Sophisticated simplicity: Industrial designers unite to create superior jet interiors

Merril Williams | Textron Aviation
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Merril Williams | Textron Aviation

Stepping inside the Cessna Citation CJ3 Gen2 — a wave of understated elegance quickly rushes over you. From the newly tailored seats to the redesigned sidewall, every square inch of this interior has been carefully crafted by a special team of individuals.  


This team is dedicated. Whether it’s the countless hours spent collectively modeling a concept sketch or the seemingly endless revisions individually made to meet an expectation — one must be devoted to their craft to achieve the standard of excellence set at Textron Aviation. 


“The amount of work and dedication this team has to the customer — it is so apparent in this design and in the Cessna Citation CJ3 Gen2,” says industrial designer Merril ‘Ford’ Williams. 


As importantly, an orderly exchange of information must be in place from the beginning. An interior design undergoes a lengthy cycle that begins with an iteration, followed by design, build and review phases, and leaves little time for failure. Having a team that values, supports and encourages you can ensure these ideas flow in an efficient manner. 


From the moment you step into Textron Aviation’s industrial design studio, a system of collaboration is on display. Receiving feedback from customers through a customer advisory board (CAB) can ensure industrial designers like Sergio Martinez can make changes to the meticulously crafted entry handle before the project is too far off the ground, so to speak. 


“Sharing a symbiotic language allows us to communicate more clearly. Everything flows more freely in this collaborative environment,” says Martinez. 


Another common theme echoed across the team is a universal reliance on each other’s skillsets. Everyone plays a role. For someone new to the team, industrial designer Grace Magnasco brings a level of qualified research that cohesively pairs with veteran industrial designer Frank Rowe’s real-world experience. 


“The combination of different people’s ideas and strengths ultimately results in a better product and a lower cost for the customer in the long run,” says Rowe. “It can be a gauntlet, but our team’s cohesiveness puts less stress on the organization.” 


A Unified Design 

Raised in Jackson, Mississippi, Merril ‘Ford’ Williams would soon make his mark on the next generation of aviation, but not before facing a crucial career decision. 


Williams received an Industrial Design degree from the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Savannah, Georgia. This is where his love for automotive design evolved. 


“I wanted to design car exteriors because I thought they’re one of the coolest manmade objects, but as I progressed in my schooling, I quickly learned the importance of interior design,” says Williams. “In order to have a truly nice interior, you have to have a good steering wheel position, proper height — all of this stuff has to work well together, and the customer has to like it.” 


In September of 2020, Williams started his professional career at Textron Aviation designing interiors of jet, turboprop and piston aircraft. 


There is plenty of work to go around and Williams is quick to recognize the integral members of his team. He compares it to a basketball team — each player having their unique role and strengths. 


“We are all so different and that can be an amazing thing. Matt Harrell is an amazing detail modeler, Sergio Martinez is a great conceptor, Grace Magnasco a great researcher — there are many elements to every interior and one person can’t do it all.” 


With any complex project, tests often present themselves. 


“It’s challenging to make everything cohesive, so we have a design language that unites us together. We all individually influence things, and you’ll see original sketches become something different in the end. We pair things together and make the best concept we can with everyone’s ideas.” 


Additionally, models shaped in a 2D space must be transformed into a 3D space. This phase is important for designers to not only capture the character and emotion in the concept but elevate it to a higher level. Designers are sometimes forced to compromise after learning about the complexities of a component, such as the internal mechanisms of the autothrottles. Needless to say, the work is never done. 

CJ3 Gen2 Autothrottles | Textron Aviation
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CJ3 Gen2 Autothrottles | Textron Aviation

Williams directly had a hand in influencing the seat design, lavatory sink and the autothrottles of the Citation CJ3 Gen2.  


“I’m proud of the upholstery team and how much work they put into things like the seats. Our goal is to make a phenomenal product that the customer loves. And that is the most satisfying thing. When you see the smiles on their face and know how happy they are — you have customers for life.” 

Merril Williams | Textron Aviation
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Merril Williams | Textron Aviation

Working at Textron Aviation has afforded Williams and his entire team endless opportunities. When you become a part of the Textron Aviation family, it's more than just a job — it's an exciting career that you can build on for the rest of your life. Here, you can be legendary because you are given the chance and voice to find a way or create your own within the company. 


From the sleek slopes on the sidewall to the sophisticated stitching on the seats, Williams’ design philosophy is noticeable throughout the interior of the Citation CJ3 Gen2. The soft transitions sometimes slip the eye, but careful attention to detail proves how inspired this product is under the hands of Textron Aviation’s finest industrial designers. 


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