Hot fifty – Virgin Atlantic

Sir Richard Branson’s airline has a strong reputation for design. Conceived as a challenger to more established national carriers such as British Airways, it has long sought to appeal to a market that is hip and experimental, as well as competing on price for the handful of international destinations it flies to.

Its policy on design has won it a string of creative awards along the way. For example, the first-class seat designed by Pearson Lloyd has been highly acclaimed. The first-class lounges by architect Softroom, working with the in-house team, meanwhile won Best of Show at the 2007 Design Week Awards.

It is all about detail, as anyone who has experienced the airline – or seen Joe Ferry, Virgin Atlantic head of design, on the conference circuit – can attest. Design underpins the whole experience.

It earns its place in the Hot 50 this year for the way it has integrated design into the organisation even more closely over the past 12 or so months. Last year, product designer Dee Cooper stepped into the new role of director of product and service to create a strategy for all classes of travel. She joined Virgin Atlantic in 1995 as a designer, became head of design in 1998 and then set up the product team in 2001. She took up the new job after a short career break.

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