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Future of Flight Aviation Center near Seattle 2006

Our History

Welcome to the History Section of the Future of Flight website.

The Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour facility first opened to the general public on December 17, 2005. It was built and is owned by Snohomish County, and The Boeing Company leases a portion of the building for its Tour Center. Under a contract with the County, the nonprofit manages the facility.


A New Name Emphasizes Education

At the 10 Year Anniversary Celebration the nonprofit announced that its Future of Flight Foundation name would be changed to Institute of Flight as part of a comprehensive “rebranding.” Yes, a nonprofit has a brand – an identity that communicates what the organization stands for and how it benefits the community.

For the first several years the name Future of Flight Foundation was appropriate, since the organization had been created to help launch the new Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour, and its early focus was to effectively operate that facility. Now the organization has matured beyond its start-up days. While its role as the facility operator is still a core mission, the nonprofit has been increasing its work on educational programs and activities, and that is the public identity it embraces.

In its 2014-2017 strategic plan, the nonprofit’s leadership recognized that it was time to re-evaluate and update the organization’s vision, mission, and identity. In early 2015 the Causality consulting firm began that assessment. It interviewed scores of people, including the organization’s board members and staff, members, and donors. It also conducted online surveys with a larger audience. The positive news is that the outside interviewees recognize the organization’s educational focus and accomplishments. On the other hand, a number of people stated that the group’s current name does not capture that identity. Rather, many in the general public and even among the philanthropic community think the physical facility is operated by The Boeing Company or at least predominately funded by it. Similarly, many believe the organization’s activities are substantially subsidized by Snohomish County. These perceptions not only fail to accurately reflect the nonprofit’s true nature; they in fact undercut the fundraising efforts that are vital to its education programs, public events, and Gallery exhibit updates. Also, having the word “foundation” in the name is a disadvantage, because to many a “foundation” already has a substantial financial endowment and does not need more contributions. In short, it was time for a new, more accurate, and evocative brand.

The process revealed many positive attributes about the organization. The nonprofit’s educational focus stood out as a consistent theme among interview groups. The board agreed this strong commitment to education is the essence of the nonprofit.

At its October 15, 2015 meeting, the board of directors approved “Institute of Flight” as the new name. “Institute” means an organization having a particular object or common factor, especially a scientific, educational or social one, and it fits this organization well. The Institute of Flight focuses on educating tomorrow’s leaders, scientists and technicians, using aviation science and innovation as a touchstone for its lessons and programs.

The board also approved a flexible tagline: “Where imagination soars.” This phrase is a starting point for expressing the nonprofit’s mission, allowing the concept to expand and develop as needed, thus staying relevant and future-focused.

The tagline’s format can be tailored to different uses as the organization’s efforts and programs evolve, such as “where innovation soars” or “where your contribution soars.”

On November 6, 2015, the board of directors adopted a new primary logo and a secondary logo (for gender relevance).

After considering numerous alternatives, it became clear that the strong impact of the adult and child silhouettes connects with people like no other icons could. As with the naming and tagline, the logo design process explored a variety of styles, from contemporary and cutting edge to dignified and traditional. While many options were a more literal interpretation of the new name or focused on the machinery of flight, it was the power of the human experience that best portrayed the organization. The adult and child silhouettes powerfully convey the past, present, and future of flight and symbolize the educational interaction between adults and the next generation. The logo tells a story that transcends language, especially important given the large international audience the Future of Flight experience attracts. The silhouettes, like the future they represent, are bold and mysterious, leaving the details to the imagination. All the elements come together to successfully capture the organization’s essence—education.

The launch of the new name, logo, tagline, and color study is just the beginning of how the nonprofit’s brand will define itself. The growth of the brand will come through repetition, messaging and promotion, and in the public’s interaction with all those associated with the organization. The board, executive director, staff, volunteers and anyone else associated with the Institute of Flight take the brand beyond the visual and verbal elements. They are the experiential component of the brand. When the visual, verbal, and experiential work together you have a truly authentic brand.

As its journey continues into the future, the Institute of Flight is determined to enhance the Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour as a premier visitor attraction, event venue and education resource, and to soar beyond the walls of that facility to inspire young students and life-long learners with the magic of the future of flight.