In It Takes Ten, leaders from 10 of the industry’s top design houses share their thoughts on the creative process, sources of inspiration and the many diverging strategies that guide their work. In this section, Lift Aero Design sheds light on its panoramic approach.
“I was literally drawing airplane seats when I was 10 years old. My perplexed, yet ever composed, mother would reach over to my father and whisper, ‘psychotherapy,’” recalls Daniel Baron, founder and managing director of LIFT Aero Design. Baron opened LIFT in 2009 and has since worked on everything from startups and legacy carriers, to single-aisle refurbishments and superjumbo A380s. “We are possibly the only studio in Asia to have designed all four major pillars for an airline: brand, livery, cabin and uniform,” he says. “Not bad for a cheeky airplane geek from the ’burbs.”
Since 2017, Baron has been joined by design partner Aaron Samuel Yong who, though admits to his own form of childhood geekery, says, “Lie-flat business-class seats didn’t grace my sketchbooks until I was at least 15.” Together, Baron says, “We’re on our way to conquering the airline universe.”
Baron is based in Tokyo and Yong in Singapore, but that’s not the only thing that separates them from the locus of design in London. “We have less emphasis on industrial design but a wider scope of work within the airline world,” Baron says. “The result is quite a deep and complete understanding of airlines. Clients are sometimes surprised that we already grasp their problems and know the right questions to ask from the get-go.”
This type of big picture thinking is especially useful for airlines short on time, resources or knowledge, the last of which can be the case when someone from outside the industry is at the helm of an upstart carrier. “We can immediately anticipate the process and tasks involved for each area, the order of priorities, the relevant suppliers and their lead times, regulatory issues, cost issues, etc.”
Baron points to HK Express, an airline for which LIFT overhauled brand, livery, cabin and uniform, with the goal of establishing it as Hong Kong’s hometown LCC and differentiating it from its sister carrier, Hong Kong Airlines. New cabins could be installed on the aircraft the carrier had on order, but improvements had to be implemented piecemeal over time on existing aircraft that could not be taken out of service. “It was an exotic puzzle of pieces morphing and moving as you went along,” Baron says.
An all-encompassing mindset enables LIFT to see the hidden opportunities in narrower briefs, as well. In the case of the Philippine Airlines (PAL) contract, for which LIFT designed its A350 cabins, multicolored mood lighting was used to generate ancillary revenue for the first time – in addition to “sunset” and “fiesta” settings, passengers could pre-book special “celebration” lighting for birthdays or anniversaries. “Fortunately, the results exceeded expectations,” Baron says. “They literally get oohs and aahs from passengers and crew.”
“It Takes Ten” was originally published in the 10.2 April/May issue of APEX Experience magazine.