The Journey of Innovation

Our Creative and Marketing Director, Richard Wake, discusses En Route's carefully considered design process.

Richard Wake

Good design is about more than just functionality and aesthetics. It’s about a carefully considered process every step of the way.

There is often the perception that creativity and innovation are the realms of design departments in isolation; that this is something that happens towards the end of a project to improve its style or appearance. This really isn’t our approach.

We take pride in our ability to consistently deliver tailored solutions for our customers that perform perfectly all through the product or service lifecycle. To do this, innovation must be integral to the DNA of how we work on a day-to-day basis.

En Route employs a user-centric innovation model as a core part of its in-house teams’ day-to-day business practices. This approach makes a huge difference to each organisation or individual who comes into close contact with a product or service.

We work closely with everyone who has a stake in the journey of one of our products to ensure it is perfectly optimised to meet their needs, while still delighting the end user with an outstanding and memorable experience. This is critical to our customers because it creates and retains brand loyalty in a fiercely competitive marketplace.

We never underestimate how important these brand ambassadors are and attaining their approval for a new product that may have a change in direction to their normal way of doing things is essential. If cabin crew, for instance, buy into a new service they will be enthused and will naturally sell it to the passenger. If they do not, new concepts tend to fail rapidly, and this can have a damaging effect on a brand.

Design Process

The journey of a product must be meticulously considered, from conception through to end user and these principles apply whether you’re designing a cardboard box or a car, and failure to consider all influential factors will result in poor design.

This is unacceptable in airline catering and onboard service, which is a highly organised and developed process, where efficiencies, controlled operational costs and excellent passenger service are vital. Outstanding design should be born from these constraints.

This high level of restriction is what makes the innovation journey so exciting. We love a challenge and often our best products, such as our Galley Boxes and Global Cheese Programme, have come from highly challenging process-driven environments.

While there is some flexibility and slight variation between different carriers and caterers, the way products are prepared, delivered, stowed and often served to passengers is hardwired into the fabric of our market even to the point of how aeroplanes are designed.

Beautiful styling and graphic design that passengers will be comfortable and excited to engage with is important, but it is also critical to create believable and authentic brand stories as part of these guest experiences.

The rise of the ‘experience economy’ is currently one of the most important global trends in marketing so each part of this journey should be understandable and sympathetic to the airlines own highly established brand, while providing just enough surprise and delight to make the passenger feel they are getting something truly special.

Always Innovating

We have seen a huge amount of innovation in our industry over the last few years as the world develops and consumers’ perception of their requirements from an airline change, not least through the integration of the digital world into the passenger experience.

It’s safe to say that there have been some great ideas. It has never been more exciting as a creative thinker to be part of this ever-evolving industry. But rushing or failing to properly execute the process often results in weak, disjointed brand experiences that do not inspire loyalty and often court criticism.

We must give ourselves enough time to truly innovate and not fast track this critical process. When utilised properly, a solid design thinking approach to innovation can have game-changing results, which can catapult brands to the forefront of any industry.

About Richard Wake

Richard Wake leads En Route’s creative and marketing teams, and with over 15 years’ experience in the airline, automotive and industrial design industries he has gained valuable insight into innovating within a wide range of markets. Having worked in both the UK and Asia-Pacific, Richard’s passion, knowledge and experience has led him to his current role as Creative and Marketing Director at En Route.

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