Custom Airstream to welcome visitors to Columbus

CCAD and Experience Columbus Airstream Project

An Airstream trailer with an interior custom-designed by CCAD students in 2014 will hit the road this summer.

The project is part of a multi-month campaign by Experience Columbus that sees the 23-foot trailer in use as a political vehicle of sorts. The city’s convention and visitors bureau will use the vehicle as a “mobile media lounge” for the press corps expected to land in Columbus this election season.

Journalists will find a place to work, relax, refuel with snacks and learn more about Columbus in the space created by CCAD students (as well as a pair of high school students from Reynoldsburg). The election-season use marks “a unique opportunity for us,” says Tom Gattis, Dean of the School of Design. When candidates visit the battleground state, “they bring national media with them. So the idea that we can help Experience Columbus promote Columbus — and also CCAD — to that kind of national audience, you don’t get those opportunities very often.”

Industrial Design and Interior Design students researched, designed and constructed the custom Airstream in a special topics class co-taught by Assistant Professor Kelly DeVore, Chair of Interior Design, and Professor Joel Gundlach, Industrial and Interior Design, with the support of Gattis, who made the initial connection with the recreational vehicle company. Students from across CCAD contributed everything from a branding campaign for the trailer to a documentary about the project to Airstream-branded sportswear. In all, more than 100 students and faculty worked on the project.

Such cross-disciplinary initiatives are important, DeVore says. As professionals, “our students are expected to be working alongside other disciplines, or working outside their discipline in something that is tangentially related, and so I think the more we can expose them to that within reason, the better. ... That’s where the industry is going,” she says.

The trailer, dubbed the “Airstream Pursuit,” is intended for a “nomadic, young freelancer” lifestyle. It has lots of cool pieces, including a stationary, height-adjustable desk and a dinette that converts from a hangout area to seating for visiting clients. Plus, it has doors designed to provide access to the workspace and also keep the bedroom area private. A student-designed temporary wrap will give the aluminum-clad exterior a new look while it’s in use by Experience Columbus.

(You can see the live-work trailer concept in action in this Dispatch video interview.) 

Among the Pursuit’s fans are Spark Award judges, who awarded the prototype with a Gold in Spark Awards: Transport. “That national, international recognition was nice to see,” DeVore says. The Airstream project was also presented at the IDSA (Industrial Designers Society of America) and Dwell on Design conferences in 2014.

Members of the media aren’t the only ones who can benefit from the Airstream’s functional live-work space; Airstream, which is based in Jackson Center, Ohio, told the Dispatch that it plans to sell a model based on the CCAD prototype.

Gattis says the relationship between CCAD and Airstream is still going strong. “They continue to see the value in working with our students,” he says.

The Airstream partnership “is good for Columbus,” says DeVore. “I think it’s good for CCAD, and that relationship, as awesome as it was, is better because we’re continuing projects with Airstream. It shows they’re a happy client, which is good for students to see.”

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Mollie Hansen, Airstream's VP of marketing, talks about how the iconic travel trailer brand is targeting the next generation of potential Airstream buyers. "We're thinking about how we can partner with other brands or organizations to connect with the next generation," says Hansen.