I’m a fan of the commitment, iteration and heavy testing that goes into the design of airline uniforms. Martha C. White reports for The New York Times that the process can take 2–3 years from start to finish.
Uniforms also have to reflect the realities of life on the road, with fabric blends that resist stains and wrinkles and can be laundered, if necessary, in a hotel sink. They also need to keep the wearers comfortable, whether their plane touches down in the summer in Maui or in the winter in Minneapolis.
Before giving the new uniforms to employees, the airlines conduct wear tests. The roughly 500 employees in American’s test reported back on details that needed to be changed. For example, Mr. Byrnes said, an initial dress prototype included a back zipper, but flight attendants found it challenging to reach. So the zipper was scuttled in favor of buttons on the front.
For its 1,000-employee wear test, Delta solicited feedback via surveys, focus groups, an internal Facebook page and job shadowing, in which members of the design team traveled with flight crews to get a firsthand view of the demands of the job.
“We had about 160-plus changes to the uniform design” as a result of those efforts, Mr. Dimbiloglu said.
The depth of the process makes sense because these uniforms define not only the company brand, but also impact the working life of thousands of people. Come to think of it, that’s true of pretty much any enterprise software, too. If you’re the designer of such things, are you bringing the same commitment to research, testing, and refinement to your software projects?