles without tiring (strength.)”
Because most crests are round, the adaptation to a modern logo was made easier. The presentation by the advertising agency to JAL was in handmade book form, 18" x 24", with french paper covers. In the book the agency showed the logo's application to aircraft, equipment livery, stationery, fabric and upholstery.
Although the presentation team from Botsford, Constantine and Gardner believed their logo to be the only one in contention, they arrived at the final presentation meeting to discover that JAL had also sought logo entries from other firms. Discussions about the logo continued for three days. In Huff’s notes, he states that the president of JAL made the final decision, and chose the logo not because of its expression of Japanese culture, but rather because he felt an American agency would have the best understanding of the American market, which was the main focus of the logo campaign.
Botsford, Constantine and Gardner--made some small design modifications and put the logo into production. It was registered as a trademark of Japan Airlines in August 1959, and was used in the JAL livery for more than 40 years.
Around 1989, JAL introduced a new logo, featuring its acronym (Japan Air Lines) in front of a red square connected to a gray rectangle. The crane was no longer part of the logo, although it remained on the tailfins. It was created by Landor.
Through the merger of Japan Air System in 2002, JAL again comissioned Landor to come up with a new logo, forcing the retirement of the tsurumaru in 2008. Its acronym remained, but it was moved to the back of the curved bar, which replaced the simple red square and gray rectangle used from 1989. The bar had red on the front of the bar and the silver replaced the gray entirely; it was placed on the side of the bar. Repainting of the new livery was completed in June 2008; it was named the Arc of the Sun and featured a red circle about to enclose the empennage, with the logo and full name near the cockpit on the fuselage.
On January 19, 2011, Japan Airlines announced that it would change its logo and return to the red crane logo on April 1, 2011. The font used for the new crane logo differs from the previous one. However, it was postponed due to the March 11, 2011 tsunami. The livery featured the tsurumaru back on the empennage and the full name above the windows, but near the cockpit. Repainting was completed in January 2016.
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