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Air Japan

A ‘thoughtful’ cabin interior design

In March 2022 ANA Holdings unveiled a new international airline called Air Japan, to take off in the second half of 2023. Acumen was honoured to be asked by ANA to help create the new cabin interior design for this exciting new airline, and bring the ‘Fly Thoughtful’ brand philosophy to life on board.





Design Objective

Responding to a more challenging landscape

The new airline will focus on medium-haul international routes operating with B787-8 aircraft. The launch of the new airline is part of the transformation of ANA’s business model to pursue sustainable growth and respond to the more challenging landscape impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. The aim is to position the new airline ‘as neither full-service nor a low-cost carrier”, and offer fares at an “affordable price range similar to low-cost carriers”.

ANA approached Acumen to create the new cabin interior and seat design. ANA Holdings assigned aircraft from their existing B787-8 fleet to the new carrier – and the project meant that ANA would be the first airline to totally refurbish this relatively new aircraft type.

ANA wanted to create a unique and differentiated product in the market – delivering a modern interior with comfort and quality. ANA chose the Z110i Economy seat from Safran and asked Acumen to work with the seat supplier, to define the CMF, and dress cover design details. Acumen also worked closely with ANA and their integrator to specify the cabin interior finishes working within the challenging commercial and timeline constraints.

The Challenge

In mid-2021 ANA commissioned Landor to create the new airline brand – which included a new brand strategy, naming, and identity. The brand philosophy can be summed up in the phrase “Fly Thoughtful”, which expresses the airline’s caring, thoughtful, and gentle approach. The brand name “AirJapan” was selected to remind customers from all around the world of the airline’s provenance and commitment to “Japanese Quality” in everything the airline does.

The logo is based on the Ai(r) and (J)apan featured in the brand name and is inspired by the image of a kind and thoughtful hand-to-hand interaction.

The brand’s colour combines the traditional Japanese colours “Ai (indigo)” and “Akebono (sunrise)”. The indigo colour expresses the skills and careful technique involved in the traditional Japanese art of indigo dyeing, a complex process that requires “Trust & Thoughtfulness” from the artisan. The sunrise colour was inspired by the spring season of Japan and represents comfortable warmth to demonstrate a commitment to “Comfort & Care”.

At the start of the project, ANA asked Acumen to work collaboratively with Landor as they created the new brand for Air Japan. Our work on the cabin CMF started as soon as the brand colour palette was defined. Before the new airline identity was launched to the public, Acumen had several workshops with Landor to understand the brand strategy and discussions on how the brand colour palette could be interpreted into the cabin in a ‘thoughtful way’.

Our initial work explored different creative territories informed by the brand strategy. We then explored a design language evoking the Japanese spirit and defined some key design principles that helped to inform the CMF direction across the cabin.

The new identity ‘sunrise colour’ is a muted pink and is a colour that is rarely seen in cabin interiors – which excited our CMF team to explore its application.

Premium and Contemporary

ANA requested that the new seat dress covers would be made from synthetic leather called ‘Ultraleather’, with its inherent hygienic and weight-saving characteristics. In line with the thoughtful brand positioning, we wanted to signal a bold move for the new brand by shifting the look and feel of the seats away from the majority of economy seats.

Our design approach looked at using a dark grey Ultraleather and matching dark grey plastic across the entire seat – creating a more unified design that is more contemporary and premium. However, the warm grey Ultraleather and plastic are balanced perfectly by using the ‘sunrise’ pink colour as accent piping and contrast stitching. The accent pink piping and stitching bring a softer, more feminine feel to the seat design evoking comfort and quality.

The work scope included not only the dress cover and CMF of the new seat but new carpets, curtains, and laminates in the cabin.

The accent pink was also used in the new curtain design introducing a gradient ombre effect, flowing from pink to warm grey. For the carpet we worked with Botany to introduce a more environmentally friendly nylon carpet design, using an existing and certified carpet construction but blending the new colours greys, blues, and pink accents into a unique carpet design that uses 100% recycled nylon, using Econyl yarns from Aquafil.

The decorative laminate was perhaps the most complex to navigate – finding a suitable laminate that would work with the new cabin colours, but to keep the costs low the laminate had to be pre-certified on B787-8 aircraft and all the different monument applications. Working with the integrator and Boeing we identified a decorative laminate that met the brief and perfectly complimented the interior – with its soft layered pattern evoking the misty mountains of Japan.

The Result

Neither a full-service nor low cost carrier

The new Air Japan cabin interior feels elegant, calm, and considered. It also has a modern and understated look that is underpinned by the dark grey seat design moving it away from traditional-looking economy seats.

The brand’s indigo blue forms the base colour of the new carpet with speckles of pink bringing the design a modern twist and with the soft light grey cabin walls - ‘sunrise’ pink pops out in the cabin through small details in the seat piping and curtain.

Above all the cabin interior reflects the airline’s ambition to offer a quality travel experience that is neither a full-service nor low-cost carrier (LCC), combining the best of both worlds with an unmistakable Japanese spirit and style.