Designer Jet interiors for the rich and famous
March 23, 2006 If no two people are the same, then neither are two billionaires. So why is it that most VIP Interiors tend to favour a traditional concept, layout and style? This is fine if you’re a J.D. Rockefeller, (all leather chesterfields and walnut burr), but what if you’re a Versace or a Branson or even an Oprah?? Great wealth affords customers the opportunity to indulge themselves, to define an identity and style across a range of living environments from castles to Palazzos and megayachts. So why not VIP aircraft??
During the summer of 2005 Design Q, a design consultancy based in the heart of England, were approached by Jan Nieberle, a Design Engineer in VIP Jet Maintenance at Lufthansa Technik who is also the architect of Project U, (Lufthansa Technik’s VIP Interior Concept Programme). He had a request that they design and implement a VIP interior for an Airbus A319 but it must reflect the distinct personality and taste of his client; a ‘Power’ couple, both in their thirties with a youthful and stylish outlook but very family-conscious, whose security, privacy and comfort had caused them to reassess the way they travelled as a family.
For Design Q, this project was about translating the needs and style of high net-worth customers from an initial discussion and briefing into an interior beyond the realms of what is currently available, an ambition they shared with Lufthansa Technik. Together, they knew it would be possible to tailor the interior to every need, desire and taste while importantly, maintaining full certification.
The Design Process
The initial part of any project such as this necessitates establishing a rapport between the client and the design team; a task not always made easy by the demanding schedules of a multi-nationally known couple! Therefore it is the designer’s job to know what a client wants without actually asking that very question. Design Q has a long history of working on high status projects directly for the end customer and it is this experience that made their contribution invaluable.
Design Q’s answer to understanding the perspective of someone who lives life very much above the stratosphere of most people involves what they term a ‘Personality Map’, in other words, the use of imagery to depict the activities, perceptions and aspirations of the customer. Using the Personality Map a designer is able to identify with a client’s requirements and use inspirational images to influence the style direction for the aircraft. Having established these boundaries, the design brief was set and it was time to start the creative process – in this case using traditional methods of sketching. Whilst Design Q are exponents of digital technology, they have found that many customers like to see sketches, and it is still the fastest way of expressing new ideas. As Gary Doy, director of Design Q says, ‘clients can have an emotional reaction to sketches; it injects a sense of craft into the process’. Various architectural layouts based on the Airbus A319 were explored in parallel to ideation sketches suggesting appropriate volumes and form language. The two were then able to come together at the necessary points in the programme in order to maintain a smooth transition from concept to reality. The drawings were invaluable in portraying a quick empathy for interior theme, which all involved could connect with.
As the designs evolved a more detailed LOPA was defined allowing the team to evaluate the architectural layout in more detail. This LOPA was then used as the foundation for the 3D electronic styling model. Design Q worked with Lufthansa Tecknik’s visualisation team, ACA, constructing the interior components and outputting final visuals for concept approval by the client. This is an extremely effective way of both showing the client how their interior could look whilst providing the engineering team with valuable ‘A’ surface data to back up the schemes. Design Q have a particular expertise in this area using the latest technology from the Automotive industry to define accurate high quality surfaces exportable directly in to Catia with photorealistic rendering capabilities.
The Design Philosophy
Feedback from the ‘personality map’ showed the interior had to fit in with all three key lifestyles (work, rest & play). The result? A contemporary interior enhanced by an exciting and completely versatile living space. Let us walk you through it…..
At the main entrance, occupants are invited into an open-plan living area, where there is little in the way of clumsy furniture usually associated with aircraft interiors. Instead, the open space is inviting and allows passengers to look down the entire length of the plane, where the first thing that hits you is the vast lounger-style seating, opposite a huge projection screen that takes up one side of the cabin wall). The main seating area has a versatility all of its own, offering the users different configurations for use. Based on the Barcelona Chair’s iconic simplistic lines, a style which was favoured by the client and, incidentally, has recently passed certification from Lufthansa Technik, it offers the space for several family members to lounge comfortably, or alternatively, for an entourage to be seated. On the left of the entrance is a bar, while a central island holding drinks, glasses and communications technology reaches from floor to ceiling. Panels on the upper cabin walls house the ambient lighting which can be controlled using the Lufthansa Technik’s latest cabin environment technology, but which also hold interchangeable floating panels where artwork can be displayed; a customization which would allow easy updates when required.
The only isolated area of the aircraft is the unique ‘Snug’. Any open plan layout still needs an area of privacy and escape, so a small room was created with cushioned wall’s and another large projection system, offering games, films, TV and internet access. A hit with the children, this space also provides sleeping quarters for our celebrity couple. Opposite the snug sit three Barcelona chairs providing separate meeting space for more formal activities. This then brings us to the rear section of the aircraft.
Any client of this financial worth and importance would accrue an entourage of some sort, requiring TTL seating, dining and work space with the possibility of sleeping on long or overnight flights. Therefore, Design Q proposed a more unique and social environment far better than the standard TTL seats usually adopted in this area of a VIP aircraft.
The timeframe from initial project briefing to the presentation of 3D visuals was under 7 weeks; a remarkable achievement for an exclusive design-led project given the extent of the design exercise.
Design Q have since embarked on other projects with equally high status individuals and continue to develop ever more interesting solutions to the design and execution of aircraft interiors, be it commercial or VIP, fixed or rotary wing. Their other business interests also benefit from the diversity of the design team offering design services in Automotive, Marine, Industrial and Consumer Product fields.
Gary Doy and Howard Guy are the two directors of Design Q and are both ex-Jaguar designers, responsible for the XK 8 and SType respectively. Established in 1997, the consultancy has grown in size and experience to become one of Europe’s premier design consultancies. With the addition of Design Q’s sister companies, Q Trim and Q Aerospace, the group is able to offer a turn key service to the Aviation industry from concept design through to supply of production units. As Howard Guy says ‘it is this ability to supply both fresh design thought and real production solutions that makes us stand out from the crowd’.
The Celebrity Jet and other work carried out by Design Q will be on display on their stand (Hall 10 Stand E27) at the Aircraft Interiors EXPO, Hamburg at the beginning of April.