Air New Zealand / 75th Anniversary

Turning history into an experience for those from 5 to 95 years


How do we turn a 75-year history into a compelling experience that the wider public would find impossible to ignore?


The Challenge

On the eve of its 75th anniversary, Air New Zealand wanted to share its celebration with the people of New Zealand, who, through the New Zealand government, are the majority owners of the airline.

Air New Zealand planned to design and construct an impactful exhibition that would tell the story of this proud airline.  This travelling display would tour the country, sharing the story of the airline with as many New Zealanders as possible.

The Approach

To create an experience that was truly world class, ThoughtFull researched the most successful corporate exhibitions designed specifically to celebrate major milestones of commercial entities, including the Harley-Davidson Museum, Guinness, and Heineken. This field research quickly aligned the core team with what ‘great’ looked like.  It also helped them identify and avoid potential pitfalls.

Alongside the best-in-class research, ThoughtFull conducted a series of design workshops with past and present Air New Zealand staff, customers, and the staff of the company’s museum, to explore ways of expressing the different eras, and telling emotionally impactful stories about the airline’s history and growth.

Armed with this data, we began our concept design for the experience, including:

  • A draft narrative
  • Maps to define a visitor’s journey
  • Chapters of the Air New Zealand story
  • Core display features and content
  • The main interactions tied to each chapter

Strong and clear communication with our development partners served as ThoughtFull’s North Star on this project.  We worked alongside each contractor to manage activity streams to make certain the vision and storyline were consistently expressed from the first meeting on to final delivery.

At the same time, our robust approach to design vision and the exhibition blueprint ensured we earned and maintained buy-in from the airline’s executive team from start to finish.

The final design invites visitors to go through an airport-style check in process before they depart on a journey back in time.  The trip includes experiencing travel as it was 75 years ago on Air New Zealand’s iconic Short Solent flying boats, followed by a journey forward to the present day aboard the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, before experiencing the airline’s vision for the future of flight.

This virtual flight invites guests to explore the story of Air New Zealand ‘s growth and innovation through highly immersive and interactive experiences – including visiting the flight deck, taking a virtual reality journey into the future of flight, and inviting visitors to design their own aircraft livery.

The Outcome

In the first 12 months alone, more than 700,000 enthusiastic visitors experienced this traveling exhibition – more than double the company’s initial estimate.  

Air New Zealand has always been more than just an airline to Kiwis, who by statute, own this flag carrier.  Clearly, the company continues to be a source of deep pride for the island nation.  

This exhibition allowed New Zealanders to experience a brand that, through state-of-the-art aircraft and an iconic livery, deepens the sense of national identity that Air New Zealand gives the public.  

The exhibition has also received numerous design accolades and awards globally.