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National Aviation Heritage Area, Dayton, OH

On the heels of the 2003 Centennial of Flight, aviation heritage supporters in Dayton, Ohio,  set out to sustain the momentum of promoting Dayton as the Home of the Wright Brothers and Birthplace of Aviation.  This effort led to the formation of the Aviation Heritage Foundation, a non-profit group dedicated to promoting the Dayton region’s rich aviation heritage.


In December 2004, upon signing of legislation by President George W. Bush, the Aviation Heritage Foundation was designated as the management entity for the newly created National Aviation Heritage Area (NAHA), an eight county region surrounding Dayton.


One of its first tasks was to create an identity for NAHA.  The brand consultant on the project, ICI Partner David Lightle, worked again with VMA to create the new logo and identity system for NAHA.  As with Colombia, NAHA presented the design team with a very complex Brief.  Not only did the logo need to represent all of aviation past, but it also had to embrace all that would come and someday be heritage, too.  Such an overarching identity is hard to come by, specially when the Brief also required other elements to be built-in, such as simplicity (along the lines of the Nike swoosh), timeless, national in feel and look, elegant, and finally forward-looking though representing heritage! 


The design team at VMA, working with Lightle on overall strategies, came up with the winning solution—A simple, elegant, timeless logo that easily embraces everything aviation.  And with “national” characteristics.


The identity system is the main driver for NAHA’s brand-building, to be sure.  But wrapped around this is a comprehensive communications program aimed at putting NAHA on the map, both nationally and before worldwide audiences via the worldwide web and through association with aviation groups around the world.  NAHA marks the first time that the Dayton region’s aviation heritage sites have worked in concert to package and promote the region as a single destination, and to tell the rich aviation heritage stories that abound with NAHA’s borders.


The NAHA brand experience is now communicated via several promotional avenues, including a glossy brochure, an efficient Trip Planner, a robust website (, a first class travel exhibit, print advertising in travel & tourism magazines, videos and a host of NAHA flyers and partner promotional materials.  Visitors to the National Park sites, for example, are up more than 25% in the year and a half since promotions began, and hits on the NAHA website are now up to some 70,000 per month.  Plans are underway to upgrade the website to make it more robust, more interactive, and various direct marketing tools will soon be used to connect with different aviation constituents.  In addition, NAHA plans to add two more heritage sites to its current collection:  Woodland Cemetery, burial site of the Wright brothers, and Hawthorn Hill, the brothers’ magnificent mansion in neighboring Oakwood.


Lightle has gone a step further than promotion by creating a Grand Design vision for NAHA that shows the NAHA community how it can leverage its past to create an all new future for the Dayton region.  The vision includes a 12-point plan for transforming Dayton along broader tourism lines, drawing millions of visitors to NAHA and Dayton with existing sites and by adding a few new grand attractors that will take aviation related tourism to all new technological entertainment levels.  If the vision is realized, Dayton will surely become the Go To Place for air and space edutainment, and still be the Go To Place for aviation heritage. Click here to view case study graphics in PDF format.