Layer Design and Airbus bring the ‘class’ back to economy class

The bane of air-travel, aside from noisy children and overpriced peanuts of course, is the fact that you’re stuck in an uncomfortable chair with practically no cushioning and hardly any leg-room. The economy class of an airplane is designed to be just that… economical. It sacrifices comfort, the need of personal space, and probably even its share of functionality just to make sure it can host as many passengers on the plane. We justify this mild discomfort because “it’s only for a few hours, right?”

In collaboration with Airbus, Benjamin Hubert of LAYER Design has developed what may just be the future of the economy class. An 18-month long project, Hubert’s transformed the very idea of the economy class without compromising on the quantitative nature of economical travel. Introducing smart fabrics that fit futuristic possibilities into a single sheet of cloth, and a thin, strong frame that holds everything together (along with a pretty remarkable tray system), Hubert and Airbus’s design, titled ‘Move’, allows seating to remain thin yet comfortable, and even makes accommodations for entertainment, storage, and even the so-far-unsolvable problem of legroom. The result is seating that occupies less space, but doesn’t let that be perceived as a con. It makes up for everything with top-notch design, engineering, and technology, allowing the economical class to feel classy.

THE SEAT – MATERIAL

The Move employs a smart textile seat cover (polyester wool blend – for heat regulation, robustness, and tactility – with integrated conductive yarn) that’s mounted on a robust aircraft grade aluminium and carbon fibre frame. “The knitted seat cover has zones of various density knit that offer different levels of support to the body. Throughout the journey, the Move seat automatically adjusts based on passenger weight, size, and movement to maintain optimal ergonomic comfort”, says Hubert. “This is made possible by passing current through the conductive yarn to vary the seat tension. The passenger can make additional adjustments to the seat based on personal preference using the Move app. The Move app can also be used to engage different seat modes, such as ‘massage’, ‘mealtime’, or ‘sleep’.”

THE SEAT – COMFORT

With a set fabric that can change density, flexibility, and even temperature, the Move doesn’t need to worry about integrating foam panels for cushioning, and even ditches the reclining mechanism. The reclining mechanism helps chairs feel more relaxing by changing one’s posture. However, a posture change also results in the eternal legroom problem. “The position of the seat is fixed – which addresses the issue of ‘legroom rage’ caused by passengers unnecessarily reclining on shorter flights”- instead, the chair’s fabric possesses the ability to learn from your posture, build, and body temperature, helping you sit in a way that feels comfortable to you. This could mean heating the chair up or cooling it down… or even tightening the fabric near the kidneys for greater lumbar support, or relaxing the overall textile for a more hammock-like feel.

THE TRAY TABLE + STORAGE

The Move also integrates a display and tray unit on the back of each seat. The display unit delivers key information, and even comes with an optional In Flight Entertainment module that can fit in its place. The tray unit combines functionalities too, serving as an emergency exit map when closed, and a fully height-adjustable tray when opened out. Right under it is a pocket to store your belongings, and the Move even comes with a sleeve to store laptops and tablets underneath the seats (between individual chairs). The laptop sleeves come made with a pressure sensitive yarn too, reminding you to collect your belongings while deboarding the plane.

DESIGN DETAILS

Move’s design is quite a departure from the usual defensive design of economical class seating which sort of acts as a psychological reminder that the Business Class is better and more desirable. Hubert uses a beautiful gradiented fabric to make the plane’s interiors more eye-catching, feeling more like a theater and less like the waiting room at an ER. Height adjustable armrests let you go from compartmentalized to bench-style seating, and the headrests even curve inwards, providing a great pillow to rest your head against, while also allowing you to get that private, cocooned feeling. My favorite detail is the fact that they even come with the seat number embroidered/printed directly on the headrest so you’ll never find yourself struggling to locate your seat by constantly holding up your boarding pass to double check for your spot! And it does all this without altering or tinkering with the orientation or the layout of seats, but rather just upgrading the seat as a singular unit.

Designers: Benjamin Hubert (LAYER) & Airbus.

A Maker of Morning People

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The latest in a history of collaborations between the designers at LAYER and tech brand nolii, the aptly named Rise lamp aims to make each day one you look forward to!

First and foremost, it works wirelessly, eliminating the need for cumbersome cords while giving users the ability to take it from room to room, wherever dimmable LED light is needed. A battery located in the base provides up to 12 hours of light time and it can even supplement power to your smartphone and other devices with an integrated USBC ports. That’ll also come in handy because you’ll be able to use your smartphone to control the light which also works in tandem with your alarm. Speaking of which, the design sports a “sunrise alarm” feature that will gently ease you into the day with a natural light progression that mimics that of the morning sun–which has been shown to improve your mood and overall outlook on life!

