Luxury Magazine caught up with Ian Druburgh to find out more about Acumen Design Associates. Ian founded Acumen Design Associates in 1981 as a multidisciplinary design consultancy. A named inventor on patents spanning many industry sectors, his commitment to innovation is the bedrock of the brand.
In a career spanning more than 30 years, he has enjoyed award winning success in a wide range of industry sectors from the Marine to Aerospace, FMCG, Life Science, architecture and high performance products. With a broad market knowledge and strong brand awareness, Ian brings a unique perspective and insight to any new product development program aiming to achieve market leadership.
LM: How did the first flat-bed change the offering of airlines once it was introduced?
ID: Aviation design is marked by occasional huge leaps forward in design that are then replicated by airlines over time. When British Airways rolled out the first fully flat bed in the sky in 1996, every commercial airline began the scramble to try and catch up. Over time, most airlines began offering flat beds in first and then business class. We are now seeing a trend emerge of airlines decommissioning first class offerings in favour of business class and super business class, as a more commercial viable option for premium services. However last year another huge leap took place. The Residence by Etihad offers a private three room VIP suite in the sky, bringing the commercial experience something close to private aviation. Only time will tell if other airlines begin to adopt this approach.
LM: What was revolutionary about the First Class seating for Etihad? Where did your design inspiration come from?
ID: Acumen has always taken an empirical approach, building from the ground up to create designs that truly disrupt convention. Etihad Airways stated its ambition to be the best airline in the world and its vision was to create the individuality and exclusivity of a luxury boutique hotel experience that embraced Arabian modernism, so we spent a great deal of time at the start immersing ourselves in every aspect of Arabian culture. Since the development of flat-bed products in the mid 90s, the basic format of wide-body First Class products has remained unchanged; a seat-to-bed mechanism with close-fitting furniture, arranged across two aisles. Fundamentally, the single aisle of the ‘First Apartments’ gives significant real-estate back to the passenger, providing them with more choice in how and where they relax, eat, sleep, and entertain guests. Many of the fabrics and materials within the suite were custom-designed with subtle reference to modern Arabian architecture and classic Arabic themes – reinforcing the brand identity. The unique patent-pending layout of nested forward and aft facing seats creates a number of spatially different environments. This has been enhanced with the introduction of three different colour schemes to create individual ‘boutique-hotel’ style suites. In a market where First and Business Class Flatbed products have become increasingly similar, the First Apartments have firmly reinstated the class differential.
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