Airstream, the riveted aluminum travel trailer originally designed in the 1930’s by Hawley Bowlus, the creator of Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis, has long been favored by rugged aesthetes including Sean Penn, Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, and Matthew McConaughey—not to mention NASA astronauts. It is now hoping to recruit a new generation of design-forward fans with its latest introduction, the Globetrotter, by Carsten Astheimer’s U.K.-based studio Astheimer Limited, a veteran of projects for Ferrari, Samsung, 3M, and Caterpillar. We spoke with Airstream CEO Bob Wheeler about the collaboration.
Interior Design: Why Astheimer Limited?
Bob Wheeler: Design has always been a cornerstone of the Airstream brand, and we were seeking new partners who share our passion for design that is timeless, beautiful, and can deliver a transformative customer experience. Astheimer Limited was chosen as one of a small number of finalists based both on the creativity and quality of their thinking and their overall passion for helping to shape Airstream’s future. Ashtiemer’s portfolio of work in yachting and automotive demonstrated their ability to translate these qualities into design concepts that were holistic, beautiful, and spoke to the timeless quality that is at the heart of Airstream design.
ID: What was your design brief for them?
BW: Here at Airstream we like to keep our design briefs, well, brief! In this case, we released a one page document that outlined the design and business goals for this new model, including the desired customer experience and key design equities like modern, upscale, open, etc. In these kinds of engagements, we like to outline the experience we are trying to create for our customers but leave room for creativity in the execution.
For this brief, we also asked to be challenged and to be shown concepts that went beyond the constraints of our normal design and manufacturing processes. This was an intentional choice to help us find the boundaries of what was possible and encourage a design that we would be unlikely to come up with on our own.
ID: How do you balance maintaining your brand’s legacy while moving the company into the future?
BW: That question is always at the crux of every major new design initiative at Airstream. We obviously have a history that we have to respect without allowing ourselves to be being bound by it. Luckily, most of our visual brand equity is tied up in the iconic aluminum shell, with which we don’t tinker much, but the interiors of our travel trailers are where we get to flex our design muscle. We feel that the Globetrotter is a great and appropriate step forward from a design perspective, and that the interior delivers on the promise made by the exterior.
ID: How is it manifested in the end result?
BW: We’re really pleased with the result. We think that this design is modern and clean without being cold and uninviting. To the contrary, the curves that are central to this design are welcoming, and a natural fit in the curvy environment of an Airstream interior. The design flows visually from end to end, managing the transitions between functional areas smoothly and with intent. The design of the casework is striking but not jarring, but also refreshingly different from anything we have done in recent years. And if early market response is any indication, we’ve got a winner.