Updating a travel icon for the professional millennial

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Columbus College of Art & Design Polycarbonate windows are part of a lightweight feature by the Columbus College of Art & Design's MindMarket studio to update the iconic Airstream trailer.

AUSTIN, TEXAS — As part of a drive to expand its customer base to include more millennials, Airstream Inc. turned to the Columbus College of Art & Design’s MindMarket studios to develop a mobile office and living space product concept.

Industrial design students from CCAD spent a semester designing and building the prototype, turning to plastics in several instances in part to fit the lightweight needs of iconically aluminum Airstream travel trailers. The full-size prototype, built inside a shell provided by Airstream’s Jackson Center, Ohio, manufacturing facility, was showcased at the Industrial Designers Society of America‘s International Conference in Austin.

The trailer, which features convertible seating and a desk area that opens to the outdoors, includes Lexan polycarbonate windows, Corian solid-surface countertops, vinyl flooring, plastic laminate and fiberglass features.

The design team sought to respect the Airstream character while appealing to younger markets, said Laura Purkhiser, a senior at CCAD and one of the designers on the project. Airstream’s current customer base averages 60 years old.

Columbus College of Art & Design The updated Airstream interior has Corian countertops, vinyl flooring and fiberglass features to appeal to younger customers.

Around 120 CCAD students were involved with the cross-disciplinary project, creating marketing materials, a documentary and even a line of sportswear in addition to the actual prototype, said Tom Gattis, dean of CCAD’s School of Design Arts. Twelve students collaborated on the interior design.

CCAD students unveiled the prototype to Airstream executives in May.

“Airstream chose the CCAD MindMarket to create a new product concept because we value the perspective of millennials, who are our future customers,” Bob Wheeler, president and CEO of Airstream, said in a statement. “Having a leading art and design college just an hour away from our facility is exciting for our product development efforts and allows us to bring students to the factory throughout the process so they understand the manufacturing implications of their design choices.”

After the project was completed, Airstream began evaluating the prototype for manufacturing potential.

“Airstream is working through final details now on the production side to determine when they will begin manufacturing,” a representative for the project wrote in an email.