While design of clothing, furniture, watches, and other items of la vie quotidienne are regularly recognised for innovation and logic, scant attention is paid to the intricacies of design for modes of transport and the implications thereof. From municipal buses to SBB rolling stock, much time, effort and investment go into the engineering and interior design to create the best possible products in motion.
For SWISS International Air Lines, the impact of design goes beyond national borders. In this age of global movement, the first impression of Switzerland as a nation for many travellers takes place upon boarding a SWISS jet in Bangkok, Tokyo or New York. With novel design elements and innovative thinking incorporated into its latest Business Class and First Class products, SWISS takes Swiss cleverness and knowhow to the world with the same seriousness as any furniture workshop designing a sofa or table – and faces additional considerations such as weight, volume, and flame resistance to boot. Next time you fly SWISS at the front of the plane, notice the details. Everything in the cabin is designed with careful attention to physical comfort and ergonomic application.
SWISS is not the only Swiss company to benefit from its latest improvements; the success of the new cabin interiors can be accredited to the Swiss companies that created them. Oberwil-based textile designer Caroline Flueler designed the soft amenities, such as pillows and blankets, to coordinate with the hardware and cabin colour scheme. She collaborated on the latter with fellow canton of Zug resident Patrick Lindon, creator of the T71 furniture system sold worldwide and represented in Zurich’s Museum of Design. For Lindon and his team, the demands of modern society serve as the criteria for their creations; reliability, energy efficiency and pollution minimalisation are of primary importance, necessitating creative solutions in applying light-weight materials to produce comfortable seats and appealing interior design. The resulting award-winning “Best Business Class” cabin has not only yielded kudos for SWISS, but lowered both the airline’s fuel consumption and carbon emissions.
Credit is due to another Swiss company as well. Lantal, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of textiles and carpeting for use in aircraft and other public transport, is the enterprise behind the pneumatic comfort system that replaces foam with air and permits passengers to adjust their seat cushions for maximum comfort. That comfort includes a peaceful environment; beyond the seat, Lantal also developed sound-absorbing curtains to reduce noise from the galley area entering the passenger cabin.
Surprisingly, or perhaps not, there have been complaints from a few ornery passengers on SWISS about things “not being in the right place,” but what is design if not a challenge to the status quo? Like writing twelve-tone music or inventing a flush toilet, improving inflight experience is obviously an unacceptable form of progress for some. With continued growth in Asia (SWISS is introducing nonstop flights between Zurich and Beijing in early 2012), where the standard of airline cabins and service often surpass the offerings of US and European airlines, it is obvious that SWISS understands the global nature of the competition it faces and takes action to stay in the game rather than watch its market share eroded by savvy competitors who know good design in the air is a considerable factor in financial profitability on the ground.
Articel by text by Robert La Bua