To creating a “soaring” experience start with a clean sheet of paper. And focus on seeing things from the perspective of the end user.

For many, flying is a bad experience: crowded spaces, ill-tempered passengers, baggage charges, etc., etc. Getting to one’s destination is all that matters, and we tend to grit our teeth and bear the trip itself.

What if it weren’t that way? This fascinating article from the excellent The Designair blog describes how the Ethihad Design Consortium took a “blank sheet of paper” approach to improving the experience of airline travel.

As a true fan of commercial aviation I loved the article on its merits; the allure of international top-tier air travel appeals to me greatly, and who doesn’t love fantastic interior design? Yet, two months after I first read it, the article was still bouncing around in my half-empty skull. It was on today’s flight that it occurred to me why: this article is really not about airline interior design, it is about taking the perspective of the user when designing an experience. Airlines act as though they see themselves in the business of people moving. They seem concerned only with getting their payload – people and their luggage – safely from point A to point B as cost effectively as possible.

What the airlines should start doing is seeing themselves in the hospitality business. Getting there means more emphasis placed on under-centered design.

It should not be a big intellectual leap to apply user-centered design to aircraft interior design. But that really doesn’t happen. This article points out in a very tasty manner that passengers enter most commercial aircraft through the galley while almost no hotel anywhere in the world makes its guests enter through the kitchen.

There are certainly “practical” reasons for this, but that’s where design can take over and solve for those compromises. The Ethihad Design Consortium – made up of the design firms of Honour, Acumen and Factorydesign – did just that in taking a blank-page approach and thinking about the passenger.

This project has relevance to almost every industry and discipline. No matter how “big” the challenge, starting from the perspective of the end user will always deliver the best solution.

Another big thanks to the folks at Skift for surfacing this.

Editor’s note: This post in Medium summarizes the ways that specific user-centric design can be expanded to impact everyone. It’s a worthy read.