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Q&A: Nathan Sparshott, Viewport Studio

Having worked as a senior designer at Virgin Atlantic until 2013, Nathan Sparshott has in-depth knowledge and experience of the brand. He has since joined Viewport Studio (see here), a company he was also familiar with in its previous guise as VW+BS, which worked on the airline's A330 bar design. We find out a little more about Sparshott's views on the passenger experience…

What is your background?

"I consider myself fortunate to say I studied at Brunel University at a time when the campus at Runnymead was home to the product design course. A beautiful grand old country estate, with its woodland and views of the Thames and Windsor Castle, made for a unique environment for studying design. After graduation and an internship at Philips Design the UK, Philips offered me the opportunity to work at their HQ in Holland, working on consumer electronics and a number of research projects. I learned my craft as a designer there in a great environment shared with some very talented people, many of whom I have worked with since."

How did you get started in aircraft interior design?

"I used to live not far from the Virgin Atlantic office and had often thought it would be a fantastic place to work. The timing of my return to the UK coincided with a vacancy in the design department, which I was thankfully offered. Almost immediately I was tasked with my first cabin interior projects: a fresh look at seating for economy and premium economy."

Did you have to work with other companies in the Virgin Group for brand cohesion, or did you work independently?

"We worked pretty independently. The Virgin Atlantic brand remains incredibly strong, which is a testament to the customer experience it creates."

What image and feeling do you think the colors in Virgin Atlantic cabins give to passengers?

Colors, materials and lighting are so important in creating the right cabin mood. Virgin has historically never shied away from bold moves and creating statement interiors, which customers love. The A330 interior (SEE HERE) had the working title of ‘Effortless Chic’, and we spent a lot of time in development getting this particular palate right with our suppliers. I think the result is a balance of striking boldness in communal areas, and refined calmness in the seating spaces."

LEFT: Nathan Sparshott worked with Gareth Southall at Virgin Atlantic's design department until 2013, when they both joined VW+BS to create Viewport Studio. To find out more about their work on the Virgin Atlantic Dreamliner, see the feature in our November 2014 issue

Should certain colors be avoided in cabin design?

"I wouldn’t rule out anything in isolation, but I do know that the cabin interior is a harsh environment for wear and tear. It is just one part of the job to provide a trim and finish ambition; implementation is where we put a lot of focus, ensuring the materials and finishes are up to the rigor that awaits them."

What do you see as the upcoming trends in cabin design?

"As time has passed the playing field has leveled. As well the obvious desire for light weight and modular design for the physical product, I think we will see a focus toward service and a desire for airlines to be consistently great at delivering an complete experience that customers value and want to return to."

Do design trends from other sectors influence your work?

"Very much so. For us it is very important to look outside the industry for examples of great customer experience, particularly when it comes to exemplary service. We then try to thread these influences into our work. There is no question that the aircraft interior is a unique environment in which to sit, eat, sleep and be entertained, so we need to ensure our customers enjoy what we offer."

IFE technology is moving towards larger screens and more immersive experiences – do you predict IFE technology taking a central role in cabin design?

"IFE is about staying connected and being entertained. Virgin Atlantic was among the early pioneers of inflight entertainment and it continues to drive a fantastic offering. Interestingly, video on demand was originally seen in our aircraft prior to its now widespread availability on the ground. As the digital world advances, customers increasingly expect to be able to use their own devices seamlessly on-board and to stay connected, as well as enjoy the airline offering and being entertained."

What do you do when you're not designing aircraft interiors?

"I have two children, who are amazing, I am very proud to see them learn and discover as they grow, so I spend most of my free time with my family and catching up with friends."



12 January 2015


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