Paul Priestman and Nigel Goode founded a London-based design firm with a history in consultancy for large projects like airline cabin interiors, high-speed rail travel, hotels and hospitals. PriestmanGoode has been in operation since 1989 and currently has a staff of about 50, of which 32 are designers, now under the directorship of Luke Hawes.
A new issue for airline design was brought to light through the 2012 London Paralympics and experiences of athletes in getting to/around the UK by plane. PRMs (passengers with reduced mobility) say the predictably uncomfortable flight starts well before boarding the plane. Even more than simply getting through the ordeal of security, it’s in the airport lounges, at gates and various transition points throughout the airport that cause the worst problems. It is here, that the indignity and discrimination felt by those needing assistance can be greatly and easily reduced. Air Access is aimed at catering for and improving plane travel to the standards expected by able-bodied passengers. With aging populations worldwide, obesity on the rise and more passengers in a variety of states of health, PriestmanGoode must be very much in demand.
The wheelchair in use since the airport check-in is the same one that slides over a conventional seat. It is secured to the fixed plane seat with no obvious difference in height or dimensions. While in the air, the footrest tucks away and small wheels don’t obstruct the aisle. There appear to be few knobs and protruding parts to break off or malfunction. The chair does not look very comfortable but this might be completely different from the user’s point of view. Other innovations on board include larger overhead lockers for carry-on luggage.
A planned expansion for the London Underground for 2020, is a new fleet of tube trains without drivers. The design was given the highly coveted IDEA Award (joint Silver) in early 2015 by the Industrial Designers Society of America. Cynical me thinks their introduction in a few years’ time might have been one of the reasons the striking Underground staff were being particularly difficult in recent negotiations over working conditions and plans to make the tube run 24h a day. http://www.idsa.org/awards/idea/automotive-transportation-0
Central to all PriestmanGoode projects is the focus on the user’s experience. Work on hotels start with comfortable beds and nice bathrooms because these are what the guest will remember and come back again for.
“…we’ve designed the room first and the hotel around that room”…”We are, in effect, designing the whole building – from the customer’s perspective, rather than what it looks like from the outside”.
Away from private hotels, public sector healthcare is also being looked at in terms of a more pleasant stay for patients. This recovery area is designed to lessen the need to devote beds and rooms to patients while they regain their strength following minor operations. The open-plan nature of the lounges mean those without visitors should feel less lonely in larger shared spaces and hospital staff can still monitor patients quite easily and discretely. These are important factors for a state-funded industry with dwindling budgets and a premium value on bed space.
One project I was surprised to learn about was World View, a viewing capsule for 8 space tourists to go high enough in the sky to see what has only previously been seen from outer space. The pod will be lifted up nearly 100,000ft into the upper strata of Earth’s atmosphere by a parachute and an enormous helium-filled hot air balloon. It won Bronze in the 2014 IDEA’s Automotive & Transportation category. With all of Richard Branson’s unsuccessful Virgin Galactic efforts, it is the nearest we have come to safe commercial space tourism. The caption to accompany this project is PriestmanGoode know luxury travel.
Moving Platforms is a superbly hi-tech idea to enable transferring from one train to another without the need to wait on a station platform. The design firm prides itself on coming up with solutions previously not thought of. In one interview, Paul Priestman said “big infrastructure projects rely on a long-term view and sometimes a touch of altruism to affect how we might live in the future”.
Although PriestmanGoode say they have no ‘house style’, I identify a number of recurring elements to their work:
- clean lines throughout and smooth edges/surfaces that are easy to maintain in high occupancy facilities for the public
- few but bold colours, and not much in the way of patterned fabrics or decorative furnishings
- simple aesthetic with a tendency to avoid ‘airy fairy’ or distracting details (Paul Priestman hates it when things look nice but don’t work)
- strong connection to what guests/passengers actually want and how they feel (significant changes were made to business class cabins on one airline because they were a bit claustrophobic)
- extensive consultations with local experts and users on cultural norms, expectations, signifiers/signs and references (absolutely necessary when working with foreign clients)