Design Q Gets the Jet-Set Set

The design mavens of the Midlands create a celebrity jet-
and there’s nothing plane about it

By Vincent Hamilton


 Passengers enter the plane directly into a bar area that includes stools and a floor-to-ceiling island of glass barware and communications technology.

In an unassuming structure just south of Birmingham, where England’s bucolic countryside meets its industrial estates, Design Q is quietly creating elegant, groundbreaking designs for transportation on the ground, in the air, and on the water.

Don’t know Design Q? Well you certainly know their work: the designers and engineers at this consultancy have produced some of the most coveted, high-performance automobiles on the road, including the Jaguar S-Type and SK8, the Maserati MC12, and the Ferrari FXX. A less familiar design is the one-of-a-kind Aston Martin re-created by the minds of Design Q. The owner of this QV8 thought the car “too pedestrian.” So Design Q completely redesigned the interior and refined the exterior, resulting in a uniquely luxurious, bespoke vehicle the owner could truly call his own.

Since getting their start designing automobiles for Jaguar, Design Q founders Gary Doy and Howard Guy have been producing premium transport design solutions for all modes of transport, including helicopters and other aircraft for Saudi Royalty, super-yachts for the super-rich, private and commercial jets, and even motorcycles.

Their first foray beyond cars was a project for Princess Yachts that almost never happened. The venerable boat builder was skeptical that the qualities that made Guy’s and Doy’s car design so arresting would translate onto the high seas. Guy defeated doubt with audacity: “A three-week project,” he announced. “If you don’t like it, don’t pay us.” When the project was delivered, an ovation was received. Design Q was making waves.

Because of their clientele’s status, the agency rarely has the freedom to divulge the facts of their work. But there is one recent project they are able to talk about: the Airbus A319 Celebrity Jet. Approached by Jan Nieberle, leader of Project U, Lufthansa Technik’s VIP Interior Concept Program, Guy and Doy agreed to design a VIP interior for an extremely high-profile celebrity family.

The client, who Guy merely describes as “youthful, dynamic, stylish, and family-oriented,” but who rumor has as soccer star David Beckham, required an interior that reflected his personality and accommodated his family’s lifestyle. In short, the client wanted the plane to be an alternate home, office, and entertainment center unlike anything else. The challenge put to Design Q was to design a space that accommodated work, play, and rest, while keeping to the standards of aircraft certification.

Having established an understanding with the client, Guy and Doy immediately leaped beyond the stated expectations. “People don’t know what’s possible,” explains Guy. “We can’t be satisfied with what people want; we look to revolutionize the thinking and expectations of our clients.” And so they did.

First came the storyboard sketches: the initial, expressive renderings of the pair’s ideas. Once the client approved a direction, Design Q implemented high-tech tools to capture the concept with precision and clarity. The result is a luxurious aircraft that offers a uniquely versatile space for in-flight living.

Passengers enter the plane directly into a bar area that includes stools and a floor-to-ceiling island of glass barware and communications technology. Beyond the bar, the main lounge area boasts multiple couches on one side and a massive projection screen along the wall on the other. Guests can watch satellite TV, DVDs, CCTV, or test their skills with the latest video games.

The next space is a mini lounge. An area for business or private conversations, it is furnished with Mies van der Rohe’s elegant and classic Barcelona Chairs. “The same as those in the client’s home,” notes Guy. “We got them certified.” The space is separated from the main lounge by a clear glass screen, which turns opaque with the press of a button.

Adjacent to this mini lounge is what Guy and Doy refer to as “The Snug.” Fully padded and soundproof, this semi-circular room features an entertainment system with 360-degree surround sound and a 180-degree wrap-around projection screen. It’s the perfect in-flight space for kids to play without bothering adult passengers. It also doubles as the celebrity couple’s bedroom.

The take-off-and-landing suite is in the back of the plane. Each plush seat, detailed in dark wood and brushed metal, converts into a comfortable, full-length flat bed, while one row can be converted into a sofa.

Three-dimensional graphics were presented to the client just seven weeks after the initial briefing-a testament to the range of talent and services on offer at Design Q, as well as to the passion that those talents bring to their work.

Having completed the Celebrity Jet and, more recently, projects for Cathay Pacific’s First Class suite and British Airways’ Business Class suite, what will Design Q turn its talents to next? That is what excites Howard. “I never know what I’ll be designing tomorrow,” he says. “But I’m an optimist. If a designer isn’t an optimist, then he’s a bad designer.” Design Q’s clients have reason to be optimistic as well.