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Shropshire student designs new mascot for Virgin Balloon Flights

Joey McAleese with Virgin Balloon Flights marketing manager Matt Jones
Joey McAleese with Virgin Balloon Flights marketing manager Matt Jones

A Shropshire design student is flying high after being chosen to create a brand new mascot for the UK’s biggest hot air balloon rides company.

Joey McAleese, 18, from Shawbury was approached by Virgin Balloon Flights to design a brand new pilot character to mark the company’s 21st birthday.

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The as-yet unnamed figure – a 21-year-old pilot with a cool retro look – will be at the centre of all the company’s promotion of its milestone year.

Matt Jones, marketing manager at Virgin Balloon Flights, said Joey had done a fantastic job.

“There are so many talented young designers in Shropshire that when we came up with the idea of a pilot mascot to mark our 21st birthday, we wanted to give the opportunity to a local student,” he said.

“The design that Joey came up with is fantastic and only needed a few tweaks during the entire process to be exactly what we were looking for.

“The Virgin brand is synonymous with fun and doing things a bit differently and we felt Joey managed to capture that really well in her pilot design.

“To have the design for her portfolio and Virgin Balloon Flights on her CV will also be a great asset when she is looking for work after university.”

As a thank you for her work, Virgin Balloon Flights has also given Joey a flight for two in one of their hot air balloons.

Joey was an A-Level pupil at Thomas Adams Sixth Form College in Wem and did the work for Virgin Balloon Flights in her spare time.

“It was quite difficult to start with as the brief I was given was quite broad but once I had done the initial design and started to get some feedback, it became much easier,” she said.

“I started off researching retro pilot images online for inspiration and found one that I really liked with the sort of look I wanted – actually a female pilot – and I based the initial designs for the Virgin balloon pilot on that.

“I started with some sketches and when I was happy with those, did some water colours and then finally moved onto Illustrator to refine and finish the design that Virgin Balloon Flights wanted.”

Joey, who will start a degree in Graphic Design at the University Of Lincoln in September, said she had really enjoyed the whole experience.

“It is something really great to have on my CV when I do finish my degree and am looking for work – not many students can say they have designed something for a Virgin company.”

Although she had always had a natural talent for art, Joey initially planned a career in science.

“It was only last year when I did an animation class that I realised graphic design was what I really wanted to do.

“Plus our teacher, Dan Haycocks, is brilliant and so inspirational.”

Virgin Balloon Flights will soon be launching a national competition to name the new pilot mascot.

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