Flying in Style With Five and Four

Austin designer Jennymarie Jemison goes terminal on the ABIA

So Austin-Bergstrom International Airport has a new terminal, the South Terminal, and never mind any rumors that the addition was necessary just to handle the extra traffic that floods in during SXSW – because that, at least, is bullshit.

But, yes: A whole new terminal and accompanying architecture and so on.

Which, because plain drywall and plywood and off-white Glidden do not confidence or joy inspire, also means that a bit of design is required.

OK, no, a lot of design is required, actually. A whole basic look and complementary graphic-identity system to effectively brand the entirety of the airport’s new expansion.

Turns out – because this is still an oddly small big town, and because the woman excels to the point of high-profile presence in a few areas of talent and so is rather hard to miss – turns out I know one of the designers.

That’s Jennymarie Jemison of local design firm Five and Four.

And I figured that, if the Chronicle’s News department (in the person of journalist supreme Richard Whittaker) is going to report in depth on the whole airportly shebang – which reporting you can see in the print edition and also right here – then I should go ahead and leverage a little journo synergy myself, should add to our coverage by interviewing Jemison about her part of the project, find out how she came to be involved and what she accomplished and so on.


Brenner: Jennymarie, your graphic design skills … as they say in old kung fu movies, your graphic design skills are unbeatable. So it makes sense when people choose you to create the typography and other visual components for whatever their project is. But, still, the airport? The entire new terminal? How did you hook up with this thing?

Jemison: In one sense, I’m as surprised as you are that my little company just branded the South Terminal – just because it’s a rare thing when highly visible, multimillion-dollar projects go to the local little shop for branding. But, in another sense, I knew I could do it, I wanted it, and then there was a mix of a bit of extra effort on my part – and a completely lucky serendipity I couldn’t have foreseen.

Brenner: Yeah, serendipity?

Jemison: Well, I was referred by a friend to the client, LoneStar Airport Holdings LLC. And she told me it was probably a long shot, that they were getting proposals from a lot of firms, but that she had said good things and they’d looked over my work on my site and were interested. Putting together proposals is probably any designer’s least favorite thing to do – it definitely is mine. They’re time-consuming, and describe cost and process. But I went farther than I usually do with this one, because I really wanted this job. I took a risk, since I hadn’t talked to the client at all about what they wanted: I presented a vision for what I imagined as a return to the golden age of travel, a midcentury-modern-meets-friendly-Texas-Hill-Country vibe. I included a moodboard of examples of Palm Springs signage and 1960s hand-lettered signage and advertising.

Brenner: Ah, that sounds beautiful.

Jemison: It was a gamble. I mean, they could have wanted something very corporate and safe, what you usually associate with airports. But, I presented what I wanted to do in a dream scenario. What did I have to lose? But what I didn’t know was that the renovation was already well underway and that the terminal was already intended to have a midcentury look and feel. The terminal’s small and charming in that you walk out onto the tarmac to board your plane. It’s very Mad Men-with-wi-fi – and the palette they had picked for the carpets and seating were inspired by the Texas Hill Country.

Brenner: Whoa.

Jemison: I’ve never been particularly psychic, but this was a spooky precise synchronicity. So, yeah – I got the job! And I bought my friend that had referred me a very nice bottle of champagne.

Brenner: And so, when we go to the airport now, what do we see that you’re responsible for?

Jemison: Five and Four created the logo and identity suite for the South Terminal as well as the website. And working with Jeff Pearse, the CEO of LoneStar Airport Holdings LLC, was perfect: We were just in simpatico from beginning, he’s a great guy. He was the head of aviation in New York for something like 20 years, and he moved down to Austin to open the terminal – and I bet he never leaves. And, for me, this project meant a lot because hopefully the South Terminal will be a part of Austin for decades to come. Design is often ephemeral; it’s wonderful to be part of something lasting in the city you love and that you call your home.

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