Beginning earlier this year students from various studies in the college began a project to transform the interior of iconic travel trailer to appeal to millennial professionals such as writer, photographers and researchers looking to lead a more nomadic lifestyle.
The students are working on a concept that would free people from “traditional workplace confines” in a 23-foot Airstream. The students designed a space that would appeal to a younger demographic than Airstream normally draws, said Tom Gattis, dean of CCAD’s School of Design Arts. The prototype trailer was presented to Airstream executives on May 7.
“The folks at Airstream have been really supportive of our project and what we aimed to accomplish,” Gattis said.
The students began their mockup of the Airstream trailer with cardboard appliances and furniture representing four defined spaces: workspace, sleeping space, bathing space, and kitchen. In March Airstream delivered an empty shell to the students, who designed, built and installed interior doors, cabinetry and furniture.
“It hasn’t been an easy build,” Gattis said. “Many of the students had never built cabinetry before, so not only did they have to learn how to do that, the space inside the Airstream doesn’t have straight lines, so they had to learn how to design the cabinets to fit that space. They’ve done a great job and it really looks good.”
The students used various lightweight materials including plywood and laminates to build the cabinetry and other furniture pieces. Gattis said they paid particular care to create as many places for storage that the space would allow.
“They used a lot of hideaway tabletops that can be used for both work and entertaining. The space is designed to maximize efficiency without creating a cramped feeling,” Gattis said.
He added many of the pieces used in construction were environmentally friendly, since that is something that market research conducted by the students is important to the millennial demographic they are marketing to.
“It’s been a great learning process for our students,” Gattis said.
The Airstream project incorporated multiple disciplines from the college, including interior and fashion design students, graphic design students and students majoring in multiple areas of business. In addition to the woodworking and cabinetry installation, Gattis said the fashion design students created a wardrobe of durable outfits with the Airstream logo, while the graphic design and business students worked on various marketing projects for the new product.
Once the project is complete for the students it is unknown whether or not Airstream will attempt to market the new design. Airstream CEO Bob Wheeler told Columbus Business First newspaper that he did not know if the project would be commercially viable.
“Turning something from a single-vehicle prototype to a commercial product that we can mass produce and sell takes a lot of investment,” he said.
Gattis said the price point for the Airstream is set at about $60,000, similar to other Airstream products of a similar size.
In 2013 Airstream collaborated with Mauro Micheli and Officinia Italiana Design, a noted yacht designer to create elegant interiors for some of the Airstream models. The upscale design for the Airstream Land Yacht features teak veneers, Corian solid surface, integrated LED lighting, boat deck flooring with wood inlays, inset door hardware and pulls.
Airstream is now owned by Thor Industries, a leader in the RV field. Thor just relocated its headquarters Indiana, about an hour from Columbus. In 2012, RV shipments rose 13.2% to 285,749 units, according to RVIA’s trade group figures. This is the highest annual total for RV shipments since 2007 when 353,400 units were produced. About 10% are motor homes, the rest are towable units like the Airstream.