Future Flight at the Science Museum

This week I participated in a talk at the Science Museum entitled ‘Future Flight’. Held at the Dana Centre, with three other speakers who were engineering luminaries from Manchester Met, Cambridge and Bauhaus Luftfahrt.

My talk covered the evolution of the design of airports and aeroplanes from a product-based and engineering-driven model, to an experience and service-based and user-driven model.

It described how with most airlines using similar technology (planes), the thing that differentiates them is the services they offer. This was then followed by a description of the complexities of designing experiences, particularly for such massive spaces such as airports and airplanes, which is seen when you take the needs, desires, abilities and mindsets of all the different passengers that will use them at the same time.

The brief introduction to the subject was rounded up with some details of the different methodologies that could be employed to research, inform and design such complex experiences such as working from the bottom up rather than the top down, placing the user at the heart of the design process.

Emotional journey mapping and the principles of co-designing with end users were used as examples of such methodologies, with quick case studies such as Engine’s Connections Experience or T5 info zone included to illustrate.

The presentation stuck out from the other three who gave interesting insights into the future of aerodynamics, sustainability issues and how technology is falling behind in comparison to user demand and sheer numbers of people in the air and the environmental effects as a result. However, the marathon one-hour per speaker q & a session that followed was reassuringly passionate, as everyone there has had some good, bad, weird and wonderful experiences of flying, and it is precisely those human experiences that I am interested in.