Belinda Mason, Thompson’s CMF Designer, sitting in a design office with an abundance of textiles around her.

Thompson’s Echo CMF standardises design, simplifies supply chain

Details and Design banner with text on graph paper backgroundWith the aircraft interiors sector making headlines both for impressive new products and for serious delays caused by supply chain and production issues, seatmaker Thompson Aero Seating is turning the spotlight on colour, material and finish (CMF) design with a new palette for its four-member Vantage seat family. It’s called Project Echo, and its goals are to celebrate its Northern Ireland roots, to boost the luxuriousness of its products, and to simplify the supply chain as the industry looks towards a time of substantial demand.

Belinda Mason, Thompson’s CMF Designer, explains that “our aim has been to create a narrative for Thompson that is a reflection of our culture. We have interpreted colours and textures into visuals, using nature and the chemistry of its colours as our influence. The result is a feeling of quiet luxury.” 

The overall design feel of the Echo palette is a warm, natural and dramatic selection of colours and textures one might find while wrapped up in a handmade scarf in a windy autumn garden. Greens span from almost-black deep pines through lighter pale greens that fade into greys. 

Warm medium tan is an accent, while texture — of foils, thermoplastics, leathers, leather effects, and seat covers — is emphasised throughout. Metal elements remain silvery, with an almost olive-silver option that looks especially intriguing.

It’s a smart design palette for the current times, both because natural neutrals are very much in and because by varying the principal accent colour to something from an airline’s own brand kit, customisation is simplified and process iteration time reduced.

Various neutral colored fabric swatches from Thompson are set out on a table.

Project Echo is comprised of thoughtfully selected neutrals. Image: Thompson Aero Seating

Initially, the Echo palette will be applied to the seatmaker’s four Vantage products, to be revealed at this month’s Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg. The seatmaker teases each model’s implementation as follows:

  • Vantage: The redesign has introduced a lighter outer shell with a darker inner core. This, married with natural stones and lighter woods, gives a distinct aura of quality.
  • VantageXL: An intense dark surround and sumptuous leather inner give the VantageXL a subtle confidence. The enhanced front row conveys first class with deep moss-greens and velvety suedes.
  • VantageSolo: The enhanced front row of the VantageSOLO uses soft tan leather as a pop of colour. The CMF options correlate with the changing offering, defining each category of seat.
  • VantageDuo: The VantageDUO cocoons the passenger in a dark fabric wrapping, highlighted with a lighter inner seat and light stone worktops. Premium leathers bring a feel that is as good as the look.

“Aside from positives for the important aesthetic and brand recognition, Project Echo has the advantage of standardising many of the materials used within the seating range,” Thompson explains. “This makes the supply of materials easier to manage and gives economies of scale. While cohesion and unification has been important, each seating product still looks quite individual with the different layering of textures and colours.”

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It’s impressive to see a seatmaker putting so much focus both on the aesthetic and production benefits of thinking early and deep about CMF. Increasingly, airlines wanting to be carriers of choice, and price-makers within the market, are looking towards texture and design to boost the attractiveness — in visual and revenue terms — of their product. 

Indeed, a line of distinction is starting to emerge among the newest generation of modern premium classes in particular, between those that are innovating around impressive CMF and those that (for a variety of reasons, but often including production and supply chain issues) are not. Since the last AIX in particular, this line has become increasingly clear, with numerous new products standing out on either side. Eyes are fully fixed on Hamburg to see how these design details evolve.

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Featured image credited to Thompson Aero Seating