Designer in Profile: Jon Fenton, Senior Designer of Acumen Design Associates

Name: Jon FentonAcumen Design Associates

Company: Acumen Design Associates

Position within company: Senior Designer

Website: Acumen Design Associates


Tell us a little about your background in design (education, experience, etc)
I studied Industrial Design at Loughborough University but have always had a passion for design; as a kid I would take apart old household products to understand how they worked – with varying degrees of success in putting them back together again!

Having joined Acumen Design Associates in 2011, much of my early focus was on product design. Acumen has a history of investing in unique British companies and as part of our relationship with medical company, FirstKind, I was the design lead for the geko™ – an innovative neuromuscular device used to prevent and treat a range of acute medical conditions associated with poor blood circulation.

From there, I have used my skillset to support a number of high-profile cabin designs and work with the world’s biggest airlines to improve their passenger experience. We have a number of launches planned for 2019, so keep your eyes out!

How would you describe your design style?
Honest, considered, concise.

Where does your design inspiration come from?
Working with a highly-experienced team from multiple different design disciplines – many of whom have been responsible for ground-breaking aviation design projects that have shaped our industry – means there’s always plenty of inspiration to be found just walking around the studio!

What direction do you feel design is moving towards?
In recent years there has been a cross-industry trend to look towards patents and IP to create value and protect cutting-edge ideas. As it becomes increasingly competitive to generate new IP in the crowded aviation market, designers and clients will look to create more memorable brand experiences. The aviation industry has evolved so much in the last two decades that it is no longer good enough for airlines to simply have a unique idea; customers value how products make them feel not how many patents it has. Customer loyalty is arguably more valuable than IP protection and that is one of the main drivers for airlines to invest in a more personalised on-board experience for passengers.

Name five key themes to consider when approaching design in 2019

 1 – Experience economy: as we move away from ownership of luxury, we are seeing new markets develop whereby the focus is on wanting to experience luxury instead.

2 – Choice: customers are increasingly used to having more choice and personalisation than ever before. Products and brands need to use design to compliment and adapt to their needs and wants.

3 – Instagram: people want to capture unique designs and experiences – especially in aviation – and share these moments and products with their followers.

4 – Integration: products and services now need to work with a wider technological ecosystem – whether that is the Internet of Things (IoT) at home or AI assistants on smart phones, customers now expect a more integrated product experience.

5 – Brand: with more choice, more reviews and more advice, it becomes increasingly difficult for customers to find companies and products to trust. Brand loyalty should be built through great design and experiences.

If you could offer one piece of advice when it comes to design schemes, what would it be?
Don’t try to please everyone and be confident in your design decisions. With social media and sites like Pinterest it is all too easy to compare ideas to the competition and to create a ‘me too’ solution. The iconic designs that stand the test of time are ones with the most originality and authenticity.

How important are The International Yacht & Aviation Awards?
The awards are a fantastic opportunity to not only showcase excellent design and grant exposure to the winning designers, but also serve as inspiration to the industry – motivating other designers and organisations to take their work to a new level. Unlike most awards voting is only open to industry professionals, design et al readers, clients and customers, meaning the results give rare and accurate insight into the universal perceptions behind iconic aviation designs.

What projects are you currently working on?
Nice try but I could not possibly say! Acumen Design Associates reputation is built on our ability to create original cabin experiences that deliver for airlines and meet the evolving needs of modern passengers. Since our last major product launch with United Airlines we have working on a selection of creative projects that will set the industry alight as they launch over the next 18 months – they are certainly going to be worth the wait!

What are your aims and goals for the next 12 months?
The VT Volant ARC bathroom was a project both myself and one of our newest team members, Anthony Hudson, worked tirelessly on. Over the next year we will continue to work together to develop and learn from each other, along with the wider Acumen team – delivering some of aviation’s most anticipated cabin designs for the world’s most renowned airlines. It is going to be an exciting year ahead!

Acumen Design Associates