12 February 2015

Three questions for:
Daniel Knies, Spiriant

Text: Susanne Heinlein

Based in Neu-Isenburg near Frankfurt am Main, Spiriant equips airlines all over the world with onboard products. Not only must these products fulfill their purpose perfectly, but they must also support the identity of the respective brand, even if they are only unconsciously perceived. One area in which they are used is catering, where processes are speeded up thanks to well thought out equipment designed as much with the comfort of the crew in mind as that of the passengers. Part of this system is the tableware, which is also one of the focal points of form 258. Daniel Knies, Spiriant’s Director Design, took the time to answer a few extra questions.


1. What are the specific challenges of designing on-board tableware?


There are a number of important factors at play when designing on-board tableware. These range from the management of global logistics to the arranging of the food, and from the strain exerted by industrial dishwashers to the disposal of the products. The primary focus, however, is always the passengers’ experience of the service. On board an aircraft there is very limited space for a pleasant, ergonomically optimal dining experience to take place. The crew also has to serve food from the oven and trolleys quickly, quietly and smoothly and take the leftovers back afterwards. This can be a difficult job on flights with 200 passengers. Certainly, the prevalent trolley system and the catering processes that are based on it represent a unique challenge. All of the items of tableware must be ordered in as versatile a way as possible on the trays, and it should be possible to stow them away so that they take up little space. On top of all of these functional aspects, the communication and perception of the airline’s brand and the creation of a brand experience are playing an increasingly important role.


2. How does the design process work, and who is involved, apart from the designers?


We usually start with an analysis of the existing on-board services and the catering processes. In doing so, we identify ways in which they could be improved. We look for parallels in order to gain a better understanding of the aviation industry and its specific market environment. Service coverage, heritage, what sets a brand apart from the competition, market values, and tradition and vision play key roles.


On the basis of this information, we develop different product concepts that include the necessary processes on board and as part of the catering concept. We then begin the design process, in which we present different versions of products to enthuse our clients. In cooperation with them, we then build these into a product line. On the customer side, the in-flight management is involved, along with representatives from the purchasing and marketing divisions, the crew, and, where possible, the catering department. Some airlines also involve their management board in the selection. Our project team consists of a design and a sales section. Purchasing and logistics teams become involved at a later stage.


3. Spiriant develops tableware for over 180 airlines. Are there differences that arise from the country in which the airline is based? To what extent is the cultural background important for the design?


Cultural background plays a major role. Local eating habits and customs influence the choice of tableware items and shapes, as well as expectations relating to the distinctive design language of the country in question. Airlines are proud of their heritage and see themselves as representatives of it – even the private airlines. Passengers want to be entertained and are happy when they get a taste of their destination or homeland. For some it is a familiar experience; for others it is something exotic.


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