Earlier today, Kanye West made headlines in a meeting with Donald Trump, revealing a concept for an Apple-made, hydrogen-powered “iPlane 1” that the rapper wanted to replace Air Force One with (along with his phone password). The only problem: the “iPlane 1” is neither a secret Apple product nor an original Kanye idea. Instead, it’s a concept piece that was part of industrial designer Shabtai Hirshberg’s 2012 master’s thesis project imagining the future of air travel in 2030.
Speaking to The Verge, Hirshberg explained that he had no idea that Kanye was using his art. “No, it completely caught me by surprise. A good surprise, I would say — it’s always nice to see your designs being thought well for,” Hirshberg said.
“This is the accumulation of a one year intensive work, it was my graduating thesis project for my master’s degree in the College for Creative Studies in Detroit,” which Hirshberg described as examining the main problems plaguing air travel today, especially in developing countries, and attempting to design a solution. Hirshberg does note that his work is more aspirational than realistic, drawing on “more advanced propulsion systems and better building materials” than what’s currently possible with our technology, which explains some of the more fanciful elements, like the giant glass dome. (Although, unlike Kanye’s description of the plane, Hirshberg’s design isn’t hydrogen-fueled.)
As to how Kanye (or his team) found the image in the first place? Hirshberg explained that he had publicized the project when he first posted it — “it’s all over the internet,” with the Behance page alone having been viewed more that 16,000 times, although he doesn’t know for sure exactly how it made its way to Kanye.
Unfortunately for Hirshberg, while his work may have suddenly turned up in the hands of one of the biggest celebrities in the world and been put on display for the president of the United States in the Oval Office, he’s been totally uninvolved with the process — “He didn’t say that it was me… but it’s nice to be recognized by the reporters at least.”
Hirshberg did note that he’s currently working with a group in London to develop a smaller, business jet-sized version of his original concept, but he’s open to working on a larger stage, too: “I’d be more than happy to collaborate with Kanye West and Apple if they decide to actually take this forward.”