Every year in London, the UK’s brightest design graduates gather at an exhibition called New Designers to showcase their work. It’s a great opportunity to see into the future and discover some inspirational and original thinking from the new generation’s most talented designers.
We visit the exhibition each year to see what’s on offer and to present the ‘New Designers Virgin Atlantic Award’. This is given to one exceptional person – someone who fits with our way of thinking and has great potential. In terms of their design, we’re looking for a beautiful and sustainable packaged concept utilising innovation, function and form to create a fantastic product. The prize? To spend two weeks getting to know our design team and two Premium flight tickets to New York. This year’s award was judged by an illustrious panel headed up by Henry Buckley, a Designer in our Customer Experience team. Henry won the award himself four years ago, came for his two-week visit and has never left!
The winner chosen by Henry and the team was Charlotte Wilton who graduated in the summer from Loughborough University and has recently completed her fortnight with the design team. It’s an exciting time to be part of the team as they’re just putting the finishing touches to the interior of our new Airbus A350-1000 aircraft. We caught up with both Henry and Charlotte to see how they’ve been getting on.
What made you want to get into design?
The course I did at Loughborough University was ‘Product Design and Technology’. It had a very wide curriculum and I wanted to do a course that taught a lot of things. It covered design and technology, electronics, mechanics, sketching, CAD modelling and manufacturing. I was particularly interested in humanitarian design, and it was this passion for improving people’s lives the led me to create b our bridge, the winning entry.
What is ‘b our bridge’?
It’s a system to try and improve the lives of rough sleepers by using contactless donations, improved safety and social integration. It uses a handheld device which is given to rough sleepers. It has a personal alarm, a spinning plate that recharges it and Bluetooth technology that connects to phones of passers-by that have the corresponding app. This will tell you if you are near someone and allow you to make a donation which they can redeem positively for food, shelter, clothes or savings. The app also opens up a channel of communication between you and the rough sleeper which gives you more information about them and lets you know if they’d like to chat with you. This important function bridges the societal gap and helps counter the loneliness and associated mental health issues that affect many homeless people.
How have you found working at Virgin Atlantic?
It’s been amazing to see how such a strong brand is formed. Working with the Customer Experience team, I’ve been able to see all the different sides, from working with an analyst to talking directly with customers. It has been really insightful, and it’s great to see a brand that really cares about its output and improving the experience for everyone who flies with them.
What have you learned in your time here?
From a professional point of view, I’ve learned an enormous amount about interiors and layouts, and it’s been fascinating to use what I’ve learned at university and apply it to a different sector. On a personal level, every time I step onto an aircraft I’m going to see it in an entirely different light. Having spent time doing workshops with the crew and Upper Class customers I’ve gained a deep understanding of everything from why galleys are laid out the way they are to the incredible level of detail that goes into every element of aircraft interior design.
Henry was one of the judges who selected Charlotte.
What are you looking for in the New Designers award recipient?
We look for someone who has thought about the whole process and has a holistic approach to their design. Charlotte’s ‘b our bridge’ had been really well thought out and executed
What impressed you about Charlotte?
When I was judging, what really made Charlotte stand out for me was her passion for what she was presenting. Not only was she designing a product to pass her degree, she was also designing a product to solve an everyday problem; which is something I really connect with.
She has clear enthusiasm for design, and by combining this with her desire to help people it has enabled her to create a product that has real impact. She is in the process of taking her product to market, and I am very excited to see how she is getting on!
How would you describe the design ethos at Virgin Atlantic?
The aviation industry is notorious for being highly constrained and regulated, and for many carriers this leads to a lack of creativity. In the VAA design team we break through this barrier, putting our customers first, and providing them with amazing experiences. Feeding off future trends from outside of the industry, we drive innovation both in airports, and on-board our aircraft. We are forward thinking front runners that do things differently.
What did you learn from Charlotte?
We’ve loved having Charlotte in the team. It’s so good to learn from people who are straight from university. She has brought fresh eyes to problems and is really up to date with design trends.
Explore Charlotte’s website to find out more about b our bridge. To find out more about the interior of our Airbus A350-1000s you’re going to have to wait a little bit longer. Sorry!