Flying In Style

by Yuval Saar | 30.08.15

Image by Tomer Yaakobson

When Idan Noyberg & Gal Bulka worked on their joint project in their studies in the department of Industrial Design at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, they never imagined that their work would spark the interest of El Al – Israel’s flag carrier. But it did, and El Al invited the two for an introductory meeting. 

Last month, the first result of the collaboration between Noyberg, Bulka and the renowned airline company was launched: a wearable blanket well-adjusted for the convenience of future traveleres with holes cut out for the arms and head.

Photo by Tomer Yaakobson

Photos by Tomer Yaakobson

The connection between Noyberg (b.1983) and Bulka (b.1986) was forged after they were teamed together for an exercise in their first year of studies. “We understood very quickly that collaborating not only felt right, but really worked to our advantage,” the two impart. “Working together constantly evokes dialogues about the projects and takes us in a better direction. We bring to the table different perspectives and different design tools and that’s what makes our connection that much stronger. There’s something about the differences between us that enables a dynamic work process that is based on efficiency. The contrasting worlds we come from motivate us to tackle things outside our perspective comfort zones,” Bulka expands. “We started out as two contrastive people, from utterly unrelated backgrounds, and over time we learned how to merge and unify that distinction. Gal has a much more romantic take on design and I am more aimed towards marketability, and that really reflects in our final project,” Noyberg adds.

“To me, the greatest strength of the blanket we designed for El Al is the context within which it exists,” Bulka states. “There are other blankets with a similar design orientation that have been out there before we launched this product, but we add to the equation the context and the financial aspect. Our feat as designers is that we matched between the blanket and the airplane environment in which such a product is a pure necessity. The blanket was designed so that its manufacturing costs would be almost identical to those of the blanket the airline company already acquires. It’s designed for comfort and is bereft of intricate design, pockets and stitches. It’s not overly complicated and it’s ready for mass production.”

"b tourist": the first concept presented to El Al

“b tourist”: the first concept presented to El Al

What can you tell us about this past year’s work process: from the moment the idea was born to the moment when you tried on the blanket for final fittings? What has changed from the initial concept to the final product?

Noyberg: “There’s a term in consumerism called ‘Thinking Big’- which means that every small change you want to implement in a large industry has a substantial financial meaning. Going back to our blanket, when we thought about the coloring, the stitches and the actual time it would take to manufacture it, we realized it meant quite a lot. So we had to scale down substantially and there were times when we thought it would never happen and that we wouldn’t make it…”

Bulka: “When I attended a lecture of Satochi Yasu, Muji’s art director, the entire audience was relying on the translator, since the lecture was in Japanese. One of the things that really stood out to me in that lecture was the wording the translator chose for her translation of the word ‘minimalism’ in Japanese. She translated it as- ‘being satisfied with something.’ It was very surprising and even moving to hear these words in such a context.

“When you enter a large company that has a certain behavior pattern you are committed to being innovative, but you also have to remember to be modest. This company exists for more years than I do and it has its own norms and rules so the change that we made had to be small, clean of mannerisms and aligned with the company’s ideals, and at the same time, it had to remain true to the product’s spirit.”

The two received true feedback about their product at the test flight to New York when the blanket was given out to passengers for the first time. “It was fun to hear enthusiastic response in real-time about the user experience of a product we worked on for a long time and is finally up and running,” Bulka exclaims. “I’ll share with you some of my favorite quotes from the passengers: ‘This feels so comfortable, it feels cozy’, ‘I fly a lot and I haven’t seen something like this in other airline companies, ‘I slept like a baby.’ And the best one- ‘This is so great- it’s like flying business.’ We were very excited to hear people say these things. For us, this is success”

// Translation from hebrew by Joy Bernard


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