Q&A with Joe Ferry, Head designer, Virgin Atlantic
Situated at the helm of Virgin Atlantic’s design department for the past 13 years, what Joe Ferry doesn’t know about airline innovation isn’t worth knowing.
Responsible for Virgin’s Upper Class revolution, the near-perfect T5 wing, and the groundbreaking home-to-plane, cocktail fueled travel transition for which Virgin is famed, Ferry is the definitive cog of the self-style ’People’s Champion’ machine.
See Ferry’s portfolio of designs for Virgin Atlantic
Ferry opens up to wallpaper.com about making the most of the downturn, cocktails and flying in economy.
In the ten years that you’ve worked for Virgin, what has been the idea or product of which you are most proud?
The Upper Class experience as a whole is probably what I would consider the design team’s greatest achievement. It started in 2001 with our Upper Class suite and concluded last year with the opening of our Terminal 5 wing – I am incredibly proud of the seamless transition we have created from home to airport.
Are you responsible for every element of Virgin design? Do you design the uniforms as well as the interiors and fittings?
Yes essentially, although I work with a team of architects, graphic designers, fashion designers and interior designers to produce every element of the passenger experience. Everything the passenger touches has had a design input from the team.
How do you approach design for Virgin, is there a particular brief you adhere to? There seems to be an integral element of fun involved.
Well, we always keep our brand values in mind. We know we need to live up to our reputation as ‘the people’s champion’ and as such we need to push boundaries with everything we do. People expect innovative products from us and as such it is hugely important that we deliver.
Virgin is a comparatively small airline in the grand scheme of things – how has it become such a world-beating brand? Is it all down to the design?
Certainly not, it’s down to an all round team effort – we rely on the front line staff to create the passenger experience. But there are people behind the scenes on every level. For example when we’re putting new design ideas forward we need a very creatively minded accounting team – which thankfully we have!
You’re work for the upper-class lounges and cabins has been pioneering – what’s your favourite upper-class feature?
There are 2 main things really – the Upper Class suite that converts from a seat into a bed is really special, it’s been a bit of a world-beater. The 15m cocktail bar in the T5 clubhouse is also a favourite of mine, it’s the perfect demonstration of Virgin’s ‘Joie de Vivre’.
Where are you looking to take Virgin next? Is there anything exciting in the pipeline?
Not a lot I can talk about at the moment unfortunately. Now is a good time to look to the future – we need to remain true to the brand and think about how the brand will remain relevant into the future.
Where do you see aviation design going in the next 5-10 years?
There are some exciting opportunities with new aircrafts set to be released, including the Boeing 787 and the Airbus A350, which will give us a chance to rethink cabin features etc. – although, we’re up against some rather hostile litigation in terms of what we can put inside our aircrafts.
Do you like flying?
I love it. I’m still that person who books the window seat. I’m lucky enough to fly Upper Class when I travel business, and it always reaffirms that idea of flying glamour – although having said that, I did fly economy from Barbados last month as there wasn’t any room…