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Photo: Jonas Malmström


People of SAS: Kristine Mayer captures that Scandi feeling

How do you capture the feeling of Scandinavia in a plane, terminal or lounge? For about six years, Kristine Mayer, responsible for strategic product design at SAS, has been hard at work trying to do just that. The result has been a complete revamp of the company’s 20-year-old design program.

The latest SAS revamp actually started with the seats on the airplane. They needed to be replaced, and this sparked an entire redesign of the plane’s interior, launched in 2015. In 2017, a new design program for the lounges started to roll out and recently the exterior of SAS’ aircraft was modernized.

Kristine Mayer, responsible for strategic product design at SAS. Photo: Jonas MalmströmAll of these big projects have ended up on Mayer’s desk – something she’s very grateful for. 
“I have a passion for design and form, and bringing it all together,” she says. “When you meet SAS, it should feel like one SAS. You should go from the check-in area, via the Fast Track and the lounge and sit down in the cabin and see this red thread throughout it all, or, as I like to call it, the ‘blue thread.’ It’s been the ambition from day one to bring all the environments together to create the best customer experience. We are a great cross functional design team working hard to achieve this.” 

The guiding principles for renewing one of Scandinavia’s most recognizable brands were customer benefit, sustainability and innovation – three things that have always been important to SAS and key in SAS’ product development, but now more than ever.  
“When travelers meet us, they should feel like they’re coming home to Scandinavia,” she says. In order to capture the right feeling, Mayer and her team have several sources of inspiration, including the nature of Scandinavia.  

One concrete example of this is the mood lights on SAS’ long-haul flights where travelers get to experience sunrise and sunset depending on what time of day it is. 

‘It’s important that decisions we make in terms of design are based on customer needs’

“To create that feeling, we’ve used experiences from real sunrises and sunsets all over Scandinavia,” Mayer says. “For example, we’ve captured the color tones of the sky in Norwegian and Swedish mountains to reflect nature in our own environment. We’ve tried to create a feeling throughout the travel chain, depending on where the traveler is at any given time,” Mayer says.

The choice of materials is a vital part of a redesign for an airline. Photo: Jonas Malmström

“For example, we’re bigger and bolder in the check-in area so our travelers know where to go, and we use more somber tones, for example, in the lounge area where we want them to de-stress.”

To Mayer, it’s vital that she and her team deliver things that travelers actually want. “It’s important that decisions we make in terms of design are based on customer needs,” she says. “In every major project, we’ve done a solid pre-study which includes focus groups and customer surveys. You must have this foundation in place to make the right decisions.” 

“It’s also important that everyone working at SAS is satisfied. The crew should really feel proud of their workplace,” Mayer says, giving the example of the new onboard interior design.

“When we developed the onboard design, it was important to us that the employees would feel that this was SAS. That they got a ‘this is us’ feeling. The day we released the new design we met crew who were teary-eyed by what they saw. For me, it was definitely the greatest confirmation that we’d created an environment where our excellent crew can thrive and deliver the experience all of us at SAS work so hard to achieve.” 

SAS Gold Lounge in Oslo.

Sustainability is another key priority for SAS that Mayer and her team focus on in creating a new look for the airline. The goal is to use 100% sustainable material in the customer offering by 2030, and every part of product development at SAS is in constant dialogue with the company’s suppliers to ensure they meet the standards SAS has set up to meet these goals. “We want our suppliers to be on board on this journey and we strive to be pioneers in the industry,” Mayer says. “We want to lead the way toward more sustainable air travel, and a sustainability outlook in our product development is one important part of this.” 

SAS is working hard to phase out fossil materials used throughout its travel chain. One example is the new packaging of the New Nordic by SAS Cube, the food concept on short-haul flights. 

The new SAS livery look.

“We want to minimize the use of fossil plastics and the Cube is an excellent example of this,” Mayer says. “It’s -important to find the most sustainable packaging solutions, but also to visualize to the customer that we are on this sustainability journey.” 

‘It’s magical to go into the hangar and meet the aircraft you’ve been working on for years’

Mayer’s job allows her to work on many different projects. In addition to the release of the new livery this year, she and the onboard part of the team have finalized all the design details of the A350, SAS’ new long-haul aircraft and the world’s most fuel-efficient to date. Meanwhile, the part of the team responsible for uniforms has been working on finding new sustainable fabric alternatives for the uniform wardrobe, and the initial work for the future look of the lounges has been started by the part of the team responsible for onground environments. 

What Mayer enjoys most at SAS, -besides the creative process and the great teamwork, is seeing the final sketches become reality. “It’s magical to go into the hangar and meet the aircraft you’ve been working on for years, and see it full size,” she says. “Transforming a brand into physical design is my forte.” 

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