Designer: Benjamin Hubert of LAYER for nolii

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Footwear that Never Ends and Only Changes

A recent winner of the 2018 James Dyson Award, the Layer shoe explores modularity and sustainability without sacrificing style. Designed using biodegradable and recycled materials, users can customize their shoe from the start and continue to repair and reimagine their footwear to keep up with trends or adapt to their changing style over time.

The product arrives with the uppers, soles, insoles, and fastening laces fully assembled. If one of the components wears out, users can replace just that part. Its unique lacing system requires the user to fasten the upper and sole when replacing any of the 3. This encourages the wearer to have a greater connection to the footwear in which they’ve had a hand in making. Using a convenient online ordering platform, users can cipher through a selection of different recycled parts in a variety of different colors and finishes to create a look that’s all their own.

Designer: Evan Stuart

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INSPIRATION

Recently, “Fast Fashion” trends have resulted in shoes becoming seasonal, cheap and disposable products. However, at what cost to our planet and our society? Unfortunately, it is a fact that it is incredibly difficult to recycle footwear. Each year, roughly 22.5 billion pairs of shoes are made and 300 million pairs are discarded to landfill because they cannot be recycled. Most casual footwear is designed to be bonded and glued together in manufacture but are not designed to be repaired. Layer was designed as a possible solution to reduce footwear waste. It is a statement to the industry that sustainable footwear is a viable alternative.

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DESIGN PROCESS

This project required an in-depth understanding of the current issues of footwear recycling, product manufacture and it’s end of life. Initial research began with several interviews with industry experts in textile recycling and multiple site visits were arranged to view textile recycling companies. Over the course of 2 months of research, process studies and focus groups it was discovered that most footwear waste is generated because shoes cannot be easily separated back to individual materials. With this key insight, ideation and concept generation began. The importance of developing ideas in tandem with verifying them in a physical form was essential. Over 43 physical working models were explored to design a viable attachment mechanism. A lacing method was chosen. Initial prototypes were generated using EVA foam and cardboard reinforcing. These low fidelity prototypes were essential in understanding basic footwear principles. After analyzing and improving the design, a high fidelity functional prototype was created by utilizing various design techniques including CAD, 3D printing, molding and casting. Polyurethane was used to create flexible soles, while all other materials are the intended final materials and sourced from suppliers specializing in recycled polyester fabrics.”

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HOW IT WORKS

Based on the idea that footwear waste can be eliminated from landfills around the world, Layer allows users to repair and customise their shoes to keep up with trends. By creating products from biodegradable plastics and recycled polyester fabrics this decreases the overall impact of the product. Initially, the product will be purchased by the customer and arrive fully assembled. Comprising of four key components: The Uppers, Soles, Insoles and a Fastening Lace, the shoe is totally repairable. In time, as parts wear, tear and date, the user can replace individual parts with ease by ordering new ones online. A lacing system is used to sew the uppers to the shoe soles. Beginning at a start point, the user threads the lace through both parts until the reaching the endpoint. These endpoints fasten the parts together, preventing the lace from coming undone.

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Layer’s new wearable crypto-wallet is a CMF paradise!

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Aside from being a state-of-the-art piece of tech that houses your crypto-coins in an un-hackable offline device, the Trove is just refreshingly different to look at. Shaped literally like a coin, the Trove is simply secure, and its designers call it unhackable and unloseable.

Keeping your crypto-coins offline, the Coin is a physical representation of a cryptocoin, and something that you can wear on your person as a necklace or a wristband. Aside from safely storing your cryptocoins offline, it comes with a state-of-the-art ECG sensor to even take the worry of remembering passwords. Simply press your skin against the Coin and it reads your unique bio-rhythm (the rhythm at which your heart beats) to identify you from the others, eliminating the need to remember complex passwords for your crypto-wallet. With a slim Kvadrat wristband and neckband, you can wear the Coin on your person, carrying it around with you, and pairing it with your phone to use the cryptocurrency within.

Aside from the remarkable technology behind the workings of the coin, it’s more of the aesthetic that we’re wowed by. Benjamin Hubert pushed for a finish that’s virtually unseen with the “Aerated Aluminum” construction of the coin. Looking like a pristine, polished piece of pumice rock, the Coin is simply wonderful to look at and has a tactile quality that’s unmatched. It looks wonderfully ornamental on one’s person, and pairs brilliantly with the Keep, a charging platform made for the Coin. The Keep is actually made from pumice, a volcanic rock that’s known for its bubbly, aerated physical appearance. Place the Coin on the Keep and it inductively charges the wearable, while the two of them look just beautifully complementary with their perforated aesthetic. The keep even comes with a tinted acrylic case to ‘preserve’ the Coin, making it look almost like a relic.

The Trove aims at making cryptocurrency storage more secure, while effectively introducing another category to the wearable market. It also showcases a new type of aluminum production, aerated aluminum, that not only looks incredibly natural and unique but also results in lighter products that use less material too. I can’t wait to see this being used more!

Designer: Benjamin Hubert/Layer

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