Communication in the airplane | 7th semester. With Kim Ofenstein.
Supervision: Prof. Peter Naumann, Marc Velten, Tina Weisser.

Above is an anonymous instant-messaging-service for flight passengers with no registration required. After logging in with your booking number, you can chat with all the other passengers aboard the plane, even though you have a fixed seat. As there is no profile, the passengers can experience anonymous, unprejudiced and spontaneous conversations.

The concept for this app was developed in wintersemester 2017/18 within the project AirXperience of the University of Applied Sciences Munich in cooperation with Airbus.

The Problem. During a flight, a plane becomes a space of communication and encounter - whether you like it or not. However, the communicative experience is often not really comfortable: you are immobile as you have a fixed seat and so you are bound to your direct neighbour(s). Furthermore, in most cases the physical space is tight and you have almost no privacy.

Starting from this suspicion, we have dealt with the communication experience of flight passengers and developed a concept for an app, which helps them connect with each other.

User Research. In qualitative interviews we asked people about their experiences and wishes with communication in airplanes. We also wanted to know what expectations the respondents would have towards a potential app. The results led us to concrete insights into the needs and wants of our users / flight passengers. Based on these findings we were able to make solid decisions. Here is a short summary of the most important findings.

Anonymity. The most important insight from the user research was that the users would like to start conversations anonymously. That means that there would be no need for creating a profile to chat with the other passengers. Instead, you make unprejudiced conversation and the content is the root of the matter. Personal and demographic information on the other hand become secondary. Thus, you choose your conversation partners not because of superficial reasons, but because of interest in the subject matter itself.

Initialization. You log in with your booking number, so that you can be identified (only) in case of abuse. Furthermore you create your own avatar, state your spoken languages and choose a username.

Main-Screen. Under "All chats" you can find public chats that you can join, while "My chats" shows all conversations that you have already joined. From these two screens you can navigate to all other sections of the app.

Chat-Section. If you want to chat you can either create an own chat or respond to an existing chat of another user. It is also possible to chat directly with users that you already know from a conversation.

Options. On these screens you can find all important flight information, as well as general options and chat options.

Chats. Chats are established by formulating a question or sentence. Opened chats are addressed to all users and originally public. If a user answers to a chat or if a chat reaches its maximum number of participants, the chat becomes private and only the involved users can see it and have access.

The Overview shows all chats as cards, which reflects flexibility in the representation of content, reduction to the essential and visual levity. This visual language also appears in the further design of the app.

Style. The style of the app connects seriousness and levity. The deep blue background creates a serious setting which is broken and loosened by free shapes and bright color accents. Also there are over 2000 possible combinations for the individual avatars by the different colors and icons that can be selected individually.

Colors. The chats on the main screen are structured by six topics, which are reflected in the six highlight colors. The color choice is inspired by the 1960s and the colorful golden age of air travel. The colors of the topics are also in the background of the chats with 30% opacity.

Typography. Roboto - the system font of Android - is the main font of the app and is used in the styles Medium and Black. Headlines and also the logo is written in Banaue as it complements the icon design perfectly.

Environment. Inside an airplane there is only little space and almost no privacy. Therefore the background of the app is dark and subtle. In addition, the appearance is lightweight and relaxed, so that it counteracts the stressful situation on board and time literally flies by.

Use Case and Prototype. Finally we consulted our Heavy User Jake to get a concrete and emotional idea of the use of Above. We showed one of his journeys exemplarily, where of course Above was his loyal companion. For this scenario we built a spatial model and a clickable prototype.

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